Could your intestinal gas and bloating be a result of Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance or Lactose Intolerance?

As more and more people are realizing the importance of healthy eating, many of us have discovered that some of the same foods that are so good for us can often cause gas, bloating, and considerable discomfort.

Complex Carbohydrates

When bloating and discomfort happens because of eating vegetables, legumes, grains, cereals, nuts, and seeds – which contain complex carbohydrates – we call this condition Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance (CCI).

CCI occurs because we lack the enzyme necessary to digest complex carbohydrates. There is little gas production in the small intestine because the bacterial concentration is low. When the undigested carbohydrates reach the colon, the bacteria that normally live in the colon ferment them. This fermentation often results in the production of gas – similar to the production of bubbles in the fermenting of grapes into champagne. The buildup of gas in the colon results in discomfort, bloating, and sometimes pain.

Many people do not know what Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance is and therefore do not know how to treat it effectively. Fortunately, there is a product that can help prevent the symptoms of CCI by providing the missing enzyme needed to fully digest foods containing complex carbohydrates. The missing enzyme is contained in a natural-sourced product called Beano™.

Beano™ contains an enzyme that works with your body’s digestion. It breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars that your body can easily digest. This helps ward off discomfort.

It is important that you take Beano™ with your first mouthful of gas producing food. Follow the instructions on the label, but keep in mind that the more gas producing foods you eat, the more Beano™ you will need. Beano™ is available in both tablets and drops.

Beano™ is a safe, natural-sourced product that contains the enzyme called alpha-galactosidase. This enzyme is made from a food-grade mold. (Don’t worry – molds are often used in many prepared foods such as jams and jellies). However, if you use Beano and experience an allergic-type symptom, you should discontinue its use.

You should consult your physician before using Beano if you suffer from galactosemia (a rare carbohydrate metabolism disorder detected at birth).

The use of Beano will produce an additional 2 to 6 grams of carbohydrate for every 100 grams of treated food. For diabetics, this means that each serving of Beano itself contributes an extremely small number of calories (less that 5) to your diet and would be expected to have an insignificant effect on your blood glucose. However, if you still have any concerns, you should speak to your physician.

There is no scientific information to suggest that if you are allergic to penicillin, that you would have an allergy to Beano. The major cause of penicillin allergy appears to be penicillin itself and not any penicillin mold-derived allergens. Therefore, it is safe to take Beano if you are allergic to penicillin.

In addition, certain medical conditions make it difficult to digest complex carbohydrates. These include celiac disease, pancreatitis, and short-bowel syndrome. These diseases can cause more undigested carbohydrates to move into the large intestine. Again, fermentation occurs and results in gas.


The fermentation of dairy products in our intestines can also lead to gas symptoms. Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest lactose – the sugar found in dairy foods. This is caused by a deficiency of the natural enzyme called lactase (say LACK-tays), which breaks down the milk sugar to make it digestible. Left undigested, the milk sugar lactose (say LACK-toes) can lead to the production of gas, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort. The product Lactaid® can relieve this gas if taken with the first mouthful or sip of dairy products. Lactaid Milk® is a ready-to-use milk that offers all the health benefits of fat-free, 1% or 2% milk, but reduces the lactose content so that it can be enjoyed by people who are lactose intolerant.

About 20% of Caucasians have a lactase deficiency, and it is more common in blacks, Asians, and those of Mediterranean origin.

More About Gas

Whether we burp or “pass wind” (flatulence), everybody gets gas. Some people think that their digestive tract is malfunctioning because they experience what they believe to be excessive amounts of gas. To some, gas is often seen as funny and the subject of many jokes. You may be one of the many people who find that gas causes pain, discomfort, bloating, and embarrassing moments. Although some fear a serious ailment is present, fortunately, this is rarely the case. It is important to know that gas in itself is not dangerous. However, its consequences may have social implications due to our inability to control its passage.

Intestinal gas can be extremely painful. The abdomen often becomes distended, especially right after eating. Sometimes bloating can be so severe that clothing becomes tight, and may no longer fit. Because of its severity, sufferers can be overly concerned regarding its seriousness. The good news is that in most cases, gas is easily treated.

