Gas isn’t the most polite dinner topic, but it’s a strong indicator of what’s going on inside your body.
So while you may not want to discuss it with friends, it’s a good idea to notice what’s going on with your body so you can discuss it with your doctor should problems arise.
It’s almost strange that it’s so taboo to talk about. Passing gas is, after all, a natural part of the human digestive process.
Gas even helps your food go through your digestive track. It’s just a part of life.
However, if you’re experiencing stomach pain, pressure from gas, very smelly gas, or passing excess amounts of it, your body might be telling you that something is off.
You don’t have to live with unwanted stomach symptoms. A working knowledge of what’s what when it comes to gas is a great first step in taking control.
You probably have the normal questions, such as: What’s normal and what’s cause for concern?
Let’s look at both, along with causes for gas, and when to see your doctor.
Healthy amounts of gas
Passing gas is a sign that we’re healthy. Men tend to pass more gas, and more often, than women.
Smokers, too, pass more gas, although science isn’t sure why. The average person passes gas more than 10 times a day.
This varies, of course, and is affected by diet and other things. Gas without a smell is usually from swallowed air. We swallow air when we eat, drink, and chew gum. Other gas is created when the bacteria in our gut break down food.
Foods that cause gas
Any food can cause gas if you’re sensitive to it. We’ll discuss that soon.
Foods that cause more gas in general are:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Carbonated beverages
- Dried beans, peas, and lentils
- Red Wine
- Supplements: glucosamine contains sulfates
- Water with sulfate in it, such as well water, will make gas smellier
- Whole grains
Some of these foods even cause urine to smell differently, such as asparagus.
Some sweeteners, usually considered more natural than artificial sweeteners, can cause gas and even diarrhea in higher doses.
Excess gas and its causes
Do you eat quickly? Or on the run?
If you’re eating quickly, while chatting, or in an attempt to multitask, you’re probably swallowing more air. Some people tend to eat quickly. The next time you eat with others, notice if you generally finish earlier.
You might also have times when you need to “scarf down” your meal due to a time crunch. Try to slow down when you eat and chew your food longer to see if it helps with excess gas.
If you chew gum on a regular basis and notice you have extra gas, a first step is cutting back on gum to reduce gas. If changing your eating habits changes your gas, you can simply monitor the problem.
Adding more fiber to your diet will also lead to more gas at first.
If it’s not painful or causing pressure, it’s probably nothing to worry about.
There are many over-the-counter chewable’s and liquids that help relieve gas. If you know you upped your fiber intake, or you have bad gas that goes away, you usually don’t need to go to the doctor. However, excess gas can indicate a bowel problem, such as an intolerance to dairy or gluten. You can usually tell the difference because, if you have a food insensitivity, you’ll also have stomach pain and gas that smells more.
Stomach pain that sticks around for more than a few days is a reason to see your doctor.
Meat and gas issues
Some meats contain sulfur, which causes smellier gas. You might have noticed this with certain meats if you’re more sensitive.
And many meats have hormones and antibiotics added to them.
Lidia thought she had issues with eating chicken. Sometimes it made her very gassy. She went on an elimination diet and then added chicken back in. What she finally uncovered was that chicken gave her gas sometimes but not all the time, so it was more likely that the hormones and additives in some meats were causing the problems.
She stuck to free-range, organic chicken after that and the problem went away. That’s one example of how you can learn to read your body by keeping track of what you eat and how it affects you.
Constipation also causes excess gas.
Being constipated can be annoying and even painful, and it often causes more gas with a stronger smell.
That’s because waste is mainly made up of bacteria, so when you’re constipated, there’s more bacteria sitting in your gut, fermenting and releasing fumes. Drink plenty of water, eat more fiber, and exercise to relieve the problem. There’s over-the-counter medicine to help with this as well, although you can usually fix it yourself. Prolonged constipation might indicate another medical problem, so if you don’t find relief after a week, talk to your doctor about it.
A foul smell might indicate an imbalance in the gut biome, or the source could be the food itself.
Some healthy foods that are high in sulfate, like broccoli, cauliflower, almonds, and Brussels sprouts, produce smellier gas. Sulfate is actually the culprit behind most smelly gas, so controlling how much you ingest helps with the smell. Sulfate is in well water, some supplements, beer, wine, milk, and juices from apple, grape, and tomatoes. Meat and dairy also has a sulfur compound called mercaptans, and that can lead to smelly gas as well. Treatment for smelly gas can include:
- Exercise (which also helps constipation)
- Dietary changes to avoid trigger foods
- Digestive enzymes like Lactase and Beano
- Food sensitivity testing and an elimination diet
- Prebiotics from prebiotic-rich yogurt, supplements, Kefir
- Antacids or H2 blockers if reflux is present
Some people are aware that they’re somewhat lactose intolerant, and consuming dairy will cause more gas, but the symptoms go away.
The truth is, many people probably know certain foods cause gas, but that doesn’t mean they avoid them. It’s possible to plan ahead and not eat that food at a big event or before going to work. Most adults become lactose intolerant to some degree. Even if you’ve always been able to consume dairy, that can change as you get older.
As you become an adult and age, you have less lactate enzyme available in your system to digest milk. If you get an upset stomach every time you have milk or cheese, eliminate all dairy from your diet for a few days and see if you feel more comfortable.
When gas comes from a food, it usually happens a few hours to 12 hours later, and then goes away.
But if you’re dealing with foul smelling gas that’s lingering, it’s time to think about your gut health.
You have foul smelling gas on a regular basis
If your stomach has trouble breaking down certain foods, it’ll let you know via gas.
With gluten insensitivity, Celiac’s disease (extreme sensitivity to gluten) or other autoimmune disorders, the stomach might be breaking down the lining of the small intestine. Signs that you might have a problem with gluten include:
- Bloating and abdominal pain
- Diarrhea and/or constipation, foul smelling feces
- Brain fog
- Skin problems such as psoriasis, alopecia (hair loss), and rashes
- Depression, which is more common among people with Celiac Disease, possibly due to changes in gut biome or serotonin levels
- Weight loss
- Deficiency in iron, folate, or vitamin B12
- Family history – if a parent or sibling has been diagnosed, it’s smart to get tested.
Many symptoms for different stomach issues overlap, so it’s a good idea to have tests run and find out what’s bothering your stomach.
Doing an elimination diet at home will also help you discover what foods cause problems. And remember, when trying an elimination diet, you should look at additives too. Many people are sensitive to artificial food dyes, preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, and other additives.
Many foods have wheat and gluten even when it doesn’t seem logical, like licorice. Wheat and corn starch are both used to thicken many commercial foods.The small amounts of additives in packaged foods are enough to add up and cause stomach issues, including smelly gas.
When to see your doctor
Gas by itself can often be fixed at home. You can discover the cause with a food diary or an elimination diet.
If, however, you have pain and other stomach issues, and the problem persists, it’s much better to visit the doctor than to continue to suffer.Take any information you’ve written down about symptoms and foods that bothered you.Hopefully you’ll be on your way to feeling better soon.
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