Have you ever been sitting in an important work meeting and had to toot? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. While typically not a cause for concern, flatulence can be annoying.
What can cause gas?
So, just what are some of the most common causes of excess gas, anyway? Many have to do with what foods and drink you put into your body, including the following…
1. High-Fiber Foods
One of the first recommended steps in combating excess gas is to change up your diet. So, just what foods are to blame for particularly potent toots? For starters, those high in fiber.
What are high-fiber foods?
High-fiber foods are, well, foods rich in dietary fiber, or roughage. This complex carbohydrate is found in the cell walls of plant-based foods. Some of the most common high-fiber foods are beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Why do high-fiber foods cause gas?
Your body typically converts carbohydrates into energy for your body. However, your body cannot completely break down fiber. So, when you consume fiber, it does not begin to be digested until it reaches the large intestine or the colon. In the large intestine, bacteria then break these foods down, but it produces gases that must be emitted from the body.
What are some examples of high-fiber foods?
Beans, Beans, Beans
One of the most common sources of gas? The mighty bean.
Now, beans are high in raffinose, a complex sugar. Unfortunately, the human body has trouble digesting raffinose. As a result, this complex sugar passes from the small to large intestines where bacteria help to break it down. This process releases hydrogen, methane gas, and carbon dioxide… which must exit the body through the anus as gas.
Apples, pears, and other fruits are high in natural sugar alcohol called sorbitol, and the body also has troubling digesting it. Fruits are similar to beans in the fact they must be in the large intestine for bacteria to break them down. Once again, this process releases gas that has no other place to exit except through the body’s “back door.”
Vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, and cauliflower also contain raffinose. Some doctors will suggest eliminating raffinose from your diet to reduce gas. However, just remember that vegetables are incredibly healthy foods and should not be removed from the diet unless necessary.
Wheat and oats are considered whole grains. Notably, whole grains contain starch, fiber, and raffinose. Each of these items must be broken down by the bacteria in your large intestine, which creates excess gas.
One great whole grain that doesn’t increase gassy-ness? Rice.
What are the side effects of eating high-fiber foods?
Consuming lots of high-fiber foods can leave you feeling:
- Too full
The following beverages can also cause unwanted gas. However, unlike fruits and veggies, it’s much easier (and healthier) to eliminate the following from your diet…
2. Carbonated Beverages
High-fiber foods are only one of the dietary factors that can lead to an increase in gas. Carbonated beverages are another.
What are carbonated beverages?
Sometimes these beverages are referred to as fizzy drinks, soda, or pop. Whatever you call them, what’s important to know is that these beverages contain dissolved carbon dioxide.
How are carbonated beverages made?
When the pressure is released from these drinks (i.e., you open a soda can), carbon dioxide is free to form as small bubbles in the liquid. When this carbon dioxide is dissolved in water, carbonated water is created. A carbonated beverage is made by mixing this carbonated water with flavored syrup.
What are some common carbonated beverages?
Some common carbonated beverages include soda, beer, and fruity drinks.
How is carbonation determined?
Carbonation is determined by the levels of CO2 in the drink, which typically range from 1 to 5 volumes of CO2 per liquid volume. So, drinks like ginger ale, Coke, and other sodas are often carbonated with 3.5 volumes, with fruity drinks much less so.
Why do these beverages cause gas?
Carbonated drinks cause gas because they increase the amount of air (CO2, especially) you are swallowing. This air must pass through the digestive tract somehow. The result? Burping or farting.
Sometimes carbonated beverages can help.
Sometimes, carbonated beverages can help with an upset stomach, because they help release the trapped gases in the stomach.
What are the side effects of drinking carbonated beverages?
The most typical side effects of drinking carbonated beverages are:
The following cause of gas also results from your diet. However, it has more to do with how you eat rather than what you eat…
3. Eating Habits and Swallowed Air
Various eating habits can cause you to swallow excessive air. This air can subsequently result in excessive gas and discomfort.
What is meant by “swallowed air”?
When you eat or drink, you consume a small amount of air. Now, some eating or drinking habits can increase the amount of air you swallow.
What habits result in swallowing more air?
- Chewing gum
- Sucking on candies
- Eating too quickly
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Talking while chewing
- Drinking through a straw
Why does swallowing air cause gas?
Swallowed air becomes trapped in your digestive tract; it cannot leave your digestive system except through the mouth or the anus.
What are the side effects of swallowing too much air?
