For how much we struggle to hold them in, and apologize with a beet red face when they dare sneak out, farts are normal. Everyone farts, every day. Even if you deny it.
In fact, we all pass gas an average of 15 to 20 times each day.
“We all have bacteria in our gut, which produces gas. And it has to go somewhere,” explained Dr. Sophie Balzora, gastroenterologist and an 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.
But as natural as it is to let one rip periodically throughout the day, no one wants to be excessively gassy. Especially when it’s uncomfortable. And when you work in an office surrounded by other people.
If you feel like you’re desperately holding back your gas more often than you should be, here are some things that may be to blame.
1. 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.),” explained Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman, gastroenterologist and director of research at The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Fiber is usually recommended to combat constipation, but it can cause gas if it’s eaten in excess.
“It must be slowly incorporated into the diet,” Schnoll-Sussman explained. “If you binge on kale for its obvious nutritional value, you will most likely feel it with gas and bloating.”
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2. You’re eating a food you’re sensitive to.
“Many people as they get older have difficulty digesting milk products,” Schnoll-Sussman said.
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, Balzora added. 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 6-8 weeks, and then reincorporate foods back into the diet slowly.”
Bottom line: if you’re having crazy gas, start keeping a food diary. This way, you can take note of what might be a problem food that you should stay away from.
3. You’re swallowing too much air…but actually.
The formal term for it is aerophagia.
“Drinking carbonated beverages, smoking, eating or drinking too fast, talking while eating—with all those things you’re swallowing more air,” Balzora explained.
Chewing gum or sucking on candies all day can cause the same effects, as can breathing out of your mouth while you sleep, called “mouth breathing.” “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.
Schnoll-Sussman suggested drinking (non-carbonated drinks) through a straw, eating slowly, and no talking while eating, to minimize how much air you ingest.
4. 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,” Balzora said. “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, Balzora recommended 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.
5. You have a gastrointestinal disorder.
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 part of a bigger issue.
“It’s important to understand that farting is normal,” Balzora reiterated. “But it shouldn’t be ignored if you’re having other symptoms.”
See your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms in addition to flatulence. And don’t forget to bring along that food diary.
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