By Amy Marturana, C.P.T.– Self
Everyone farts, every single day. So don’t you dare deny it. But some people produce more gas than others. And for those people, there are a few common excessive gas causes to know about.
“We all have bacteria in our gut, which produces gas. And it has to go somewhere,” explains Sophie Balzora, M.D., gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. Whether farts or burps, that gas comes out of your body in one form or another. In fact, we all pass gas an average of 15 to 20 times each day.
But as natural as it is to let one rip periodically throughout the day, being overly gassy isn’t necessarily comfortable—for you or your coworkers. In fact, excessive gas can cause discomfort to the point of bloating and abdominal pain.
If you feel like you’re desperately holding back your gas more often than you should be or your gas is causing you discomfort throughout the day, here are some possible excessive gas causes to be aware of (and avoid, if possible).
- You’re eating a lot of fiber.
Usually, the food you’re eating can be to blame for any excessive gas you’re having. A food that causes gas in one person may not in another, but there are some common culprits. “The classic food groups are high fiber foods such as whole wheat and grains, fresh fruits and cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc.),” explains Felice Schnoll-Sussman, M.D., M.D., gastroenterologist and director of the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. Fiber is usually recommended to combat constipation, but it can cause gas if it’s eaten in excess. ”
So the key here is, as with all good things, moderation. “It must be slowly incorporated into the diet,” Dr. Schnoll-Sussman explains. “If you binge on kale for its obvious nutritional value, you will most likely feel it with gas and bloating.”
- You’re eating a food you’re sensitive to.
“Many people as they get older have difficulty digesting milk products,” Dr. Schnoll-Sussman says. So even if you’re not full-on intolerant, your body’s levels of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) may be lower than it used to be, making dairy a problem food. “Someone who is very lactose intolerant experience bloating, cramps, and flatulence as soon as they ingest milk or other dairy products.” But your level of gassiness will vary depending on how sensitive you are.
For some people, certain carbs (sugars and starches) can cause gas, Dr. Balzora adds. If it seems that you’re sensitive to carbs, your doctor may suggest following a low FODMAP diet. The acronym stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols—which, in English, are specific types of sugars that may be difficult to digest and then left in the digestive tract for bacteria to feed on. “If having gas is interfering with your daily life, I’ll prescribe this for six-to-eight-8 weeks, and then [reintroduce] foods back into the diet slowly.”
The best way to combat gas related to a food sensitivity is to pay attention, possibly with the guidance of a medical professional. Your doctor will probably ask you to start keeping a food diary to help find patterns between what you’re eating and what you’re feeling. This way, you can take note of what foods might be causing issues for you so you can decide whether you want to eat them only once a while or avoid them altogether.
- You’re swallowing too much air…but actually.
One commonly overlooked cause of gas is actually ingesting air, a situation called “aerophagia.” It happens when you do anything that causes you to swallow an excessive amount of air, such as “drinking carbonated beverages, smoking, eating or drinking too fast, [or] talking while eating,” Dr. Balzora explains.
It can also be caused by chewing gum, sucking on candies all day, or breathing through your mouth while you sleep. If you have gas in the morning, or wake up feeling completely full, it might be because of the way you’re breathing as you sleep.
If you think swallowing air might be at the root of your gas issues, Dr. Schnoll-Sussman suggests taking a look at your daily habits and seeing where that extra air might be coming from. For instance, you might be able to minimize the amount of air you ingest by opting for non-carbonated beverages (sorry seltzer fans!), trying not to talk while you eat, and avoiding chewing gum.
- You’re eating large meals too quickly.
It’s simply a fact that large, fatty meals take a long time to digest and, therefore, hang out longer in your gut and build up more gas than smaller, less fatty meals. That lengthy digestion can lead to the classic post-burger-and-fries feeling of bloat and gassiness. On top of that, eating quickly increases the chance that you’ll inhale some air along the way, just adding even more gassiness.
That doesn’t mean you can’t eat large meals (please, by all means, enjoy your burger!), but it does mean that you might just have to accept some (totally normal) discomfort along the way.
If you’d rather skip that feeling, you can stick with more frequent smaller meals rather than less frequent larger meals. And no matter what you’re eating, you can do your best to eat mindfully, paying attention to every bite and how it affects your body without rushing.
- You stay put after meals.
After eating a delicious satisfying meal it’s tempting to just sit back and relax. Or, more likely, you’re eating your lunch at your desk and just staying there is the easiest thing to do.
On the other hand, one of the best things you can do for your digestive tract is keep up some form of regular physical activity. But if you’re dealing with gas right this second, you can try going for a quick walk or doing some stretches designed to move digestion along and ease your gassiness. Experts aren’t totally sure why it helps, but it does.
- Your gut bacteria needs some help.
Since the root cause of gas is bacteria, giving your gut bacteria a boost can help reign in some of the gas-producing bacteria in your stomach. “Probiotics will help with that,” Dr. Balzora says. “They’re full of microorganisms that can house the gut with more hospitable bacteria.” If you’ve tried an elimination diet and didn’t get conclusive results, Dr. Balzora recommends trying to treat with probiotics. You can eat foods high in probiotics like Greek yogurt or kefir, or simply add a supplement if that’s easier.
- You could be dealing with a gastrointestinal condition.
Gas can be a symptom of many gastrointestinal disorders. If it’s isolated, it’s most likely your diet or excessive air-swallowing. But if you’re experiencing other symptoms like belly pain, heartburn, or changes in your weight, your gas may be a sign of a more serious issue. For instance, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), celiac disease, and even intestinal blockages can all be causes of excessive gas. So if your gas doesn’t resolve itself (one way or another) or it’s causing any other concerning symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
Finally, know that gassiness is a normal part of life. It’s a sign that your body is Doing Something and that your digestive processes are humming along. “It’s important to understand that farting is normal,” Dr. Balzora reiterates. “But it shouldn’t be ignored if you’re having other symptoms.”
If you feel like your gas is excessive, you’ve noticed an overall change in your gastrointestinal habits, your flatulence comes with other symptoms (abdominal pain, for instance), or you’re anxious about whether or not something is normal, it’s always worth checking in with a doctor who can help put your mind—and your gut—at ease.