Embrace the Gas - The Flatulence Elephant

An Uncomfortable Conversation

Let's address the elephant in the room with nutrition and plant based diets. Many people believe that a very common by-product of eating mainly plants is gas. Its an embarrassing and difficult topic to discuss at times, but as most of my friends know, I'm quite open about it and unabashed to let nature do its thing (in certain circumstances of course - it is a little awkward to let one go in the middle of a meeting, during your wedding, in a job interview, etc).

I read a hilarious and incredibly informative article today about flatulence from Dr. Michael Greger's website NutritionFacts.org:

Quite informative and here are some of the highlights:

"Americans report passing gas an average of 14 times a day, with the normal range extending up to a frequency of 22 times daily."

See!  It IS normal.

"The main source of gas, though, is the normal bacterial fermentation in our colon of undigested sugars. Dairy products are a leading cause of excessive flatulence, due to poor digestion of the milk sugar lactose."

When I ate diary I always noticed I had quite a potent and painful reaction to ice cream. Maybe that's why no one ever wanted to hang out with me an hour after birthday parties with cake and ice cream...

Concerns & Assurance

Now, I've had several people tell me they are concerned about going on a plant based diet because of the fear of an increase of gas due to eating so many vegetables and legumes. Well, Dr. Michael Greger addresses that as well. He notes a few research subjects were put on a plant based diet including a variety of beans:  pinto, black-eyed, and vegetarian baked beans:

"During the first week, 35% reported increased flatulence but that fell to 15% by week three, 5% by week five, and 3% by week eight."  

The body is a miraculous thing and its amazing at how well it can adapt. I've noticed the same type of change with me in the past three months of eating a plant based diet. While at first there was definitely some bloating and increased moments of gas, now those moments are nearly non-existent and I only notice them when I eat something that is out of the ordinary for me (lately I've noticed that eating pretzels does not bode well for my system, but that may be more of a gluten issue - and yes, I'll discuss the Gluten Elephant in a later post).

So if your fear of eating a plant-based diet will increase an output of internal gas, be assured that eating plants can actually DECREASE the amount of gas produced. Making your belly, body, and loved ones much happier.