Healthy Food Gives Me Gas. This Digestive Enzyme Helps Prevent It.
Sometimes I get really full, even when I only eat a little bit of food. When it started happening more often — and I lost weight without trying — I went to my doctor. I was already underweight. And my fatigue was getting worse.
My gastroenterologist gave me an ultrasound and an endoscopy. He ruled out celiac, gallstones, and other easily diagnosable disorders. But other than a little stomach inflammation, everything came back "normal." My GI told me to avoid wheat — my symptoms were consistent with non-celiac gluten sensitivity — and I should just add more calories.
But eating more was the problem. My list of trigger foods was so long that I didn't know what I could ingest without getting bloated or having diarrhea. So, he sent me to a dietitian to come up with a plan. Before I tell you about what she said, here's a little more about what I eat.
My endo diet
Food is a really important part of my pain plan. I follow a vegan, anti-inflammatory, low-FODMAP, mostly wheat-free, plant-based diet. (For more on FODMAPS, read my three-part series.) It's pretty restrictive, but I've always discussed food with my doctor or a dietitian. Unfortunately, my ability to digest certain vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains has only gotten worse with age — I'm 38. The most problematic group, other than lactose, is oligosaccharides, or oligos. That's a group of FODMAPS — carbohydrates that your gut bacteria eat — with fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).1
You'll find large amounts of oligos in beans, unfermented wheat, and vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I avoid those completely. But smaller amounts are found in foods like oats, sourdough bread, and blueberries. Those are still a part of my diet. But the amount of FODMAPs I eat in one setting matters. So, if I take in a little bit of a bunch of low-FODMAP foods, I still get gassy and bloated.
I take a pre-meal enzyme
My dietitian told me that 90% of her oligos-challenged clients get less gas when they take an alpha-galactosidase pill. It's sold under the brand name Beano. But I found an inexpensive generic version at both Target and Walmart. Each pill contains 600 GalU of alpha-galactosidase.
Research shows that 300 -1200 GalU decreases gas production in adults after they ate a high carbohydrate meal with a lot of beans.2 Other studies show that the digestive enzyme decreases gas and bloating in children and people with irritable bowel syndrome.3,4
While I can't tell you what will work for you. I can share how the enzyme works for me. My dietitian told me to take two pills — 1200 GalU — before any meal that contains oligos. And it's fine to take it with each meal or snack, she assured me. After I did this with a few meals, I noticed that I didn't feel so full after meals. And my stomach wasn't bloating up so much.
And I popped a couple pills before my new protein shake.
Protein helps with fatigue
I usually get about 40-50 grams of daily protein, mostly from tofu and tempeh. But I exercise and weight train. So, my dietitian wanted me to try for 70 grams. That may help me feel less tired, she said. While it's not hard to get protein if you're vegan, it's difficult for me to add a lot of it. That's because protein shakes — or high volumes of anything — make me bloated. But, to my surprise, I didn't get a lot of gas when I paired my protein powder with my enzyme. And my energy levels went up when I started adding protein after my work out.
Here's what I drink: 1 cup of full-fat Oatley oat milk, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or water), and 2 scoops of a Whole Foods brand pea protein blend. That gives me an extra 30-35 grams of protein each day. That helps me hit my goal of 70.
When to check with a dietitian
Diet is a big part of how I manage my endo symptoms. And my trigger foods have changed over the years. That's why I always check with a doctor or dietitian when I need to eliminate a large group of food. And each time they've helped me learn how to get the right amount of nutrients to stay healthy.
If you're feeling tired or have questions about your diet, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor. If they can't help, ask if they can refer you to the right dietitian.
Have you ever experienced any of the following symptoms?