Passing gas, farting, breaking wind—whatever you call it, gas can be embarrassing, painful, and annoying.
And before you think you’re the only one who might have a gas problem, know this: Most people produce about 1 to 4 pints of gas a day and pass gas about 14 times a day, either by farting or burping. Or they experience gas through a feeling of bloating that doesn’t necessarily result in either.
And while you may feel that you get more gassy with age, the real culprit is diet, which may change as you get older.
Gas occurs in the body two ways: Either by swallowing air or from the fermentation of food in the colon by bacteria. “Substances that don’t get absorbed in the intestines go into the colon, where they are acted upon by bacteria, releasing gas,” says Douglas A. Drossman, MD, a gastroenterologist and President at the Center for Education and Practice of Biopsychosocial Care.
People with gastro-intestinal problems also have an increased sensitivity to gas. So how do you treat the problem? Read on.
Charcoal tablets and simethicone (Gas-X) work in mild cases by breaking up the surface area of big gas bubbles. The gas still needs to get out, but the pills make it easier and less uncomfortable.
Bean-o helps break down big vegetable offenders (broccoli, brussels sprout, cabbage, collard greens, kale, cauliflower).
Lactaid tablets help with gas caused by lactose intolerance, if taken before eating dairy products. (Lactaid also makes food-products that are lactose-free.
If you are fructose intolerant(have a sensitivity to foods with table sugar or corn syrup such as soda, applesauce, and fruit juices), sorry, abstinence is the only solution.
For a natural way to relieve gas, try this “wind relieving position,” aka The Pavanamuktasana Pose, says Carol Shwidock, owner of Harmony Yoga in Stamford, CT. “Always start with your right side, as this targets the ascending colon, which will push the gas to your descending colon. Then when you do the left side, you push all the gas out.”
• Lie flat on your back.
• Inhale and bring your right knee to your chest. Wrap your arms around your knee. Exhale and bring your chin forward toward your knee.
• Hold for four breaths, then release your arms and knee, bringing your head back to the ground.
• Repeat on the left side.
Change your diet
Common foods to avoid: fiber, cellulose (an additive found in many reduced-fat and added-fiber processed foods), wheat bran, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower), foods such as beans that contain the sugars raffinose, stachiose, and verbascose, and if you are lactose or fructose intolerant, dairy or processed foods.
There now are diets such as FODMAP, developed by Australian dietitian and nutritionist Sue Shepherd, that help people who have a lot of gas and food sensitivity. You can try a process of elimination by substituting a gassy food for a non-gassy one, and see which one is giving you the most trouble. A few basic substitutions:
• Rice milk for cow’s milk
• Bananas, blueberries and melon for apples, peaches and plums
• Gluten-free and spelt cereals and bread for wheat and rye products
• Bamboo shoots, bok choy, carrot, celery, corn, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, chives, parsnip, pumpkin, and tomato for artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, okra, onions, and peas.
• Garlic-infused oil for garlic
See a doctor
If you regularly experience a lot of discomfort, bloating, or cramping after a meal, with or without passing gas, it’s time to check in with your doctor. You might have bacterial overgrowth syndrome, IBS, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, an eating disorder, or lactose or fructose intolerance. Note: “Some people, women especially, can experience a heart attack as gas or indigestion. If you have any concerns, contact your health care provider immediately or seek emergency care,” says Dr. Drossman.
Curbing the burps
Burping, an upward release of stomach gas, happens after you swallow air. To keep the noise down, avoid carbonated drinks, and don’t eat too fast, gulp down drinks, smoke, or chew gum.
See a doctor if…you feel you burp too much. This can be a sign of an ulcer, gallbladder problem, hiatal hernia, weakened lower esophageal sphincter, or erosion of the esophagus.
Anxiety and gas
Anxiety can also cause burping and passing gas. When you are nervous, you tend to swallow more and breathe in a rapid, shallow manner, all causing more air intake. When that happens, try square breathing: Inhale for four seconds, filling up your abdomen, then rib cage. Hold for four seconds, exhale for four and then hold for four again. Repeat.