Preventing Flatulence via Digestive Enzyme Supplements

In reference to my post on soaking legumes and reducing oligosaccharides, a reader asked me if there has been any research on the efficacy of Solgar’s Vegetarian Digestive Aid.

In my research on soaking beans and reducing oligosaccharides, I didn’t come across any study using a battery of digestive enzymes such as what is contained in Solgar’s preparation. Solgar’s Vegetarian Digestive Aid does not contain the digestive enzyme considered most effective at reducing flatulence from beans, alpha-galactosidase. Bean-zyme, a vegan version of Beano, contains alpha-galactosidase, as does Deva’s Vegan Digestive Support.

In their article, Effective Management of Flatulence, American Family Physician provides a chart comparing the effectiveness of various methods. They rank a couple of probiotic preparations as being highly effective, and slightly more effective than a large dose of alpha-galactosidase (they cite reference 1 below). The large dose, 1200 GaIU, would be the equivalent of 8 Bean-zyme tablets. A smaller dose of 300 GaIU, the equivalent of 2 Bean-zyme tablets, was also somewhat effective.

I found one other study (2) measuring the effectiveness of alpha-galactosidase, in which it did not seem quite as effective, but they were using drops rather than tablets and I’d be concerned about the drops themselves being digested before they could take effect.

As an aside, in preparing legumes, they can be treated with enzymes that will remove all of the oligosaccharides, but I’m not aware of a practical way for people to do that at home.

Armaiti May, DVM
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References

1. Di Stefano M, Miceli E, Gotti S, Missanelli A, Mazzocchi S, Corazza GR. The effect of oral alpha-galactosidase on intestinal gas production and gas-related symptoms. Dig Dis Sci. 2007 Jan;52(1):78-83. | link

2. Ganiats TG, Norcross WA, Halverson AL, Burford PA, Palinkas LA. Does Beano prevent gas? A double-blind crossover study of oral alpha-galactosidase to treat dietary oligosaccharide intolerance. J Fam Pract. 1994 Nov;39(5):441-5. | link

4 Responses to “Preventing Flatulence via Digestive Enzyme Supplements”

  1. Mathieu Says:

    Reading your previous article, I was somewhat amused that people seemed to be so concerned about their flatulence.

    Now I learn there have actually been serious studies about their “effective management”…

    Is this for real? Can people be so concerned about something so unimportant? O_o

  2. Stephen Albers Says:

    Jack,

    How about cooking beans with seaweed (like kombu) to reduce flatulance.

    Stephen

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Stephen,

    > How about cooking beans with seaweed (like kombu) to reduce flatulance.

    I haven’t seen any research. If it works for you, then more power to you!

  4. jwoolman Says:

    Mathieu-you’ve obviously never had painful intestinal gas. The kind that bloats your abdomen and gives you lovely cramps and doesn’t go away for long periods. Even worse- trapped gas that causes pain for days. Anything labeled anti- flatulence will likely help control such painful episodes. We’re not talking about normal minor gas. There are also some people who may not have pain but find their level of flatulence is limiting them for various reasons, generally way beyond the norm. It’s not enough to say don’t eat the triggers, when at times there may be so many triggers that your ability to eat sufficient food and get sufficient protein may be at risk. Count your blessings that it’s just a minor issue for you.

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