What does it mean when you pass gas a lot?

Flatulence

Excessive flatulence can usually be treated by making changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Several over-the-counter treatments are also available if your flatulence is becoming a problem.

Self care advice

Diet

You should try to avoid eating foods high in unabsorbable carbohydrates. For a list of these foods, see causes of flatulence. Certain processed foods should also be avoided as they can contain ingredients that cause flatulence, including:

  • any foods with artifical sweeteners
  • sugar-free sweets or chewing gum
  • fizzy drinks

However, it’s still important to eat a healthy balanced diet, including at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Choose foods containing carbohydrates that are easy to digest. These include:

  • potatoes
  • rice
  • lettuce
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • citrus fruits, such as oranges
  • yoghurt

It’s important to note that people react differently to certain foods, so some foods listed above may still cause flatulence. You may find it useful to keep a food diary to see whether certain foods make your symptoms better or worse.

You may also find it useful to eat 6 small meals a day rather than 3 large ones. Smaller meals are easier to digest and may produce less gas.

There’s some evidence to suggest drinking peppermint tea can help improve the symptoms of flatulence. There’s also some evidence that small amounts of ginger can help with digestion or an upset stomach, which may be causing flatulence. However, pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking ginger.

Swallowing air

When eating, make sure you chew food slowly to reduce the amount of air you swallow. This will also help with digestion. Avoid chewing gum as it can also cause you to swallow more air than usual.

You should also give up smoking, if you smoke. Smoking can cause you to swallow more air than usual, and tobacco smoke can irritate your digestive system. See stop smoking for more information and advice about quitting smoking.

Exercise

Getting plenty of exercise can help improve the functioning of your digestive system and bowel. It has also been shown to help with bloating and the passage of gas.

Medications and other remedies

There are several over-the-counter remedies that can help treat the symptoms of flatulence, some of which are described below.

Charcoal tablets

Charcoal tablets are a type of medication available over the counter from pharmacists. The charcoal absorbs gas in the digestive system, which helps reduce symptoms.

Charcoal tablets may not be suitable for you if you are currently taking other medication. This is because the charcoal might absorb the medication and make it less effective. If you are taking other medication, ask your GP or pharmacist for advice before taking charcoal tablets.

Clothing containing activated charcoal, or charcoal pads placed inside clothing, can help absorb foul-smelling gas released during flatulence. These products can be purchased online.

Simethicone is another over-the-counter medication that can also sometimes help with gas problems.

Dietary supplements

Alpha-galactosidase is a dietary supplement that may help improve the digestion of carbohydrates and reduce symptoms of flatulence. It’s found in a product called Beano, which has been shown to have some effect in reducing flatulence and is available from some pharmacists and health food shops.

Probiotics may also be useful in treating flatulence. Probiotics are a dietary supplement, usually sold in liquid or capsule form, which encourages the growth of “friendly bacteria” in your digestive system.

The “friendly bacteria” should help digestion and reduce the symptoms of flatulence, particularly in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Probiotic yoghurts may also help, but avoid those with artificial sweeteners or added fibre.

Passing gas: Everybody does it – and no one wants to admit it.

This embarrassing habit may seem foul, but breaking wind is simply an unavoidable byproduct of our daily digestion. In fact, the average individual can pass gas anywhere from 13 to 21 times a day.

But your gaseous patterns can actually speak volumes about your health, especially in regards to your eating habits, and they may even serve as an indication of larger digestive health issues.

“People who produce excessive amounts of gas and particularly foul smelling gas – if you’re eating a super high fiber diet, that could be part of it,” Dr. Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist in Princeton, N.J., told FoxNews.com. “But if it’s something that’s persistent, and your significant other is noticing it, it could be a problem.”

Gaseous origins

During digestion, food particles pass from the stomach to the small intestine, where the large majority of food absorption takes place. Then, undigested particles pass into the large intestine and the colon, where bacteria break the rest of it down. This bacterial fermentation ultimately releases the main components of intestinal gas – also known as flatus.

According to gastroenterologists, carbohydrates such as sugars, starches and fibers produce the most gas in the colon, as they do not get absorbed as completely in the small intestine. This is why vegans and vegetarians tend to be more flatulent than their meat-eating counterparts.

“A lot of what you eat really can produce more gas,” Dr. Gina Sam, director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told FoxNews.com. “So if a person is eating a lot of beans, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, whole wheat or bran, even sodas like fruit drinks with fructose sweetener, they can have more gas….What patients can do is decrease these products and go more on a protein diet .”

