Why Do Beans and Other Vegetables Produce Gas in Our Digestive Tract

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Legumes are plants that have a single row of seeds in their pods. What we commonly call legumes, such as peas, green beans, lima beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, lentils, and soybeans, are often the seeds of legume plants. Relatively short carbohydrate chains (oligosaccharides) such as stachyose, raffinose, and verbacose are found in legumes as well as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, and other vegetables, as well as whole grains. These carbohydrates are unique because they contain the disaccharide sucrose linked to one or more galactose molecules.

People (like pigs and chickens) don't produce the enzymes (for example, alpha-galactosidase) necessary to efficiently break down stach-yose, raffinose, and verbacose. So, similar to lactose in lactose intolerant people, these carbohydrates remain intact in our small intestine and move into the colon. In the colon, gas-producing bacteria breakdown (ferment) these carbohydrates producing the gases methane (CH4), CO2 and H2 which lead to bloating, cramping, and flatulence. A product available in stores called Beano® is an enzyme preparation (including alpha-galactosidase) that will digest these carbohydrates when it is ingested just prior to the legume-containing meal.

Carbohydrates such as stachyose, verbacose, and raffinose are responsible for the gas produced after eating beans and other vegetables.

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