Whether we’d like to admit it or not, everyone gets gas from time to time. Gas is caused by swallowing air and the breakdown of food in your digestive tract. The consequences are usually burping, feeling bloated, or passing gas. On average, most people pass gas at least 14 times per day. Some people have more gas than others, which may be uncomfortable or embarrassing. However, gas itself is not cause for alarm.
If you’re experiencing a lot of gas and bloating, making changes to your diet can help. Here are the types of foods that cause the most gas. Keep in mind that people’s bodies react differently, so if you make changes to your diet, avoid the foods you react to the most.
When you think of foods that cause gas, beans are probably at the top of the list. Beans contain a lot of raffinose, which is a complex sugar that the body has trouble digesting. Raffinose passes through the small intestines into the large intestines where bacteria break it down, producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane gas, which exits through the rectum.
To reduce gas without cutting out beans, one study found the over-the-counter product, Beano, effectively reduced gas for some people. Soaking the beans overnight can also help reduce gas.
Lactose is a sugar that’s found in milk and most dairy products, including cheese and ice cream. People who don’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase have difficulty digesting lactose, which is known as lactose intolerance. Increased gas is one symptom of lactose intolerance. If you suspect you’re lactose intolerant, you might reduce your symptoms by trying nondairy replacements such as almond milk or soy “dairy” products, or taking a lactase tablet before eating foods with lactose.
Whole grains such as wheat and oats contain fiber, raffinose, and starch. All of these are broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, which leads to gas. In fact, rice is the only grain that doesn’t cause gas.
Certain vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, and cauliflower are known to cause excess gas. Like beans, these vegetables also contain the complex sugar, raffinose. However, these are very healthy foods, so you may want to talk with your doctor before eliminating them from your diet.
Sodas and other carbonated drinks can add significantly to the amount of air you swallow. When air gets into your digestive tract, it has to pass through somehow. This causes burping and may also increase how much gas you pass. Swapping soda for juice, tea, or water (with no carbonation) may help you reduce gas.
Fruits such as apples, peaches, pears, and prunes contain the natural sugar alcohol, sorbitol, which the body has trouble digesting. Many fruits also have soluble fiber, which is a type of fiber that dissolves in water. Sorbitol and soluble fiber must both also pass through the large intestines, where bacteria break them down to create hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane gas.
Like carbonated drinks, sucking on hard candy can cause you to swallow extra air. Many candies also use sorbitol as a sweetener. These two factors can contribute to extra gas.
Onions contain a natural sugar called fructose. Like raffinose and sorbitol, fructose contributes to gas when bacteria in the intestines break it down.
Gum seems an unlikely source for gas, but chewing it can make you swallow more air. Many sugar-free gums are also sweetened with sugar alcohols that are harder to digest, such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol. If you burp a lot, your doctor may recommend that you stop chewing gum to reduce gas.