Mostly comprised of carbon dioxide, flatus also contains an eclectic blend of non-smelling gasses, including oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and sometimes methane. The foul smelling odor actually comes from a combination of sulfur compounds, which comprise less than 1 percent of the gas’s composition. According to Sheth, many red meats and protein contain high amounts of sulfur – so while herbivores may pass gas more often, flatus from meat eaters may smell much worse.

And as for that all too familiar gaseous sound? It’s a result of the gas passing through the rectum, causing vibrations in the anal opening. The auditory pitch all depends on the tightness of the sphincter as well as the velocity of the gas being expelled.

While individuals can sometimes voluntarily control their flatulence during the day by tightening their rectum, all bets are off during the nighttime hours.

“People fart when they sleep, your anal sphincter relaxes while you sleep,” said Sheth, who is also the co-author of “What’s Your Poo Telling You.” “No one realizes it, unless their partner tells them.”

Gas as a symptom

Although passing gas is a completely normal physiological action, too much flatulence may be a telling sign of an even bigger problem – such as missing components in the intestines.

“Some people may lack certain enzymes in their small intestines,” Sam said. “A common problem is lactose intolerance, where individuals lack the lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose” – a sugar found in milk and most dairy products. “This causes diarrhea and bloating, because that stays in the small bowel and causes more gas production.”

While excessive flatulence can reveal a lack of compounds in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it can also indicate an overabundance of GI components.

Unlike the large intestines and colon, the small intestines contain much less bacteria, and the bacteria that do reside there are much different than the bacteria in the colon. But when people suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), an abnormally large amount of bacteria resides in the small intestine, and the bacteria are more like the ones living in the colon. As a result, people will experience much more flatus, along with bloating and diarrhea.

“When you have an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines, the bacteria take in more than their fair share of food you’re eating… So in a normal situation, gas is produced in the colon. But in people with SIBO, if you have these bad bacteria overgrowing in the small intestine, they’re even regular stuff , so you can have excess gas.”

According to Sheth, SIBO is very rare, but it can be caused by certain diets, stress and a bad mix of medications. Additionally, people who have recently had surgery on their GI tracts or have just overcome a GI bug like norovirus may also experience an imbalance in bacteria.

Particularly foul smelling flatus may also be a symptom of infection or an even bigger health issue.

“One of the things that makes stool smell worse than it normally does is if you have a bleeding ulcer; those people will not only have foul smelling stool but also foul smelling gas,” Sheth said. “Certain infections like giardia, which occurs in people who swim a lot in the summer time – it’s notorious for causing really foul smelling flatulence.”

Excessive flatulence or foul smelling flatus is pretty rare and is often accompanied by changes in stool and digestion. So if you’re noticing significant fluctuations in your digestive health, it may be time to see a gastroenterologist.

But otherwise, passing gas is simply part of everyday life – so you’ll just have to stick to denying it if you supplied it.

What Is Excessive Gas?

Do you constantly burp, pass gas, or feel bloated?

The body naturally produces gas — and produces even more if you eat certain foods, particularly if you’ve just increased the amount of fiber in your diet. Even if you feel like you suffer from excessive gas, it’s probably a normal amount. But if too much gas is making you feel uncomfortable, there are steps you can take to adjust your diet and reduce flatulence and bloating.

Flatulence and Burping: What Is Gas?

Gas is made up of several different vapors — carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane, nitrogen, and oxygen — that pass through the body. Gas can cause pain and cramping in the abdomen as well as some noisy sound effects:

  • Belching. Some gas can be released from the body through the mouth by burping. When you swallow a lot of air while eating, it travels into your stomach. Belching allows your body to release this excess air.
  • Flatulence. Passing gas through the rectum occurs when the body can’t digest all of the food that you eat. Sugars, some fiber, and starches may be particularly difficult for your body to break down and lead to gas.
  • Bloating. Bloating is caused by an accumulation of gas that may make you feel full and uncomfortable. Even so, feeling bloated doesn’t necessarily mean that you have excessive gas; it might just mean that you are more sensitive to gas than other people.

Most people produce up to four pints of gas a day, resulting in passing gas or belching more than 20 times each day. So burping or passing gas after meals doesn’t mean that you suffer from excessive gas — what you’re experiencing is normal. Considerably more gas than that, or constant bloating or pain, may signify excessive gas.

