How is gas produced?
During the digestion process, food is broken down in the stomach by healthy bacteria that live in the gut causing the production of gas.
Gas, which includes methane and carbon dioxide, is then expelled from the body through the process of flatulence or belching. If gas is excessive or gets trapped, it can lead to bloating, cramping and abdominal pain.
A certain amount of gas is healthy, and it's impossible to avoid it altogether. The frequency, odour and causes of gas, however, can vary from person to person.
Gas can cause discomfort or embarrassment and when living with gastrointestinal conditions, it can be helpful to avoid gas that's foul smelling or leads to pain and bloating.
Foods most likely to cause gas
Some foods are more likely than others to produce gas. To reduce gas, consider limiting your intake of the following foods:
The following sugars commonly cause excess gas:
Raffinose: Found in beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli and whole grains.
Lactose: Found in milk, cheese, ice cream and processed foods.
Fructose: Found in onions, artichokes, pears and wheat and artificial sweeteners.
Sorbitol: Found in apples, peaches, pears, prunes, hard-boiled sweets and used as a sweetener in diet drinks and foods.
If you’re experiencing excessive gas, check the labels on your food products before consumption and restrict your intake of sugars.
Starchy foods such as potatoes, corn and what are all broken down in the large intestine which causes more gas to be produced.
Insoluble fibre doesn't generally produce excessive gas, but soluble fibre such as bran, beans, barley and nuts are broken down in the large intestine and are more likely to cause gas.
If gas is uncomfortable or persistent, over-the-counter medicines such as antacids may help to reduce symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe medication if gas is believed to be having a negative impact on your life.
A word of warning about medication
Some medications like Beano assist the digestion of sugars found in beans and vegetables. If an intolerance to lactose is the cause of gas, then this medication is useless, so it's essential that you identify the cause of gas before taking medication.
If you regularly take medication to reduce gas but continue to eat the foods that cause it, be mindful that you're resisting your body’s natural responses. In the long-term, it may be more beneficial for you to consider making dietary changes rather than treating the symptoms alone.
Always consult with a medical professional before taking over-the-counter medication for gas.
Tips to avoid gas:
- Don't chew gum.
- Chew food slowly.
- Eat a diet rich in protein and healthy fats.
- Consider an over-the-counter medication (consult with your doctor first).
- Avoid foods that cause intolerance.
- Avoid high-fat foods that lead to bloating.
- Keep a food diary to identify foods that cause gas.
- While specific foods may cause gas, don't eliminate whole food groups without consulting with a dietician.
- Make sure dentures fit correctly as poorly-fitting dentures may lead to excess air being swallowed.
- Avoid alcohol as it can impair the digestive process.
- Consider eating smaller meals more often.
Excessive gas may be an embarrassing symptom of some conditions, but gas is a normal bodily function and not harmful. Reducing the frequency and odour of gas is largely a process of trial and error and shouldn't cause un-due stress.
If you have any concerns about controlling gas, or for more information, please contact the Core Specialist Group on 07 5598 0955.