If neither complex carbohydrates nor dairy products are the source of your gas, it could be from swallowed air. When we swallow air, it passes through our digestive system. Usually, we release this air naturally in small amounts throughout the day. Some of us, however, may be prone to swallowing excessive amounts of air, which builds up in our intestines, causing gas. We seem to take in more air when we are under stress or when we swallow frequently, for example from wearing ill-fitting dentures, drinking through a straw, or from smoking cigars. Each swallow brings a small amount of air into our stomach and the volume gradually increases – causing burping, bloating, and discomfort.

For some of us, swallowed air becomes a problem because our intestines may move food through slower than normal. This can cause the air to build up and move backward into the stomach. As the air builds up, it can cause burping, bloating, discomfort and even pain. In women, an increase in the hormone progesterone can slow the intestines and cause gas. This hormone increase can occur during pregnancy, before menstruation, or during menopause if you are using progesterone to treat the symptoms.

Is Your Gas Meter Running A Little Too High?

To select the appropriate treatment, it is important to know the cause




Mechanism Of Action

Pain in the lower abdomen
Gas from eating complex carbohydrates (vegetables, legumes, grains, etc.) Beano™
(alpha-galactosidase enzyme)
taken with gas producing food
Prevents gas by breaking down complex carbohydrates in vegetables, legumes, grains, etc. into absorbable sugars. Indigestible sugars are kept out of the colon preventing their fermentation by bacteria.
Bloating & Distention
Pain in the stomach & lower abdomen
Gas from swallowed air and motility disorders Phazyme™
taken after meals
Relieves gas symptoms by breaking down gas bubbles in the stomach and intestine so that they can be expelled naturally from the body.
Pain in the lower abdomen
Gas from eating dairy foods Lactaid™ 
Lactose enzyme taken with dairy foods
Prevents gas by breaking down indigestible lactose into absorbable sugars. Indigestible sugars are kept out of the colon preventing their fermentation by bacteria.

How can I know the source of my gas?

Simply put, if your stomach feels bloated or overfull, or if you are burping or feel a need to burp, this gas is likely caused by swallowed air. If you feel the need to flatulate (pass wind), along with hearing rumbling in your abdomen, feeling bloated, and experiencing discomfort in your lower abdomen, you probably have the type of gas usually caused by the fermentation of the kinds of foods mentioned above.

All people have gas in the intestinal tract, although proportions vary from person to person. Studies on young adults have shown that the average person generates 1 to 3 pints of gas a day. This gas comes from two sources: exogenous or ingested (swallowed) air, and endogenous gas, produced by colonic bacteria. Studies have shown that intestinal gas is composed of various amounts of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. Oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide come from swallowed air while hydrogen and methane are produced in the colon by bacteria acting on food residue. Careful analysis of intestinal gas has shown that about ninety percent is ingested air and only ten percent is actually formed in the intestine.

Although less than one percent of gas is odorous, intestinal bacteria produce several sulphur-containing compounds that are the primary odour culprits. The human nose can detect hydrogen sulphide in concentrations as low as one-half part per billion!

What do I do if I want to treat gas that Beano and Lactaid don’t prevent?

If you have not been able to prevent gas either entering, or forming, in your intestines, you can treat your gas symptoms when they happen by using a product like simethicone (Phazyme™). Simethicone is an effective medication for treating gas symptoms when they occur. It breaks down the gas trapped in your stomach and allows it to be released. It is a product with no known side effects.

Can I treat my gas with antacids?

Antacids contain ingredients such as magnesium, aluminum, or sodium bicarbonate compounds. These ingredients are only effective in neutralizing acid in your stomach. They are of no use in preventing or treating gas.

What should I do if I continue to have bloating, distention, and gas pains?

Gas in itself is not a serious problem. However, if you are concerned, or your symptoms persist, talk to your doctor. Only your doctor will be able to make a correct diagnosis.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 123 – January/February 2001
For more information about Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance, call the makers of Beano™ toll-free in Canada at 1-800-250-8866 and a nurse will be happy to answer your questions.