Swallowing too much air can mean:
So, not just what you eat but how you eat can influence your flatulence levels. Even your supplements can impact the amount of gas you need to pass…
4. Fiber Supplements
Fiber offers a wide array of health perks, including lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, and losing weight. However, when you consume too much fiber, it can also cause gas.
What are fiber supplements?
Fiber supplements are a way to increase the amount of fiber in your diet. These supplements come in a variety of forms, including capsules, powders, and even chewable tablets. Each of these supplements contains functional fiber.
Where does the fiber come from?
Sometimes this fiber is extracted from natural sources. Some natural fibers include:
Other times, fiber is created in a lab. Manufactured fibers include:
Why do fiber supplements cause gas?
Similarly to fibers ingested from food, fiber supplements are not digested until reaching the large intestine. In the large intestine, bacteria work to break down these supplements, which may increase the amount of gas in the colon.
What are the side effects of fiber supplements?
Some common side effects of fiber supplements include:
- Stomach pains
Now, the body typically likes nutrients from natural sources, which means substitutions can create gastrointestinal discomfort…
5. Sugar Substitutes
Sugar supplements are incredibly common today. What meany people don’t know though is that these substitutes can lead to excess gas.
What are sugar substitutes?
These chemical or plant-based substances are typically used to enhance flavors in a wide array of foods and drinks. Most people refer to sugar substitutes as artificial sweeteners or non-caloric sweeteners.
Why are sugar substitutes popular?
Many of these substitutes are incredibly sweeter than regular sugar. This fact means it only takes a little bit of the substitute to get the same amount of sweetness as larger amounts of natural sugar. Additionally, plenty of sugar substitutes are low or zero calorie.
Why do some people not like artificial sweeteners?
It’s also worth noting that the body does not recognize artificial sugars the same way as it does natural sugars. That means that when you get a sugar craving that craving might not be fixed with artificial sweeteners.
You take in more and more artificial sweeteners in an attempt to satisfy that craving. So, you could be more likely to eat and drink more when using artificial sugar substitutes.
Are sugar substitutes regulated in the United States?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these substitutes as food additives.
Why do sugar substitutes cause gas?
Sugar substitutes may not be digested well. Why? Because they can pull water into your digestive system. Importantly, this water is a source of food for bacteria, who then cause gas and bloating.
What are the side effects of sugar substitutes?
A variety of side effects may appear when you consume sugar substitutes. They include:
Of course, sometimes dietary habits alone aren’t to blame for gas, as is the case with the following…
6. Intestinal Conditions
A variety of different medical conditions can increase gas, bloating, and even abdominal pain.
What is meant by “intestinal conditions”?
When discussing intestinal diseases or conditions, many doctors use the umbrella term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is typically categorized into two different types, which are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Ulcerative colitis is a condition that can cause long-term inflammation and ulcers. The swelling and ulcers are typically found in the innermost part of the lining of the large intestine, colon, and rectum.
Crohn’s disease is characterized by the inflammation of the digestive tract’s lining. This inflammation can spread deep within the tissue.
How serious are these conditions?
If you believe you have either of these conditions, you need to consult with a doctor because they can lead to life-threatening complications.
Why does IBD cause gas?
These diseases affect how your digestive system functions. And any disruption to your digestive tract can cause gas. Inflammation especially can make it difficult for your gut to digest food, which can lead to a buildup in gases.
What are the symptoms of IBD?
Both of these diseases share similar signs and symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Bloody stools
IBDs are not the only gut problems that can lead to embarrassing bouts of gas, as is the case with the following…
7. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is one of many digestive syndromes that can increase gas.
What is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?
When anything interferes with the normal muscular activity in the small intestine, bacteria can develop in large numbers. The disturbance of this muscular activity and the large populations of bacteria together cause SIBO.
Why does SIBO cause gas?
When large populations of bacteria produce enough gas, it can accumulate in the stomach. This accumulation can cause SIBO. Further, bacteria convert sugars in such large amounts that it can irritate the cells of the intestines.
What are the symptoms of SIBO?
The symptoms of SIBO include:
- Flatulence (excessive gas)
- Distention (abdominal bloating and swelling)
- Abdominal pain
- Body aches
Sometimes a body just cannot process certain foods the way many other bodies can. The result? Lots of unpleasant side effects, including gas…
8. Gluten Intolerance
When your digestive system cannot break down and absorb a certain food, it is called food intolerance.
What is gluten intolerance?
Gluten intolerance is when the body cannot tolerate gluten products. These types of products are generally found in rye, barley, and wheat items.
Is gluten intolerance the same thing as Celiac disease and food allergies?
