A Bean a Day Keeps the Gas Away?

Diet and intestinal gas relationship rethought

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) It’s common knowledge - beans give you gas. Limericks and sayings have taught us this since we were children. But now, the long held belief is being reexamined. Research shows the link between diet and gas may be more complicated.

"A balanced diet and daily exercise can improve digestion."

A recent review by Jordi Serra, MD, from the University Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol in Spain, examined various recent research studies to examine the relationship between diet, gas and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

For IBS patients, intestinal gas, including symptoms like bloating and flatulence, can be a common complaint.

Some foods, like beans, have been shown to increase gas production, but according to Dr. Serra, the research does not show that they create these disruptive symptoms in patients.

Serra cites a 2011 study by Winham and Hutchins in which adults ate different varieties of beans and other foods (like canned carrots) over eight-week periods.

Results showed that less than 50 percent of the participants experienced increased flatulence from pinto or baked beans.

The study does take care to note, however, that many IBS patients have reported an improvement in symptoms after switching to a “low flatulogenic diet,” which would traditionally avoid foods like beans.

The review also covered foods that may potentially help IBS symptoms by their inclusion in the diet.

For example, one 2011 study by Bortolotti and Porta followed 50 IBS patients for six weeks. Some received a red pepper powder (capsaicin) pill and some received a placebo, or a fake pill without the red pepper powder.

At the end of the study, those whose diets incorporated the red pepper powder reported less bloating and stomach pain, while the others did not.

Though these results were preliminary and yet to be seen on a larger scale, Dr. Serra said they suggest that parts of the diet could be used to desensitize and improve intestinal and abdominal discomforts.

Dr. Serra concluded that based on the composite of these recent studies, we can conclude that “diet can influence the volume and composition of gas produced in the intestine” but that several other factors are at play.

The study was published in the September issue of the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. No conflicts of interest were listed, but Dr. Serra lectures regularly with the support of Almirall Laboratories and Shire Pharmaceutical and is a consultant for Reckitt and Benckiser Healthcare.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 26, 2012
Last Updated:
August 30, 2012