Bean betrayal. Is it possible?
July 7, 2011 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Beans, beans, they're good for your heart, but the more you eat, the more you fart. Is it true, Metafilter?

Within the last year and a half or so, I've been having a lot of intestinal distress in the form of gas, bloating, weird BMs, and overall awfulness. I won't get into too much more detail since this isn't anonymous.

I've been seeing a GI doctor about this, and we've tried a number of things, like blood tests for Celiac and others, special diets, etc. Recently I went on a full-on no dairy + lactaid supplement diet for 5 days (at this point it's actually been 7 days, excepting a dollop of sour cream I had on dinner yesteday.) No change at all. Two days ago, I started taking fiber at night (the kind you mix with water), but I haven't seen improvement yet. I don't think it's gluten, because I can go gluten free easily and it doesn't help at all.

So my question is: could it be beans/legumes? Before this all started, I ate beans about as much as I do now, which is frequently. I am pescetarian, but I eat fish so rarely that most of my protein comes from beans. Beans and rice, chili, burritos, and other Latin and Mexican inspired foods are my favorites and general what I like to eat every day, with some Indian thrown in for good measure. So, most of my dinner meals have black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, or some other kind of bean/legume. Which is why it never occurred to me before! I never had problems in the past, I haven't started eating larger quantities of beans, and my health hasn't changed other than my GI issues.

Have you experienced a random shift in what your body can tolerate? Was it specific to beans? Any information you can provide, whether it is personal experience or Knowledge would help. I'm tired of changing diets and recording everything I eat in a diary and just generally not knowing what's going to make me feel bad.

posted by two lights above the sea to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Mexicans put epazote in their food to cut the gas.
posted by brujita at 6:02 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Today's recipe from The Kitchn came with a tip about beans and intestinal woes. Supposedly soaking for 24+ hours helps. More information here.
posted by SugarAndSass at 6:05 PM on July 7, 2011

Excessive gas can be a symptom of gallstones. You might want to have a doctor check you out.
posted by mauvest at 6:09 PM on July 7, 2011

I'm eating low carb for the moment, so no beans for me. But, in the past if I ate beans I don't usually eat I'd get terrible distress until I got used to them.

Pinto beans/refried or just boiled, no problem. Black beans (so delicious), problem.

Maybe you could try eating different beans every other day and see how you feel? It might be just one type of beans.
posted by thylacine at 6:18 PM on July 7, 2011

Have you tried "Beano"?
posted by JayRwv at 6:20 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

The test to go gluten-free needs about six weeks of STRICT adherence to really show a result. I went completely grains-free and the six weeks and strict thing did make a difference.
posted by so_gracefully at 6:28 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you are at the end of your rope and willing to make a lifestyle change in order to resolve your GI issues, then I strongly recommend the Whole 30.

I too experienced a "sudden shift" where the diet that I had been enjoying for years suddenly gave me terrible intestinal distress. I still have no idea what caused the change (maybe just getting older), but what I learned after 30 days of strict elimination followed by a very cautious reintroduction testing period was that gluten and legumes were the primary causes of my misery.

To your question itself, legumes contain lectins, proteins that are known to have a negative impact on your gut (they're there to protect the plant from being eaten). Cooking, soaking, and other prep methods that we usually apply to legumes decrease the amount of lectins present in the food but they are very hardy and will always be present in some quantity in even a well soaked and cooked bean. Some people tolerate these proteins better than others, hence the spectrum of legume-eating experiences.
posted by telegraph at 6:34 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

prior to going low carb mr supermedusa and I ate lots of beans, which we both love. despite soaking they did still make us farty but never the level of distress you are describing!!! nthing that you continue exploring this issue with your doctor as mauvest advises.
posted by supermedusa at 6:59 PM on July 7, 2011

Best answer: Yes, it could be beans. Specifically, the raffinose in beans. This wikipedia article 'splains it better than I.

I'm not too familiar with the whole 9/whole 30 method, but it seems similar to the FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols) principle I finally unearthed after my own recent bout of IBS that led to a fun afternoon in the emergency room. I urge you to look into it, or if you like, i can memail you my imperfect, un-cited findings. Good luck!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:02 PM on July 7, 2011

It certainly could be the beans - I would highly recommend adding epazote to your beans after cooking. In my experience, it alleviates all of the...side effects...of eating beans. It tastes a bit like thyme - quite pleasant.
posted by muirne81 at 7:26 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Honestly, when started eating meat again after many years of veganism, I noticed a marked decrease in flatulence. YMMV, of course.
posted by gnutron at 8:17 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: N-thing FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols). Here are some good quotes from an article I was just reading about them:
In fact, a number of contrarian studies, which had been largely ignored, had suggested that favorite sources of dietary fiber such as bran and other cereals, and vegetables and fruits, might actually aggravate symptoms in IBS. The symptoms that appeared to be aggravated were flatulence, bloating and abdominal pain...

