Do potatoes cause gas?

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About potatoes

Potato (Solanum tuberosum) is a starchy root vegetable, that originated in the Americas. They are a staple food consumed worldwide, and it is the fifth most consumed food after wheat, maize, rice, and sugar cane.

Potatoes can be eaten boiled, fried, baked, or roasted. They can also be used in the brewing of alcoholic beverages like vodka, akvavit, and poitin.

Potato starch is widely used in the food industry as a binder and thickener for sauces and soups. Potato contains:

  • plenty of water (79%)
  • some carbohydrates (17%) of which 88% is resistant starch
  • a little protein (2%)
  • almost no fat (0.1%).

Is potato acidic or alkaline?

Potato has a pH range of 5.4 to 6.1, placing it on the acidic side of the pH scale, though in this case a weak acid. Thus, potato is considered mildly acidic food.

However, it has an alkalizing effect when consumed.

Why do potatoes make you bloated?

The carbohydrate in potatoes is mainly starch (up to 88%), which is not digested in the small intestines. As such they pass unto the large intestines where they act as food for healthy bacteria, which ferment them, producing gas in the process.

Starch is a complex carbohydrate that our body uses as a source of energy. 100g of potato contains ~20g of starch.

Enzymes start to digest starch in the small intestine, however, digestion is usually not finished here, so some undigested food enters the large intestine.

There is no enzymatic digestion of carbohydrates in the large intestine, but bacteria start to ferment the food. This fermentation causes gas.

The amount of gas produces depends on your gut microbiota, therefore some people might experience more gas than others.

Other reasons for being gassy after potatoes:

  • Swallowing air: This always happens when we eat and it is perfectly normal. However, those who are eating too fast might swallow too much air.
  • Fibers: Fibers might also be fermented in the large intestine, causing gas. Although, potato doesn’t contain too much fiber, and most of its fiber content is in the skin. If potatoes give you gas, make sure to eat them peeled and see if it helps.
  • Potato intolerance: Those who are intolerant to potatoes miss certain enzymes that help break down the potato in the small intestine. This means it is more likely that undigested potato enters the large intestine, causing gas and bloating.

If potatoes make you gassy, try various preparation methods and see if the condition improves. Also be mindful about the other ingredients, adding too much salt, fat, or oil might also trigger symptoms.

Mashed potato and gas

Mashed potatoes
Mased potatoes are the least likely to cause gas.

Generally, boiling a potato in water is the best thermal treatment for the breakdown of resistant starch.

Heating potato in a large volume of water causes changes in the crystalline structure, making it easier for enzymes to digest them.

Mashed potato is a potato that has first been boiled, then mashed with the addition of milk, butter, pepper, and salt. It is typically served alongside meat or vegetable dishes.

The mashing of the potatoes also helps digestibility, and some research studies have shown that mashed potatoes had the highest digestion rate.

Higher digestibility implies less resistant starch to be available for bacteria to ferment and produce gas, thus a reduction in gas production.

It should be noted however that mashed potato has milk and butter added to it, so if you have lactose intolerance, you will therefore have gas and bloating after eating mashed potato.

Can baked potatoes make you go gassy?

On the other hand, dry heat methods like baking, do not effectively break down much of the starch, and research studies have reported a greater quantity of native resistant starch in baked potatoes compared to boiled potatoes.

Thus, we can conclude that if potatoes give you gas, baking them will still make you go gassy.

Can French fries cause gas?

French fries

Yes, French fries can cause gas. Frying has been shown to significantly increase the proportion of resistant starch in potatoes.

The outer surface of fried potato is not gelatinized, thus, the crystalline structure of the starch granules is partially retained which will be resistant to digestion once consumed.

Also, during the frying of potatoes, an amylose-lipid complex is formed, which prevents starch granules from swelling and getting digested easily by enzymes. This further increases the fiber content, resulting in more fiber reaching the large intestines where they will be digested, releasing more gas and potentially causing other symptoms.

Can potato intolerance or allergy cause gas?

Potato intolerance can cause gas, however, allergy is unlikely to trigger bloating.

  • Potato intolerance: Intolerance is a digestive issue, which often causes stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, gas, and bloating.
  • Potato allergy: Allergy is an adverse reaction of the immune system. Typical symptoms are itching, hives, rashes, and swelling of the mouth, tongue, and lips. Allergy sometimes causes more severe reactions, like breathing problems, that require immediate help.

People allergic or intolerant to plants of the Solanaceae family (nightshades) may show allergy to potatoes, as these plants contain glycoalkaloids, that are noted for causing gastrointestinal problems just mentioned.

Does sweet potato cause gas?

Sweet potatoes might cause gas and trigger bloating and other symptoms for two main reasons:

Sugar content

Sweet potatoes contain a sugar called mannitol that has been reported to cause stomach pain in sensitive people.

This is because sugar alcohols like mannitol are harder to digest and thus stay longer in the intestines, potentially causing bloating and diarrhea.

Mannitol belongs to a larger family of sugars called polyols, which together with fructans and galactans are classified as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols).

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates noted for their poor absorption in small intestines, whilst absorbing excess water in the colon and producing gas due to fermentation. Polyols are known laxatives, noted for causing stomach pains, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence.

Excess fiber

Sweet potato as mentioned earlier is rich in fiber and though fiber has numerous beneficial effects, some people find it difficult to deal with excess fiber, as such, they may experience bloating, gas, constipation, and abdominal pains due to excess undigested fiber in their stomachs as well as excess fermentation of fiber in their colon.

Dietary fiber has been reported to worsen gas transition and enhance gas retention.

How to prevent gas from potato

5 FOODS That Reduce GAS and BLOATING | Doctor Sameer Islam
A video about 5 foods that help reduce gas. Duration: 8:47

Some cooking hacks that can help to reduce gas from potatoes:

  • Soaking the potato in cold water for s few hours. Cutting potato and washing or better still soaking in water reduces surface starch. As a matter of fact, some cloudiness is observed at the bottom of a bowl containing soaked potatoes.
  • Soaking in salt water. After peeling and cutting the potato, soak in salt water for at least 30 minutes, discard the water, rinse, and then cook for 15 minutes. Discard the water, fill in fresh water and cook again. Blanching helps extract starch from the potato.
  • Blanch in hot water. Blanch peeled and cut the potato in hot water, then rinse out and cook for a few more minutes.

Final thoughts

Potato is a starchy root vegetable that can cause gas in people with sensitive bowels or if eaten in excess due to its high starch content.

Boiling remains the best cooking method that decreases the starch content of potatoes and consequently gas production after consumption.

This article has been written by:

Meggy Jones

Expert Nutritionist and Food Scientist,
M.Sc. – Nutrition, ugent, Belgium