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Got Gas?

Solutions for one of the unfortunate side effects of eating healthy.

By
Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N,
Episode #037

Beans really are good for your heart! But the more you eat, the more you….will want to listen to today’s show! Today we’re going to talk about something that’s usually not discussed in polite company: the fact that eating healthy foods can give you gas. I’ve got some tips on how you can eat these good-for-you-foods without being made to sleep on the couch.

Everyone Gets Gas

Just so you know: You’re not the only one. Lots of folks find that when they start eating more healthy foods, like vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains, they start to suffer from certain highly unpleasant digestive side effects. In fact, it seems like the very healthiest foods, like beans and broccoli, are among the worst offenders.

You could simply avoid these foods. But then you’d be missing out on all the great health benefits they offer. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage contain powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants, for example. And beans and whole grains are full of fiber, which helps keep your cholesterol down.

Fiber: a Healthy Habit That Can Backfire

I talked about all the things fiber does for your health in the Benefits of Fiber. But eating more fiber can also have a downside. As humans, we aren’t able to digest fiber on our own, you see. Instead we delegate that chore to certain friendly bacteria that live in our large intestines. As these bacteria break down the fiber from our foods, carbon dioxide gas is produced. If a lot of gas builds up, it leads to a predictable outcome.

I’m not exactly sure why, but our bodies seem to be able to adjust to a higher-fiber diet over time. So one quick and dirty tip is to increase your intake of fiber-rich foods gradually, rather than suddenly, and then keep your intake fairly consistent.

What Kind of Fiber Causes Gas?

Fiber also comes in two types: soluble and insoluble. Each provides its own distinct health benefits, but of the two, soluble fiber is much more likely to produce gas than insoluble fiber.  Incidentally, I have an entire episode devoted to the differences between soluble and insoluble fiber if you want more information.

Oat bran, for example, contains mostly soluble fiber while wheat bran contains more insoluble fiber. So, regular bran cereal or muffins may cause less trouble than oat bran cereal or muffins. And if you’re taking my advice and trying to eat more vegetables, you’ll be glad to hear that the fiber found in leafy greens is mostly the insoluble type. Dried fruits and nuts, on the other hand, contain more soluble fiber.

Most popular fiber supplements, like Metamucil or anything containing psyllium husk, contain mostly soluble fiber. I’ll include a link in the show notes to more information on soluble and insoluble fiber and which foods they are found in.

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