Gas is a normal part of life and a natural byproduct of a healthy digestive system. The gas in your body must come out, otherwise you would pop like an over-filled balloon.
Most people fart between 14 and 23 times per day. That may sound like a lot, but most farts are odorless and relatively undetectable. It’s common for people to feel as though they fart more than others, but that’s usually untrue.
Most of the gas you pass is swallowed air. You swallow air throughout the day while eating and drinking. Other gases are produced in your digestive tract as the food you eat is broken down. Farts are primarily made of odorless vapors like carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane.
Although gas is a normal part of life, it can be inconvenient. You can’t stop farting completely, but there are ways to reduce the amount of gas in your system.
1. Eat more slowly and mindfully
Most of the gas in your body is swallowed air. While it’s impossible to avoid swallowing air entirely, you can reduce the amount you swallow. When you eat fast, you swallow far more air than when you eat slowly.
This is particularly true when you’re eating on the go. Avoid eating while engaging in other activities, like walking, driving, or biking.
2. Don’t chew gum
People who chew gum throughout the day swallow far more air than those who don’t. If you’re worried about keeping your breath fresh, try eating a sugar-free mint instead. A long-acting mouthwash can also help reduce bacteria that causes bad breath in your mouth.
3. Cut back on gas-producing foods
Some foods produce more gas than others. Certain carbohydrates are common culprits, including those with fructose, lactose, insoluble fiber, and starch. These carbs are fermented in the large intestine and have a history of causing digestive problems.
Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experiment with a low-FODMAP diet (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), which avoids fermentable sugars. However, many of these gas-producing foods are an essential part of a healthy diet. You probably won’t need to cut these foods out of your diet completely, but can eat less of them.
Common gas-producing carbs include:
- Complex sugars: Beans, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, whole grains, sorbitol, and other vegetables.
- Fructose: Onions, artichokes, pears, soft drinks, fruit juice, and other fruits.
- Lactose: All dairy products, including milk, cheese, and ice cream.
- Insoluble fiber: Most fruits, oat bran, peas, and beans.
- Starches: Potatoes, pasta, wheat, and corn.
4. Check for food intolerances with an elimination diet
Food intolerances are different than food allergies. Instead of an allergic response, food intolerances cause digestive upset like diarrhea, gas, bloating, and nausea. A common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. Lactose is found in all dairy products.
An elimination diet can help you narrow in on the cause of your excess gas. Try eliminating all dairy products from your diet. If you’re still experiencing abnormal gas, try eliminating the gas-producing foods listed above. Then, slowly begin to add foods back in one at a time. Keep detailed records of your meals and any symptoms that arise.
While many people feel they may have a gluten intolerance, it’s important to see your gastroenterologist to rule out celiac disease before starting a gluten-free diet. Gluten is found in all wheat products, like bread and pasta. Being gluten-free will affect the accuracy of any testing that needs to be done to evaluate for celiac disease, so wait until you hear back from your doctor before removing gluten from your diet.
5. Avoid soda, beer, and other carbonated beverages
The air bubbles found in carbonated beverages are notorious for their ability to produce burps. But some of this air will also make its way through your digestive tract and exit your body through the rectum. Try replacing carbonated beverages with water, tea, wine, or sugar-free juice.
6. Try enzyme supplements
Beano is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication containing a digestive enzyme called a-galactosidase that helps breakdown complex carbohydrates. It allows these complex carbs to be broken down in the small intestine, rather than moving into the large intestine to be broken down by gas-producing bacteria.
A study from 2007 found that a-galactosidase significantly reduces the severity of flatulence after a bean-filled meal. But, it doesn’t help with gas caused by lactose or fiber.
Lactaid contains an enzyme called lactase that helps people with lactose intolerance digest dairy products. It should also be taken prior to eating. Certain dairy products are also available with reduced lactose.
7. Try probiotics
Your digestive tract is full of healthy bacteria that helps you break down food. Certain healthy bacteria can actually break down the hydrogen gas that other bacteria produce during digestion.
Probiotics are dietary supplements containing these good bacteria. Many people take them to reduce symptoms of digestive upset or to treat chronic conditions like IBS.
8. Quit smoking
Every time you take a drag from a cigarette, cigar, or e-cig, you swallow air. Smoking frequently can add a lot of extra air to your body.
9. Treat your constipation
When poop — which contains tons of bacteria — sits in your colon for long periods of time, it continues to ferment. This fermentation process produces a lot of gas that’s often extra smelly.
The first step in treating constipation is to increase your water intake. Drinking as much water as possible will help get things moving. Second, increase your fiber intake with fruits and vegetables or a fiber supplement like Metamucil. If that doesn’t work, try a gentle stool softener like Colace or Miralax.
10. Increase your physical activity
Moving your body can help kick your digestive system into gear. Try a moderate level of exercise four to five days per week. You may also want to try a slow walk after large meals.
When should I see a doctor?
Most cases of excess gas aren’t a sign of anything serious. You’ll probably see some improvement from lifestyle changes or OTC medications. Keeping a food diary can be helpful in determining whether you have developed a food intolerance.
Make an appointment with your doctor if your symptoms suddenly become severe or if you’re experiencing: