Nobody really wants to think about bloating or gas, let alone talk about it. But it’s important to know why you pass gas and where it comes from to begin with.
Now, believe it or not, eating or drinking anything can make you feel bloated and give you gas. And everyone deals with it – yes, even if you pretend you don’t.
In fact, on average, a healthy male passes gas 14 times per day, especially after meals. But, gas rates up to 25 per day are actually normal.1
But, why do people pass gas?
Well, gas can enter your GI tract in a few different ways. Of course, everybody knows it’s easy to burp after guzzling down a carbonated beverage, but simply swallowing air – aka “aerophagia” – is a really common way to introduce gas and bloating to your system. Usually, the air gets halfway down your esophagus and then you expel it back through your mouth.2
But, when you swallow air and don’t belch it out, it enters your stomach. And sometimes that air makes it all the way to your stomach and can even cause pain. Usually, if you feel pain due to gas, it’s because gas is not well tolerated by your long, inflexible small intestine.3 Later, it’s expelled as intestinal gas.4
And there are other causes of gas and bloating – like intolerance of certain carbohydrates, bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine, functional bowel disorders like leaky gut syndrome or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).5
In fact, there are five gases that make up most of your intestinal gas – nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane.6 However, only two – nitrogen and oxygen – are present in the atmosphere. These are the gases your body takes in.
So then where do the other three types of gas come from? Well, turns out, your body creates methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide during the metabolic processes of bacterial flora in your gut.7
The Three Kinds of Gas Your Body Makes
Methane is made by your gut bugs. Once it’s produced, it’s not really used by your body, so it’s passed as gas, or it is sent through your gut mucus to get absorbed into circulation and released (unchanged) by your lungs.8
Hydrogen is also made by the colonies of bacteria taking up residence inside your intestinal tract. Turns out, as you process your food and convert the substances you eat into helpful nutrients, unabsorbed carbs are pushed to the large intestine and become home for your gut bugs, liberating hydrogen gas.9 This, of course, is the same fragrance that comes from rotten eggs.
Carbon dioxide is produced when certain carbs can’t be digested by your gut bugs and the enzymes in your GI tract. When they reach your gut, they’re converted to carbon dioxide gasses. Some of the types of foods that are responsible for this are bran or beans. Of course, the result can be a serious bout of intestinal gas.10
But there are factors that can contribute to causing more gas than your body would normally make.
You’ve heard of lactose intolerance, right?
Beyond being one of the causes of stomach ache, bloating, and gas, lactose intolerance is what happens when you have a problem digesting dairy products. It might turn out your digestive tract has a hard time tolerating even minimal amounts of lactose – a sugar found in milk. But contrary to popular belief, lactose intolerance is not an allergy.11
Lactose intolerance – or even a less-severe lactose sensitivity – might be the culprit behind the following symptoms –
- Increased flatulence
- Feeling full
- Lower belly pain
However, you can help yourself by consuming the following Gundry-approved milk products in moderation. And you should know, you may be able to tolerate the following even better than regular milk products –
- French/Italian butter
- Goat butter
- Goat cheese
- Goat and sheep kefir
But, dairy isn’t the only food that might cause bloating, flatulence, and stomach discomfort.
Some other foods that may cause flatulence
In fact, there are plenty of lectin-filled foods that contribute to flatulence. To name just a few –
- Baked beans
- Most flours
These foods all happen to result in the production of more hydrogen and carbon dioxide by your gut bacteria.13
Now, there’s no doubt the production of gas by bacteria in response to certain foods differs depending on the individual. But there are certain sugars that happen to inspire your gut bugs to make the most gas.
Fructose is a naturally occurring ingredient in several plant foods, like corn, wheat, and pears. You’ll notice those three foods aren’t even on my “Yes” List!
Moreover, fructose is generally a bad idea. It’s especially dangerous when it’s concentrated into that sugary syrup you find in sodas and processed juice boxes. If you can, just stay away.
You can find this sugar in almost all fruits. It’s yet another reason most fruits are not on my “Yes” List. Sorbitol is an indigestible sugar that makes up a good deal of artificial sweeteners – you know, the ones you find in diet and sugar-free foods. So remember, even those “healthy” foods can cause lots of gas.
Mentioned above, it’s the sugar in milk. It happens to be an additive in many boxes of processed cereal and in various types of bread. Again, not everyone has vast stores of the enzyme needed to break down lactose, so it may mean a little more gas for the lactose intolerant.
This ingredient gives the most famous gassy veggies their secret gassy power. It’s found in beans, of course. But, raffinose can be found in some great vegetables too, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and asparagus.
So, how do you reduce gas?
Well, let’s start with cutting down belching. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can do a few of the following things to help reduce the occurrence of belching –
Slow down at the dinner table
If you slow down while you’re eating, you’ll likely swallow less air.
Avoid soda and beer
These drinks release carbon dioxide gas. So, stay away.
Chewing gum makes you swallow more often. And swallowing more often means swallowing more air, too. Ditch the habit, and you’ll expel gas a little less.
Among the many reasons to quit smoking, you’ll pass gas less often if you’re swallowing less air. And when you swallow smoke, you swallow air.14
In order to reduce the amount of flatulence you may experience, try the tips below (also from the Mayo Clinic) –
Give up the offending foods
Avoid foods like beans, peas, lentils, whole-grains, certain fruits, beer, dairy products, and carbonated drinks.
Eat fewer fatty foods
You want to eat the fattiest foods in moderation. Turns out, fat slows down the process of digestion, so having to break down fatty foods gives your gut bugs even more time to ferment the foods their processing. Don’t give them that time.15
You can’t stop gas entirely, but you can control how much you produce. Try to follow the tips above and know what to eat and what causes flatulence and discomfort in your digestive tract.
Also remember, every one deals with it – but taking control of your diet can help you be more comfortable. And if you feel you experience gas more often than others, try talking to your healthcare professional.