Passing gas is perfectly normal, but can be embarrassing in social situations. Sometimes your body produces gas because you swallow too much air by talking while eating, using a straw to drink or consuming carbonated beverages. But most often, it’s a simple byproduct of the bacteria in your gut breaking down the food you eat.
Food intolerance, eating too much and difficulty digesting certain foods can result in excessive gas. The smell associated with passing gas is also a sign that your body is having trouble breaking down sugars and other chemical compounds in food. So is that painful bloating feeling you feel after eating a trigger food.
“The next time you experience excessive gas or painful bloating, think of the situation you are in, not just the food you ate,” says Barbara Bauer, RDN, a clinical nutrition program manager at Sharp Coronado Hospital.
“Ask yourself if your portion size was what you normally eat. If you ate more than you normally do all day, which resulted in bloating at night, it is likely that overeating may be part of the problem and not just a particular food. If you ate a higher-fat meal than you usually do, the fat content can contribute to your discomfort,” she says.
Although you’ll never live gas-free — the average person passes gas 13 to 20 times per day — you can limit bloating and excessive gas by decreasing the amount of trigger foods in your diet. Here are five common ones:
1. Fresh vegetables
Cruciferous veggies, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, and vegetables that contain fructose, such as onions and asparagus, can cause gas. If you find yourself experiencing painful gas after eating salad or other vegetables, try eliminating foods one by one until you find your trigger.
2. Sugar-free sweets and some fruits
Sorbitol commonly produces gas and can be found in sugar-free gum, candy sweetened with sorbitol and some fruits, such as peaches, pears and plums. It is the soluble fiber found in fruits and vegetables that produces gas, not the insoluble fiber that is not absorbed, such as bran.
3. Dairy products
Lactose is found in milk and other dairy products. It can be difficult to digest without enough of the enzyme lactase that is naturally present in the intestines. If you notice symptoms of intolerance after eating cheese, ice cream or milk, you may lack enough lactase to digest these foods. Those with a lactose intolerance
may need to avoid milk products that are not heated. The cooking processes can break down lactose in milk products to allow for decreased symptoms.
Yes, we all remember that little childhood ditty about the musical fruit. It’s true; the more you eat the more you … well, you know. Beans include both the sugar and the fiber found in trigger fruits and vegetables, meaning they pack an extra punch to the lower intestine. Don’t pass on beans because you’re worried about passing gas, however. Beans are a great source of heart- and bowel-healthy fiber. Studies show that lentils and canned beans tend to produce less gas, and that soaking dried beans helps as well. You can also take an over-the-counter enzyme supplement to help your body break down the fiber and sugar.
5. Sodas and carbonated drinks
No surprise here: what goes in, must come out. Carbonated beverages — especially sugary ones — can lead to bloating, burping and flatulence.
Digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, are more serious sources of excess gas. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your digestive distress.