For how much we struggle to hold them in, and apologize with a beet red face when they dare sneak out, farts are normal. Everyone farts, every day. Even if you deny it.

In fact, we all pass gas an average of 15 to 20 times each day.

“We all have bacteria in our gut, which produces gas. And it has to go somewhere,” explained Dr. Sophie Balzora, gastroenterologist and an assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Whether farts or burps, that gas comes out of your body in one form or another.

But as natural as it is to let one rip periodically throughout the day, no one wants to be excessively gassy. Especially when it’s uncomfortable. And when you work in an office surrounded by other people.

If you feel like you’re desperately holding back your gas more often than you should be, here are some things that may be to blame.

1. You’re eating a lot of fiber.

Usually, the food you’re eating can be to blame for any excessive gas you’re having. A food that causes gas in one person may not in another, but there are some common culprits.

“The classic food groups are high fiber foods such as whole wheat and grains, fresh fruits and cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc.),” explained Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman, gastroenterologist and director of research at The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Fiber is usually recommended to combat constipation, but it can cause gas if it’s eaten in excess.

“It must be slowly incorporated into the diet,” Schnoll-Sussman explained. “If you binge on kale for its obvious nutritional value, you will most likely feel it with gas and bloating.”

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2. You’re eating a food you’re sensitive to.

“Many people as they get older have difficulty digesting milk products,” Schnoll-Sussman said.

So even if you’re not full-on intolerant, your body’s levels of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) may be lower than it used to be, making dairy a problem food.

“Someone who is very lactose intolerant experience bloating, cramps and flatulence as soon as they ingest milk or other dairy products.” But your level of gassiness will vary depending on how sensitive you are.

For some people, certain carbs (sugars and starches) can cause gas, Balzora added. If it seems that you’re sensitive to carbs, your doctor may suggest following a low FODMAP diet. The acronym stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols—which, in English, are specific types of sugars that may be difficult to digest and then left in the digestive tract for bacteria to feed on. “If having gas is interfering with your daily life, I’ll prescribe this for 6-8 weeks, and then reincorporate foods back into the diet slowly.”

Bottom line: if you’re having crazy gas, start keeping a food diary. This way, you can take note of what might be a problem food that you should stay away from.

3. You’re swallowing too much air…but actually.

The formal term for it is aerophagia.

“Drinking carbonated beverages, smoking, eating or drinking too fast, talking while eating—with all those things you’re swallowing more air,” Balzora explained.

Chewing gum or sucking on candies all day can cause the same effects, as can breathing out of your mouth while you sleep, called “mouth breathing.” “If you have gas in the morning, or wake up feeling completely full, it might be because of the way you’re breathing as you sleep.

Schnoll-Sussman suggested drinking (non-carbonated drinks) through a straw, eating slowly, and no talking while eating, to minimize how much air you ingest.

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4. Your gut bacteria needs some help.

Since the root cause of gas is bacteria, giving your gut bacteria a boost can help reign in some of the gas-producing bacteria in your stomach.

“Probiotics will help with that,” Balzora said. “They’re full of microorganisms that can house the gut with more hospitable bacteria.” If you’ve tried an elimination diet and didn’t get conclusive results, Balzora recommended trying to treat with probiotics. You can eat foods high in probiotics like Greek yogurt or kefir, or simply add a supplement if that’s easier.

5. You have a gastrointestinal disorder.

Gas can be a symptom of many gastrointestinal disorders. If it’s isolated, it’s most likely your diet or excessive air-swallowing. But if you’re experiencing other symptoms like belly pain, heartburn, or changes in your weight, your gas may be part of a bigger issue.

“It’s important to understand that farting is normal,” Balzora reiterated. “But it shouldn’t be ignored if you’re having other symptoms.”

See your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms in addition to flatulence. And don’t forget to bring along that food diary.

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Here are some other things you can do to get your gas under control:

  • Spit out your gum. Lots of chewing causes you to swallow lots of air. Which causes gas. Stop it.
  • Slow your roll. Or whatever you happen to be eating. Chew more slowly, and you’ll swallow less air.
  • Lay off the bubbly. Fizzy drinks (soda, champagne, even mineral water) are pumped with gas. That’s what causes them to bubble. Choose non-carbonated drinks instead.
  • Stay away from fruit juice. Apple juice and pear juice make lots of gas.
  • Get properly fitted. If you wear dentures, make sure they fit snugly. Loose dentures can pull extra air into the digestive tract.
  • Stop smoking. You know smoking is bad for you anyway. But what if it’s also making you gassy? Knock it off, stat.
  • Opt for less fat. Fat alone doesn’t cause gas. But high-fat foods sometimes cause bloating.
  • Take a pill. From your local drugstore. Over-the-counter pills or drops can help your body digest the foods that trigger gas (like Beano and Lactaid) or simply relieve gas and bloating (like GasX).

