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Vegan Nutrition with Dina Aronson, M.S. R.D.

Dina AronsonDina Aronson, MS, RD is a vegan dietitian whose specialties include chronic disease prevention, vegetarian/vegan nutrition, and lifestyle management. She is the founder and director of VeganRD.com, a nutrition consulting company. Active in many vegetarian nutrition organizations, Dina was the recipient of the American Dietetic Association's Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award in 2002.


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I have had this problem since becoming vegan--a ridiculous and "has-to-go" amount of flatulence. I can't take Beano obviously, as both the tablet and liquid forms are made with fish gelatin. What can I take, if anything, to get rid of this problem? It's so bad that my husband stopped sleeping in the same room with me and I am chronically embarrassed at work. Please help. It is all sources of fiber so I obviously can't make diet changes since the foods causing it are needed sources of nutrients (and are my main source of calcium as well).

Thank you,
Shelley


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Dear Shelley,

Gas is caused mainly by the breakdown of food fiber in our large intestine. The good news is that gas production is actually healthy. It may protect the intestine from cancer, and promotes healthy bacterial growth, keeping us regular and better able to handle infections.

The bad news is that, at least from what I have observed, vegans seem to have more flatulence than others in general. I'm not sure how long you've been vegan, but keep in mind that for most vegans, the body gets accustomed to the dietary changes and produces less overall gas over time. It's a shame that our society regards a normal, natural, healthy bodily function as an embarrassing thing we feel the need to conceal at all costs.

It is doubtful that your flatulence will be eliminated (no matter what your diet), but there are a few things you can try that might decrease gas production.
  • Swallowing air may lead to gas. To reduce the amount of air swallowed, chew and swallow slowly, and take small sips of beverages. Avoid carbonated beverages like soda, seltzer, and beer. Chewing gum and sucking on candy may also increase the amount of air swallowed.
  • Some foods are "gassier" than others. For example, cabbage typically leads to more gas production than carrots. Keep track of which foods give you the most and least gas, and adjust your diet accordingly.
  • In general, smaller beans (lentils, split peas) produce less gas than larger beans (like fava beans and lima beans), so choose smaller beans more often.
  • If you use canned beans, rinse them very well before eating them.
  • If you make beans from scratch, soak them overnight first, rinse them well, and rinse them several times during the cooking process, as this will help get rid of more of the gas-causing oligosaccharides. Also, the longer you cook beans (with rinsing), the better.
  • Eat small, frequent meals rather than few large meals. Avoid overeating.
  • For those situations where you need a little extra digestive help, try Bean-zyme, which is a vegan form of Beano.


Disclaimer: The advice given here is for eductional purposes only. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.
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