Everybody finds themselves expelling gas from their bodies at some point in life. Flatulence is just a natural part of the human experience. In fact, we reportedly pass gas around 15–20 times a day, and this is considered totally normal. We usually expel very little gas by volume daily—only about 700 ml, which would just about fill a small disposable water bottle. But sometimes the bloating and gas production is so prodigious we wonder, “Geez, what the pfhhht did I eat?”
When it comes to how we develop that gassy and bloating feeling, it stems from two causes:
Overeating makes things worse. Intestinal gas gathers as a result of digestion and bacterial fermentation in the colon. The major gases making up flatus are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. Hydrogen sulfide and other sulfur-containing gases cause most of the odor. But research shows that only about 1% of farts stink to high heaven or have any oder at all. And get this—most gas is passed while you’re asleep. (And you thought he was snoring!)
The musical fruit
“Statistics suggest that up to 80% of IBS patients may suffer from a condition called SIBO, which stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth,” says Samantha Hass, RD, a registered dietitian for F-Factor, a diet program based on fiber-rich nutrition. “It can cause bloat when the overgrown bacterial in your gut feeds off undigested carbohydrates and produces gas. You need a simple hydrogen test from your GI doctor to get diagnosed and then antibiotics to clear it.”
If you have a lot of flatulence with such other symptoms as reflux, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloody stools, nausea and vomiting, or weight loss, see your doctor, advises the Mayo Clinic.
For the most part, however, normal bouts of farting can be controlled by making adjustments to your diet—or masked by turning up the TV really, really loud. And it helps to know these potential triggers to gas buildup before you experience the blow out.
The cabbage patch
“Beans and lentils are likely to trigger gas, especially if you aren’t used to eating them,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and The Portion Teller Plan.
The culprit? That indigestible oligosaccharide called raffinose.
Cut the cheese
“Our bodies don’t have the enzyme needed to break down raffinose so when the beans hit your large intestine the good bacteria in there thrive on it and ferment it leaving you gassy,” says Hass.
Some ways to keep eating those healthy beans without the bloat:
Many foods that support our health also can cause us to feel gassy and bloated.
“One group of food that checks both the ‘good-for-you’ and the ‘gassy’ boxes is cruciferous vegetables,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, and author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook. “These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts, among others.”
Cruciferous vegetables contain a sulfur-based phytochemical called sulforaphane as well as a hard-to-digest sugar called raffinose that your gut bacteria ferments and produces gas.