What ifyou’ve done all these things and gas is still getting in the way?

“If it’s interrupting your quality of life, it’s a good idea to see your doctor,” says Wayne Fleischman, MD, who specializes in gastroenterology and hepatology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He says that occasional abdominal pain and bloating are very common. But other symptoms, like weight loss, anemia, and tiredness, could point to a problem that needs attention.

Fleischman says that many different digestive issues often have the same symptoms. That’s why it’s important to let your doctor know if gas is getting in the way of your life. He can run tests to help figure out exactly what’s causing your problems and find the treatment that will bring you relief.

Ten facts about why we fart

Share on PinterestGases produced during the digestive process cause flatulence.

The body produces intestinal gas as part of the process of digestion. Once this gas is inside the body, it needs to be released somehow. It is usually expelled through the anus as flatulence or out of the mouth as a burp.

Some intestinal gas comes from the air that people swallow when they are eating, chewing gum, drinking through a straw, or smoking.

Oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide are the primary external gases found inside the body. They make up what is called exogenous air.

Intestinal gas is produced within the body when bacteria in the colon break down food. This is called endogenous gas.

Endogenous gas consists mainly of hydrogen and, for some people, methane. It can also contain small amounts of other gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, which make farts smell bad.

However, bad smells only apply to about 1 percent of the gas that people expel, most of which is almost odor-free.

Undigested carbohydrates are a common cause of gas, as the stomach and the small intestine cannot break these foods down. Instead, these carbohydrates move into the large intestine, where bacteria begin to break them down, releasing intestinal gas in the process.

Undigested carbohydrates include:

  • Sugars: such as fructose, raffinose, and sorbitol, which some fruit and artificial sweeteners contain.
  • Soluble fiber: found in dried beans, nuts, and fruit.
  • Insoluble fiber: found in root vegetables and wheat bran, amongst other foods.
  • Starches: such as corn, wheat, and potatoes.

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), foods that make one person fart will not necessarily have the same effect on someone else.

However, some foods are known to create high levels of intestinal gas, including:

  • Foods rich in raffinose: Humans lack the enzyme needed to digest raffinose, a complex sugar. When bacteria in the gut try to process it, they release lots of gas. Raffinose is plentiful in beans, whole grains, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
  • High-sulfur foods and drinks: Although high-sulfur foods are an essential part of a healthful diet, eating a lot of them can lead to more frequent and pungent farts. These foods include garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli. Some drinks, including wine and beer, are also high in sulfur.
  • Foods made with sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols provide sweetness without the calories of regular sugar, so they are often present in “sugar-free” processed foods. The body does not digest them completely, so they may cause gas.

Although everyone farts, people with certain conditions may have more problems with intestinal gas than others. These conditions include:

  • Lactose intolerance: About 70 percent of adults globally do not have enough of the enzyme that helps them digest milk and milk products. For people with lactose intolerance, eating dairy can cause significant discomfort, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
  • Celiac disease: There are more than 200 symptoms of celiac disease, including painful bloating and gas. People with celiac disease are unable to digest gluten.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: Also known as IBS, this is a chronic condition affecting 10–15 percent of Americans. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and gas.

Individuals who think they may have one of these conditions should see a doctor for a confirmed diagnosis.

Some diets can help people with gastrointestinal conditions reduce their symptoms. One of these is known as the low-FODMAP diet.

By following a low-FODMAP diet, a person will consume fewer foods that are fermentable, or that contain oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

Studies have found that 50–86 percent of people with IBS who followed this diet had a reduction in symptoms.

7 Easy Ways to Tame Excessive Gas

1. Avoid Foods Known to Cause Gas

One way to manage flatulence and belching is to eat fewer of the well-known gassy foods. Common culprits include: certain fruits, like apples and pears; specific vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and onions; whole grains like bran; and dairy products, including milk, cheese, and ice cream. These items contain fiber, sugars, and starches that don’t digest or absorb easily, eventually causing intestinal gas.

