Beanz Meanz… far more than any of us thought!

  • A windy prospect – or is it all in the mind?
  • Being polite might just be the worst thing you could do
  • Please don’t be offended by todays topic… it really is important

Given the recent history of stormy weather (remember the good old days of just worrying about flooding!) I thought I should have a look at wind of another sort so be prepared for a little closet humour.

The production of digestive gas is often a cause for humour, but it can also be deadly serious.

In today’s letter I want to have a look at some published research I found into all things flatulent, so let’s get things off with a bang…

Everyone has their own version of comfort food, but in most cases it will be something warm and filling.

In my case it is a really humble dish, classic beans on toast. A few rounds of buttered toast with a mound of haricot beans bound in a rich tomato sauce takes me to heaven.

Unfortunately beans have always had a bad rap for their less than exotic repercussions on the digestive tract.

Without putting too fine a point on it they make you a bit windy – or so I always thought.

Over in America, Colorado to be precise, a team of researchers concluded that beans may well be suffering from a bum note (apologies for the pun but I just couldn’t resist it!).

In the Colorado Bean Study1 the team had volunteers eat a half cup of beans daily over a period of 12 weeks, and complete a weekly survey on the effects.

The results were interesting, and a little surprising.

Despite the commonly held view that flatulence was always a consequence of eating pulses it seems that the fear of a ‘postern blast’ is greater than the actual incidence.

Moreover, even in the case of those who did report an increase in ‘trouser trumping’ nearly 70% said it stopped after three weeks of consumption, which showed how the gut flora adapted to a change in diet.

For me there was an even more intriguing result where over 10% of the study group who were on a control diet with no pulses in it at all said their flatulence levels increased.

So, I feel the humble bean has been vindicated and I will be enjoying my simple repast more frequently now as I do think the health benefits of beans is massively understated here in the west.

If you would like to join me here is a failsafe recipe for beautiful beans to have with grilled meat, roasted vegetables or just on toast;

6 oz (150g) dried haricot beans soaked overnight in water

2 shallots

1 clove garlic

1 14oz (400g) tin tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp honey

1 tsp dark treacle

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 pint (600ml) vegetable stock

2 tsps mixed dried herbs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp vegetable oil


  1. Drain and rinse the beans and boil in water for 15 minutes then take off the heat and leave covered for an hour so that they turn soft.
  2. Gently fry the chopped shallots until soft in the oil and add in the herbs and garlic and continue to fry for one minute.
  3. Add in the tomatoes and puree, the cider vinegar and seasoning and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Now add in the honey, mustard, treacle and stock. Stir for a minute or two to combine the ingredients and allow the treacle to melt.
  5. Drain the beans and place into an oven proof dish and pour the sauce over the top.
  6. Bake the beans and sauce in the oven at Gas Mark 3 (160oC/325oF) for 2 hours stirring occasionally. The sauce should be rich, sweet and sticky but still fluid. If the beans have absorbed too much add a little more stock or water to keep the consistency.

I know it seems like a long time when you could just open a tin, but if you do invest in this dish it will reward you – and as the Colorado study has shown you’ll not suffer from it!

If you are afflicted then my Nan might have the answer, I’ll explain…

Holding back may be polite – but might be the worst thing to do

My Nan always had a chuckle when she recited the narrative on a headstone she saw in her youth.

Where ere you may be
Let your wind go free
For holding it back
Was the death of me.

I don’t know if there was any truth in her story, or whether it was one of those old urban myths, but she always said it was the reason you should never ‘restrict yourself’.

The family always put it down to her earthy sense of humour, but I wasn’t surprised to see comments from a research team who noted that sigmoid diverticular disease was only a problem in the west for precisely that reason.

The paper they published linked the fact that this debilitating and significant gastric condition, where the walls of the bowel pocket outwards causing all manner of serious issues, was almost unheard of outside of modern urban communities.

You see they concluded that the fact it is considered polite to hold your wind in actually causes major health problems.2

Whether my old Nan really saw the headstone or not it seems that another old wives story has more than a grain of truth in it – although in this case following its advice might not make you the most popular person at the local shop!

I hope that this letter has made you smile, but I know I run the risk of offending a few people by talking about this topic.

However, I think that all bodily functions should be considered when we think about health… even those that don’t normally get discussed.


1Winham,D. & Hutchins, A.;(2011) Perceptions of Flatulence From Bean Consumption Among Adults in 3 Feeding Studies. Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:128

2Wynne-Jones,G.;(1975) Flatus Retention is the Major Factor in Diverticular Disease. The Lancet, Volume 306, Issue 7927, Pages 211 – 212, 2 August 1975