The Cause: Indigestible Carbohydrates

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Everyone produces a mixture of gases from their intestine, about a quart a day, thanks to the growth and metabolism of our resident bacteria. Many legumes, especially soy, navy, and lima beans, cause a sudden increase in bacterial activity and gas production a few hours after they’re consumed. This is because they contain large amounts of carbohydrates that human digestive enzymes can’t convert into absorbable sugars. These carbohydrates therefore leave the upper intestine unchanged and enter the lower reaches, where our resident bacterial population does the job we are unable to do.