Based on the use of an exclusion diet, Nanda et al. from Oxford reported that dairy, grains, in particular wheat and rye, and onions were the major foods implicated by IBS patients, and that patients responding to dietary manipulation were likely to have presented with flatulence as an initial symptom.3 They had also observed that intolerance to either wheat or rye was specifically associated with abdominal distension. Whorwell and Prior from Manchester recorded that 55% of their patients felt worse and only 10% felt better on bran.4 John Hunter's group from Cambridge used a whole-body calorimeter to measure the 24-h excretion of hydrogen and methane in both the flatus and the breath.5,6 They compared the gas production of IBS patients and healthy controls on a standard diet with regular fiber intake, an exclusion diet, and a fiber-free diet. They found that IBS patients had a significantly faster rate of gas production on a fiber-rich diet, which reduced significantly on the exclusion and the fiber-free diet, and this appeared to be associated with an improvement in symptoms. Others have also suggested that malabsorption of fructose and sorbitol, of which fruits are rich sources, may give rise to symptoms in IBS patients.7....

In [the Cambridge study], total gas, as well as breath hydrogen production, was similarly reduced with metronidazole (an antibiotic with activity against intestinal anaerobic organisms) treatment despite a fiber-rich diet. This observation brings us back to our recent appreciation that the flora of intestinal microbes is a key player in the development of IBS.10 Even Segal and Walker, two of the early proponents for the high-fiber diet, have recently acknowledged that reduced dietary fiber intake has not resulted in increased colonic diseases in Africans.11 In fact they have now recognized the importance of the “quality of the intestinal bacteria”, and the impact that this has on the fermentation of malabsorbed carbohydrates.12 In their recent paper they have assembled measurements for various classes of immunoglobulins, and other markers of immune activation, that support a high level of exposure to gastrointestinal infections in childhood.11 Their new hypothesis is that it is this early priming that gives the African a more robust gut microflora, better able to withstand the insults in adult life. The corollary is also that if we expect fiber and oligosaccharides that are promoted as prebiotics to enhance the proliferation of ‘good bacteria’, we have to start feeding these substrates to our gut in the early years of life. In the meantime, it appears that eating a ‘healthy Western breakfast’ of milk with high-fiber cereals, whole grain bread with honey, washed down with apple juice, is perhaps the worst way to start off the day for an adult IBS patient!
So fiber can make intestinal issues worse for some people. I did an elimination diet where I cut out a lot of fiber and then added fiber-rich foods in one by one. You need to set a baseline before trying out foods though by finding the diet that eliminates your symptoms. For most that's a low-fiber low-carb low-fructose diet. Take some probiotics while you are on it to make up for what you aren't getting. The culprits in my case turned out to be onions, kidney/navy beans (but not legumes...the fibers in these are a little different), broccoli (and most other crucifiers), wheat, and lactose. I'm working on a spreadsheet rightnow that has different foods with different types of fiber, i'll post it here when I'm done.

Why did your symptoms start even though your diet didn't change? Bacterial population imbalances can occur over time. I would try switching to a diet based on seafood/eggs/roots since you can't do traditional low carb. Then add in some gentler legumes like urad dal (skinless lentils) very well-cooked.
posted by melissam at 8:56 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

thanks melissam ... reminded me I wanted to mention to the OP that if the supplement you are taking is psyllium fiber, be careful! It can actually aggrivate gas! And should be supplemented with lots and lots of water so you don't gunk up the works, as it were. I switched to flaxseed, which has the bonus of omega 3 supplementation.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:16 PM on July 7, 2011

Do you take vitamins? I've had tons of stomach issues when trying new multivitamins. Most vitamins just make me queasy immediately, but I tried one once that gave me stomach issues similar to yours and it took me forever to figure out what was causing it.
posted by artychoke at 10:34 PM on July 7, 2011

Anecdotally, I would support what melissam's story suggests. Two years ago I began to cut most of the (home-baked, full grain, no less) bread out of my diet, and went moderately low-carb, and am feeling tons better (after fearing I was in for IBS in the long run for a decade or so...).
posted by Namlit at 11:16 PM on July 7, 2011

Yes, beans can have this effect.

Another thing to watch for is "fiber" that contains chickory. Holy mother of god, that will cause some gaseous discomfort. I am talking squeeking-while-walking, "if I sneeze, I'm going to have to go home sick", entire torso-is-carbonated style gas.

I recommend psyllium, with meals. I do not find that it gives me any gas troubles, and keeps "the works" in tip top shape. If you can find the generic capsules, you don't have to deal with the messy mixing it in a glass. Rice also does the trick, but not quite as well.
posted by gjc at 3:13 AM on July 8, 2011

Best answer: Have you experienced a random shift in what your body can tolerate? Was it specific to beans?

Yes and yes, I'm afraid. Well, legumes rather than just beans. I used to be able to eat baked beans and lentil-based dishes with impunity; now, doing so lets me in for up to three days of severe bloating and pain.

I'm OK with soy-based foods (in moderation), peas and edible-pod beans (runner beans, green beans). I haven't experimented much beyond that.

