Passing wind, feeling gassy, or flatulence, whatever you call it, the release of excess air through the intestinal tract is both normal and natural.
Most people pass gas five to 15 times per day, but if you feel like you’ve got more gas to pass than other people, you might want to get to the root of it. Especially if it’s causing you pain or discomfort.
“If you have an amount of gas that makes you uncomfortable, you should consult your local GI [gastrointestinal] physician for evaluation and recommendations,” says gastroenterologist Dr Christine Lee. “If you aren’t able to take care of it in a socially acceptable manner, and it’s bothering your lifestyle, you should have it checked out.”
If you’re so gassy it’s affecting your daily activities or causing you pain or embarrassment, you can take steps to minimise the problem, she says.
Excessive amounts of gas can be triggered by habits, food, and some health conditions.
Gas can accumulate in your digestive tract simply because you swallow air while drinking, eating or even laughing.
Chewing gum, sucking on hard lollies, eating fast and drinking through straws can all lead to more swallowed air and more gas.
Habits like chewing the ends of pens can also cause you to swallow more air.
The bubbles in carbonated drinks such as beer, soda and sparkling water are another source of gas. If you’re partial to a bubbly beverage but suffer from excessive gas, switch to a flat drink for a while to test whether it’s the cause.
In some cases, the way you sleep can contribute to excessive gas build-up in your system.
Sleep apnoea affects 5 to 10 per cent of adults in Australia, causing them to snore with their mouths open.
If you tend to breathe or snore with your mouth open while sleeping, you may swallow lots of air overnight.
“People with sleep apnoea are mostly mouth breathers, and they inhale a lot of air when they’re snoring and swallowing,” Dr Lee says. “So, they wake up with gas pain because they’ve been swallowing air all night.”
Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have sleep apnoea.
Many people can easily identify the foods that will upset their stomach and cause them to bloat or pass gas. For instance, cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, are common gas-causing culprits.
Eating lots of carbohydrates, such as pasta and bread, can also cause extra gas. Common gas-producing foods include:
- lentils and beans
- dairy, including milk, cheese, ice cream, and yoghurt (especially if you are lactose intolerant)
- soy products, such as tofu and soy milk
- vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, asparagus, artichokes, onions, mushrooms, sprouts, and cucumbers
- fruits such as apples, peaches, pears, and fruit juices
- wholegrains and bran
- sugar-free gum and candies (due to sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol).
Many flatulence-forming foods, such as cruciferous vegetables, are actually good for you. Some people may notice the amount of gas they pass increases when they decide to become healthier and add these foods to their diet.
It’s also good to remember that foods that cause gas in one person may not cause it in another.
Bacteria in the gut
While most bacteria stay in the colon, sometimes there is too much and it creeps into the small intestine, causing a condition known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This may lead to symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and flatulence.
Excess gas can be a symptom that comes with many disorders that affect the gut or intestines. These include:
- ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- thyroid dysfunction
- intestinal blockage.
You also produce more gas as you age due to the slowing down of your metabolism and slowing down of the movement of food through the colon. Yes, even the intestinal tract naturally slows down over time.
If your intestines are sluggish, moving food through your gut too slowly (slow motility), excess gas can collect. The longer food sits in your system, the more gas-producing bacteria build up, causing abdominal discomfort.
Do you have to avoid certain foods because they make you gassy? Share any tips you have for fighting flatulence in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.