There are two ways in which we collect gas. First, we naturally swallow small amounts of air when we eat and drink or due to habits such as smoking, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages. Second, bowel gases are produced from naturally occurring colonic bacteria, which digest (ferment) complex carbohydrates and other foods the body doesn’t fully absorb. This process of breaking down food creates gas.
Flatus (passed gas) is common and typically occurs 12-15 times daily for those who eat a well-balanced diet. However, passing gas and/or belching more than 20 times a day is characterized by excessive flatulence. If recurrent, it’s best to consult a physician to rule out further digestive issues.
Belching is the act of expelling excess stomach gas out through the mouth. Much of the air we swallow builds up, causing bloating and discomfort. Belching is known to alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms. It is important to note that belching does not only occur when large amounts of swallowed gas are in the stomach. Excessive belching occurs without any inflammation or injury inside the stomach or upper GI tract and can be indicative of other sources of abdominal problems. For example, in “non-ulcer dyspepsia”, one might experience bloating, belching, and other symptoms that come from the upper gut.
Common causes of gas include:
- Swallowed Air: sometimes swallowed air may not be belched out, so it passes through the digestive tract and is released through the anus as flatus.
- Food & Beverages: there are certain foods and drinks that increase the release of gas.
High fiber fruits, vegetables, and grains create flatus, which is a natural by-product of a healthy diet.
Lactose or fructose may not be fully digested and lead to large amounts of gas.
A variety of foods called FODMAPS lead to more gas. In people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a FODMAPS diet can create or worsen their symptoms.
- Medicines and Nutritional Supplements: both prescription and nonprescription medications, as well as dietary supplements, can cause bloating and gas.
- Medical Condition: some conditions like bowel obstruction or Crohn’s disease are likely to increase gas.
Prevention and Treatment of Excess Gas
By changing one’s eating and drinking patterns, one may be able to reduce gas. Always test out your tolerance to a group of foods and do not give up anything permanently unless you consistently notice you are intolerant to it.
Slow increase in dietary fiber is the best way to adjust to healthier ways of eating. As for those who have difficulty digesting lactose, products such as Lactaid or Dairy Ease replace the lactase in our system, aiding the digestion process. Taking Beano when you eat beans can reduce gas formation. And remember, almost none of the medications available will change intestinal gas volume as it is a natural part of food digestion. In some cases, the medication itself may cause gas, therefore seek medical attention if the cause of ongoing gas is not clear.
Some high gas producers are:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bell Peppers
- Whole Grains
- Hard Candy
- Carbonated Beverages
- Some low gas producers are:
- Citrus Fruit
- Hard Cheese
- Peanut Butter
- Refined grains
- Non-carbonated sugar beverages