What will you say if we tell you that passing gas is normal!!
You will be surprised and relieved surely.
Yes, the passing of gas is perfectly a normal phenomenon. We all have a population of bacteria that resides in our gut and they eat what we eat…rather they eat what we feed them. As a result, foods are fermented in the intestine by these bacteria to produce various molecules (some beneficial and some harmful based on which bacteria is fermenting what – which translates into the flatulence that depends on what we eat).
So, yes, gas production and the passing of it which is not sensed, is part of normal physiology.
However, when the person can sense the passing of gas when it is sensed by people around, when the person feels bloating and pain and discomfort, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. If not it could become a source of personal and social discomfort.
Let us first delve into the mechanics of gas production – a problem understood is half solved!
Flatulence is actually quite normal and on average, a person can pass gas or have flatulence 5-15 times a day. This varies from person to person depending on what they eat, how they eat, how their digestive tract functions, or whether their gut health is good.
Gas is produced in two ways: one is through the air ingested while eating or drinking meals in the stomach and the other, is when the carbohydrates that are digested in the small intestine get fermented by the bacteria in the large intestine (colon).
When the gas produced in the stomach is more than required, it can get emitted through the mouth in the form of burps or belching. However, the ingested gas can also expand in the large intestine causing discomfort and leading to the experience of flatulence.
When the gas in the large intestine is produced more than necessary, it can accumulate causing bloating. When this accumulated gas is emitted out through the rectal region it is known as flatulence. Malodourous gas results when there are certain kinds of bacteria that produce gases like methane and hydrogen sulphide or we eat foods that feed such bacteria or we eat too many fermentable foods.
Can flatulence be a serious problem?
Chronic flatulence could be an indicator of a much larger disease of the intestine and this needs to be looked into. If not, we may not be able to resolve the flatulence problem.
When a person experiences flatulence more than 15 times a day along with other issues like foul odor, the urgency to defecate, episodes of constipation or diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, presence of mucus in the stools, or excessive bloating and belching, then they might have an underlining cause related to their gut health like the following:
- Celiac Disease – Also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy or Gluten allergy. It is an immune reaction to eating gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) causing inflammation and malabsorption.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome – A common disorder of the large intestine.
- Dumping Syndrome – A condition in which foods containing simple carbohydrates move quickly from the stomach to the small intestine without getting fully digested.
- Gastroparesis – A condition that causes the stomach muscles to not function well leading to improper emptying of food in the small intestine.
- Acid Reflux – A digestive issue where the stomach acid irritates the digestive tract lining.
- Gluten Intolerance – This is the body’s inability to digest the protein gluten because of an enzyme deficiency.
- Lactose Intolerance – Is the body’s inability to digest the carbohydrate lactose because of an enzyme deficiency.
- Gut Dysbiosis – This is a disruption in the function, metabolism, and distribution of gut bacteria.
If one is experiencing flatulence over a long period of time with abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation or loss of weight, and frothy stools that are difficult to flush, then these issues need to be looked at. Do book an appointment with your physician to rule out these issues and see your nutritionist for a personalized approach to your condition.
Coming to the question,
What needs to be done to avoid gas, bloating, and flatulence?
- Avoid using straws/chewing gums
- When consuming beverages with straws or when one is chewing gum, excess air gets ingested which may increase belching and gas. If you are worried about bad breath, have a sugar-free mint or mouthwash instead. Mouth wash also helps reduce bacteria that cause bad breath.
- Avoid carbonated beverages/soda/beer
- Beverages that contain a lot of air bubbles often make you burp easily. Some of this air may move down your digestive tract, causing bloating and flatulence. Replace such beverages with water, lemon juice, coconut water, tea or coffee.
- Smoking in general is hazardous to health. Every time you take a drag of the cigarette/cigar/e-cigarette, you also swallow air with it.
- Don’t ignore your constipation
- When someone is suffering from constipation, the stool stays in the colon for a long time. This may cause bacteria to ferment the stool which releases gas causing more flatulence. If you have been suffering from constipation, make sure to drink at least 2-3 liters a day, and increase your fiber intake.