Sometimes people confuse gluten intolerance with Celiac disease or a food allergy. Even though treatment for all three of these conditions may be similar (to avoid certain foods), they are not the same conditions.
So, what’s the difference?
Gluten intolerance is solely associated with the digestive system, not the immune system as is the case with both Celiac disease and food allergies.
Why does gluten intolerance cause gas?
With gluten intolerance, the body cannot break down and absorb the proteins found in wheat and other grains. The result? A buildup of gas.
What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance?
Gluten intolerance can produce a wide array of symptoms. Some common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
Some less common symptoms are:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
While the following is often confused for gluten intolerance, it is fundamentally different (although it can still cause uncomfortable amounts of gas)…
9. Celiac Disease
Gluten intolerance is commonly confused with Celiac disease. Even though gluten can irritate Celiac disease, they are two separate conditions.
What is Celiac disease?
This disease is a severe autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed individuals. It can mean that ingesting gluten products results in damage to the small intestine.
How common is this disease?
It affects around 1 in 100 people across the globe.
How do people develop this disease?
It is a hereditary disease, which means that it runs in families. If you have a parent, child, or sibling with Celiac disease, you have a 1 in 10 chance of developing the disease yourself.
When do people develop this condition?
Celiac disease can be present at any age if the person consumes food, drink, or medicine with gluten.
Why does Celiac disease cause gas?
If you eat gluten when you have Celiac disease, your body’s immune system attacks the small intestine. These attacks can damage the villi, which are small projections on small intestine lining. Importantly, villi are responsible for promoting nutrient absorption. Therefore, if the villi get damaged via gluten consumption, your body cannot properly absorb a variety of nutrients.
What are the complications of Celiac disease?
Complications of this disease include:
- Bone loss
- Lactose intolerance
What are the symptoms of Celiac disease?
17% of individuals who have Celiac disease will develop an itchy, red rash on the knees or elbows. Other symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Iron deficiency
Left untreated, Celiac disease can also lead to the following cause of gas (although it is also present in many people without this disease)…
10. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is incredibly common. By some estimates, up to 50 million people in the United States are lactose intolerant.
What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance refers to the body’s inability to break down lactose, which is a natural sugar. This natural sugar is found in various dairy products like milk and yogurt.
Why does lactose intolerance cause gas?
When your small intestine stops making enough lactase (an enzyme) to break down lactose, you develop an intolerance. Without enough lactase, the lactose will move into the large intestine without being absorbed.
Remember: your large intestine contains bacteria. These bacteria will interact with the unabsorbed lactose and cause a wide array of symptoms, which includes gas.
What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?
Most symptoms of lactose intolerance present between 30 minutes and two hours after consuming dairy products. Symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
The final cause of gas on our list? It affects up to perhaps 45 million people in the United States…
11. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder affecting the large intestine. This long-term syndrome affects millions of people in the United States, meaning it is a common cause of gas.
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Spastic colon, spastic colitis, mucous colitis, and irritable colon are other names for IBS. Importantly, IBS is a separate issue from inflammatory bowel disease.
IBS refers to a group of painful and unpleasant symptoms that affect the intestines. It is typically diagnosed when the person experiences these symptoms for at least three months for at least three days of each month.
Why does IBS cause gas?
It isn’t known with 100% certainty why IBS causes gas. However, some doctors will say that IBS disrupts the bacteria in the gut. This disruption creates toxins that lead to excessive gas.
Other doctors may state that the digestive systems of individuals with IBS are unable to tolerate and transport gas. This theory implies that people with IBS will feel gassier than people without IBS.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
Individuals suffering from IBS may experience:
- Excess gas
- Mucous stools
- Abdominal pain
So, what is most important for someone plagued by incessant gas to remember?…
As you can see, a variety of triggers can cause gas. It’s important to remember that gas is a normal part of a healthy body. In fact, you will probably fart up to 20 times a day. Most often gas is no cause for concern, even if it can be embarrassing.
How can you manage gas?
While you can’t completely eliminate gas, you can adjust daily habits to produce fewer farts. You can also take an over-the-counter enzyme product, like Beano, to help reduce the production of gas.
When is gas a problem?
Gas is rarely a sign of a serious medical issue. However, if your gas or gas pains are severe or persistent, your next step is to talk to your doctor.
It is also essential to speak with your doctor if any of the following symptoms accompany your gas, because it may indicate a more severe condition:
- Blood in your stools
- Changes in the consistency of your stools
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
You should seek medical assistance immediately if you experience chest pains or prolonged abdominal pain.