FWIW, diet isn't the only trigger for me: emotional or physical stress (including not getting enough sleep) can have the same effect.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:29 AM on July 8, 2011

It's an odd thing to be evangelical about, but you must try taking whole psyllium husks. Psyllium is the main ingredient of fiber supplements like Metamucil, but the husks are ground in most preparations (easier to swallow) but I find them less effective. The fiber mix you're taking is presumably like Metamucil, you should try whole.

Here's why I suggest it. I have IBS-D, and my internal functions were a source of discomfort and worry for many years. I tried psyllium husk on the advice of a friend who's a doctor and I was skeptical (adding MORE fiber seemed like the last thing I should be doing) but the results were nearly immediate and rewarding.

Mucilage glue is derived from psyllium, and as fas as I can tell the psyllium in your intestines binds up with everything else and the results are exactly what you want to feel when you go to the toilet-- everything comes out in one visit, it comes out the consistency that you always hope for, and it's easy to go (but not too easy). One pleasant side effect is that when I take it, my prolific, frankly evil farts are reduced to almost none and bearable when they occur.

I don't know if the gas just gets bound up with everything else or the mechanism of digestion changes when you add psyllium husk or what. But I know that it works for me. I take two tablespoons in a glass of water and I have the bathroom habits that I wanted all my life.

I've tried CVS Metamucil equivalent and it doesn't do much (tried it because it's a bit cheaper). If Metamucil is aspirin, whole husk is Tylenol with codeine.

You should be skeptical any time someone suggests that there's a magic bullet that will fix things simply, and everyone's different. But this is inexpensive (Trader Joes, Whole Foods, health food store) and absolutely worth a try. Please try this is you haven't already. I feel like I'm an Old West medicine man typing this out, promising something that can make an amazing difference immediately, but it really was a miracle for me and it's simple and cheap. You'll know in a couple days if it's working.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:46 AM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have had my own issues on this front, and here's what's helped:

1. Soaking the beans a hell of a long time helps. But another thing that helps is the way you START soaking them -- rather than just dumping them in a bowl and let them sit, try dumping them in a pan of water, bring the water to a boil, and boil the hell out of them for about two minutes. THEN let them soak. Then change the water before cooking them. I got this trick from a Greek playwright who told me (and this is a direct quote) "this gets rid of the farts." The other advantage is that you don't have to soak them as long -- you can get away with only two hours' soaking (although I often still let them soak overnight/several hours anyway).

2. Taking a acidophilous supplement also really, really helped me.

3. I notice you're looking at dairy and beans as the culprits -- how about the brassica vegetables? Some of those can also cause a lot of distress; it took me YEARS to figure out that my system just can't really handle the tougher brassica vegetables, like brocolli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and some kinds of turnips. (And I like turnips, too, which really bummed me out.) Fortunately I can still eat the tender, leafy brassicas, like kale, collard greens, bok choy, and the like. I can even eat turnip greens (just not the turnips). Try taking a look at those.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding beano and probiotics - both help me a lot. I also sometimes supplement with psyllium and have found it helpful.
posted by ldthomps at 9:30 AM on July 8, 2011

Hing/asafoetida is also used in Indian cooking as an anti-flatulent.

(And, as I just learned, it goes by both "food of the gods" and "devil's dung," which is kind of awesome)
posted by DLWM at 12:17 PM on July 8, 2011

It might be the beans, but sometimes it can be other culprits you don't expect. I know people who have similar reactions to what you are describing to soy products. I found out that my heartburn was being triggered by ginger, of all things. You can develop allergies at any time in your life, and sometimes it's to things you eat every day.

Ruling out infection (which I assume your GI doc has done), it could be something as simple as a bacterial imbalance in your gut and you could use some good probiotic therapy. That happened to me after I had surgery, and for months I was stricken with the WORST bowel trouble ever. I won't give you all the gory details, but let's just say I had to apologize to strangers in public restrooms for a while before I got things sorted out. It was horrible.

My 2 cents is to consult a reliable naturopath if possible. They tend to be focused on digestion and food allergies, are understanding of the "vegan/ovo/lacto/pescetarian spectrum", and you might be able to take care of it with just some probiotics, enzymes and a little diet modification.
posted by evilcupcakes at 6:52 PM on July 8, 2011

At the risk of recording too much information in a public forum, I suffer from extreme IBS with any of the symptoms you describe... Unless I take an enteric coated probiotic at least once daily. For the record, I am a vegetarian and get most of my protein from beans and legumes as well.

Get a probiotic with as many strains and live cultures as possible. I like the Solaray Multidophilous that I find at Whole Foods. They have a little refrigerated section for the probiotics, and a pretty big selection as well.
posted by LyndsayMW at 10:01 PM on July 9, 2011

oops, I said "not legumes..." I meant lentils. Lentils seem to be better tolerated in many people with stomach issues.

Also n-thing the vitamin thing. Iron supplements are a common cause of stomach upset.
posted by melissam at 11:56 AM on July 11, 2011

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