Foods containing sorbitol, a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit, are on some people’s gassy foods list. Other people are bothered by carbonated soft drinks and fruit drinks. If you discover that these foods are causing you excess gas, eliminate them from your diet or eat them in small portions. When it comes to foods to avoid, moderation is key, says Stephen Bickston, MD, professor of internal medicine and director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at the Center for Digestive Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Keep in mind that almost any food or combination of foods can cause gas. “Certain foods don’t get along well in certain people,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician in Poulsbo, Washington. “Some people find they are gassy if they eat fruits with proteins, or if they eat starches and proteins together. It’s personal and requires a little experimentation to find out what the culprits are.” Dr. Novey suggests keeping a food diary and noting when you feel gassy. “If you find you’re gassy after eating a certain food, eliminate it from your diet and see if it helps,” he says.

Cooking may help break down some of the offending ingredients, Dr. Bickston says. “But the style of cooking can also decrease healthy chemicals found in vegetables. Boiling seems to break down chlorophyll and other desirable ingredients.” Look for recipes that call for steaming, as that seems to be a better cooking method for gassy foods.

2. Drink Before Meals

If you drink liquids with your meals, you lose stomach acids and can’t break down food as well, Novey says. Try drinking about 30 minutes before a meal to help your stomach digest better.

3. Eat and Drink Slowly

When you eat or drink fast, you can swallow a lot of air, which can cause gas, says Bickston. The simple solution? Slow down when you eat. If you have dentures, check with your dentist to be sure they fit properly so you’re not gasping air while eating.

4. Take Over-the-Counter Digestive Aids

Digestive enzymes are available as over-the-counter supplements. “I recommend going to the health food store and getting a digestive enzyme,” says Novey. “You can take one or two. You will know very rapidly — within a few weeks — if it makes a difference.” But antacids won’t do much for excessive gas, says Bickston.

Another over-the-counter digestive aid, Beano, contains an enzyme that breaks down the complex carbohydrates in beans and many vegetables into more easily digestible sugars. Take two to three Beano tablets or one Beano Meltaway (a dissolving tablet) before each meal. Note that Beano won’t help if excessive gas is caused by fiber or lactose.

5. Try Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal may help reduce and treat excess gas and bloating. Unlike the charcoal you find in your grill or fireplace, activated charcoal undergoes a special treatment that makes it safe for human consumption. Once you take activated charcoal (via liquid or pill), it attaches to fluid in your gut, potentially reducing gas and bloating and creating firmer stools.

6. Don’t Fill Up on Air

Habits like smoking, chewing gum, and drinking through a straw may cause your stomach to fill with air, leading to gas.

7. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

Sorbitol and related sugar alcohols used in many sugar-free versions of foods can also aggravate gas. “Sorbitol is often the first ingredient in any brand of sugar-free gum I’ve found at local grocery stores,” says Bickston. “One to two sticks is akin to eating a prune.” But the sugar substitutes that are found at a typical coffee stand or in popular soft drinks are not the kind that cause gas. The various packet sweeteners — yellow (sucralose), pink (saccharine), and blue (aspartame) — are not associated with gas or laxative effects.

When Gas Is a Symptom of Something Else

If excessive gas is persistent or severe, consult your doctor — it could be a sign of a more serious digestive condition, such as:

  • Lactose Intolerance This is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and milk products. “I test with a milk challenge,” says Bickston. “The patient drinks a pint or two of milk — it can be any percent fat. What follows tells the patients whether they should limit their milk intake.” If avoiding milk reduces your symptoms you may be lactose intolerant.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) “Patients who meet the diagnostic checklist for irritable bowel syndrome suffer more pain at the lower levels of the abdominal cavity,” he says.
  • Colon Cancer “Excess gas is rarely the main symptom of patients with colon cancer,” Bickston notes. “But it does trigger my reflex to remind patients to get screened for colorectal cancer.”
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Disorders Occasional belching is normal, but frequent belching may be a sign of an upper gastrointestinal disorder. These include peptic ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying.

Also, warns Bickston, if you’ve had abdominal surgery, a hernia, or significant weight loss or weight gain, never dismiss your gas-like symptoms as normal. Get them checked out.

As annoying as it might be, some gas is a natural byproduct of the body’s digestive system. But if your gas is excessive, painful, or chronic, talk to your doctor about possible causes and remedies.

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