Flatulence: a problem common amongst the big eating bodybuilder! In fact, I often get asked for advice on how to deal with these issues mainly due to complaints from partners! The good news is, there are natural ways to help combat the problem; although it’s doubtful you’ll be able to stop breaking wind altogether.
We need fibre in our diets. Fibre refers to the indigestible part of carbohydrates, consisting of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) and other molecules such as oligosaccharides, inulin and pectin. Although strictly a carbohydrate, we tend to classify dietary fibre on its own. Insoluble fibre absorbs water and helps produce healthy bowel movements by creating large, soft stools that pass through the system more rapidly.
Oligosaccharides are short chains of carbohydrates which pass through the small intestine into the colon, where they are digested by the good bacteria helping them to survive and multiply in the gut. For health reasons this is good news as these bacteria help us digest food. The problem is they produce gas in the process.
Other soluble fibres may also be used by the good bacteria for energy and may also help control blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fibres are found in peas, beans, lentils, some fruits and oats and are excellent additions to a healthy bodybuilding diet.
We need dietary fibre, but soluble fibre and oligosaccharides can be particularly bad offenders in flatulent people. But if we need them for good health, what can we do to minimise flatulence? Well, fortunately, insoluble fibres, from foods like green veg, cereals and wholemeal products, help keep things moving along and, although you may need the toilet more frequently, this will help reduce wind. However, insoluble fibre is like a sponge and therefore needs plenty of fluid to be able to move through the intestines, so you must drink plenty of fluid regularly through the day.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend excluding foods high in soluble fibre, so one solution is to eat foods high in insoluble fibre and to drink plenty too. Also using correct cooking methods can minimise gas production. For example beans need to be soaked well, rinsed, added to boiling water and boiled in a covered pan for 3 minutes, left to stand for 2 hours, pour off the water, add new water at room temperature, remove after 2 hours, add more water and leave overnight, rinse, add more water and cook for 75 to 90 minutes.
Another common offender is lactose. Lactose is a simple carbohydrate found in milk and dairy products. A number of people have a condition where there are lower amounts of the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose.
The colon is only supposed to get the parts of our food and drink that cannot be digested, when the lactose arrives, it ferments. It is the fermentation of lactose in the colon that gives the characteristic symptoms of lactose intolerance, abdominal cramping, watery stools and flatulence. If lactose is an offender, then simply minimise your intake of milk and dairy products. Most commercial whey protein drinks are actually low in lactose, but watch out for ones based on ‘milk protein’.
Some starchy carbohydrate foods may also be an issue, but usually only if you consume large amounts in one meal. This is an advantage of spreading your intake through six or seven smaller meals.
If you’re unsure as to which the offenders are, the initially eliminate lactose as this is often claimed to be the worst offender.
Keep a food and flatulence (fart) diary to identify the culprits and eliminate them as much as possible. Definitely avoid the sweetener sorbitol. Garlic and ginger added to possible offending foods can block gas production.