- Avoid gas-producing foods
- Certain foods tend to cause gas and flatulence more than others. If you are feeling bloated and suffering from excess flatulence, avoid foods like those mentioned below:
- Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli have sulfur-containing substances that release gas when broken down in the gut.
- Whole pulses like chole or rajma can cause flatulence as they contain fiber that ferments in the large intestine. They contain phytic acid compounds that release gas when digested. You can soak and sprout your whole pulses to reduce gas or flatulence. Soaking and sprouting release, the phytic acid before, which causes less gas or flatulence.
- Fruits and certain vegetables like onions may also cause gas. They contain a carbohydrate called fructose that releases gas when broken down. However, everyone may not experience the same symptoms. Similarly, celery contains raffinose which has the same effect of causing gas and flatulence.
- Gluten intolerant people when consuming wheat, maida, barley, or rye, and Lactose intolerant people when consuming milk and milk products, experience symptoms of gas, bloating, and flatulence. Certain people can tolerate curd and buttermilk over plain milk as they contain less lactose. Overusing maida, in foods like naan, samosa, puri, pizza, pasta, doughnuts, momos, pancakes, etc.
- Fiber-containing foods like whole grains, legumes, pulses, fruits, and vegetables when had in excess can cause gas and flatulence. So, if you are on a high-fiber diet, you may need to speak to your nutritionist about your symptoms.
- High sugar-containing foods like sweetened beverages, syrups, candies, pastries, and cakes.
Therefore, coming to the question of,
What needs to be chosen to banish flatulence?
- Introduce low FODMAPs in your diet
Foods that are high in FODMAPs (oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) – which are short-chain carbohydrate-containing foods, ferment quickly and cause flatulence.
- Foods that are low in FODMAPs include fruits like cherries, grapefruit, pomegranate, and grapes; vegetables like capsicum, spinach, pumpkin, parwal, and gourds; Nuts like walnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts; sprouts and dals; and non-vegetarian foods like egg, fish, and chicken.
- Include Probiotics and prebiotics:
- Probiotics are live microorganisms that improve or restore the gut flora. They are present in fermented foods dosa, idli, curds, buttermilk, kefir, etc. You can also take probiotic supplements. Consult your nutritionist or physician for the best options for you.
- Prebiotics are parts of foods that are the actual fuel for bacteria. While one can take pre biotic supplements guided by your nutritionist, the easier way would be to design meals that will help the good bacteria to grow. Simple correct? This translates into whole grains and fruits and vegetables and robust wholesome slow-cooked food and not maida rich processed.
- Eat and chew slowly and mindfully
- Most of the gas in our body is when we swallow too much air. If you chew and eat slowly and mindfully, less air will be ingested. More air gets ingested when you are eating in a hurry or on the go. Avoid eating while doing some activity like walking, driving, etc.
- Make sure to hydrate
- Drinking enough water in the day will help move the food through your gut faster. This will help by not allowing the food to stay in your gut for long and ferment thus reducing flatulence. It will also help if you are suffering from constipation.
- Increase your physical activity and exercise
- Being physically active will help digest your food better and ease the passage of food through your digestive tract.
- Get proper sleep and manage stress
- Lack of sleep and excess stress can disturb the gut and cause indigestion. This in turn can cause gas and flatulence.
To know home remedies to get rid of gas and flatulence
In case you are not sure which food is causing flatulence, try the elimination diet. Eliminate foods that you think are causing gas and flatulence at least for 15 days to see whether your symptoms improve. Speak to your nutritionist if you are not able to identify on your own.
Certain conditions like gut dysbiosis or severe infections will need medical therapy too – this can be a consideration if required.
We at Nutritionwithvibha.com want you to have the most high-quality and healthy life. We recognize that living with flatulence is a personal and social issue leading to discomfort, social embarrassment, and lowered quality of life. Write in to us with your queries or if you need personalized guidance on your diet.
We are putting together a series of resources for you on gut health. Do write to us with queries regarding your diet and lifestyle and let us help you onto the path of optimum health quality and hold your hand as you walk toward being a part of our tribe of Healthy Living Ambassadors. Subscribe to Nutritionwithvibha.com for more inputs into your inbox.
Till then, may the only gas you have to be enough Oxygen for vigour and some organic laughing gas for joy!
Eat hearty and wholesome!