by Kelly Erickson, MD
Whatever you choose to call it – gas, farts, and flatulence – it’s a fact of life.Our body produces gas continually regardless of where we are or the company we are in (as we all have inevitably experienced).In case you feel alone inyour flatulence-producing universe, most people produce between 1 to 4 pints of gas per day, causing an average of 14 gas-passing events daily!
At some point you have probably wondered, “Where in the heck does all that gas comes from?”There are two possible sources:
1. Swallowed Air: Aerophagia, or swallowed air, usually occurs unconsciously and is increased during activities such as chewing gum, sucking on hard candy, drinking too fast, smoking tobacco (another excellent reason to quit) or drinking carbonated beverages.The majority of this gas is expelled via belching, however, a portion of it is passed into the small intestine and eventually be passed per rectum (i.e. a fart).
2. Byproduct of the Breakdown of Carbohydrates: The remainder of gas is produced by bacteria in our gut which break down carbohydrates that our bodies cannot digest independently.Undigested carbohydrates, which are contained in higher concentrations in certain foods (for example, beans the “musical fruit”), are the primary source of gases produced in our own digestive tract.These hard-to-digest carbs are passed into the large intestine, which harbors a more extensive selection of bacteria.While these relatively harmless bacteria will not make you sick, they will devour these carbohydrates, releasing gas as they munch on your leftovers.
So what can you do to reduce your natural gas-producing predisposition? First, and most importantly, remember that everyone produces and releases gas on a daily basis…it cannot be avoided altogether.Also know that each person harbors a different cocktail of bacteria which responds uniquely to varying diets.Which brings us to the question: Which foods can I avoid to keep myself from another embarrassing predicament? If it was possible to recommend a 100% gas-free diet, we would, but you now realize such a diet does not exist.However, there are specific foods that are rich in hard-to-digest carbs which will undoubtedly escalate your gas output.Here’s a lineup of the usual suspects:
·Raffinose: A carbohydrate found in beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, asparagus and broccoli
·Lactose: Found in all dairy products
·Fructose: A simple sugar found in onions, artichokes, pears, melons and wheat
·Sorbitol: A sugar substitute found in apples, peaches, prunes, artificial sweetener and sugar-free candy
If your gas is particularly inhibiting, try starting a food diary to look for patterns or particular foods that seem to create the biggest stink, and avoid those before your important meetings and hot dates.But if all else fails and you’re stuck with some particularly noxious flatulence, take advantage of the one truly productive aspect of gas (it has its name for a reason).Cancel your date, find yourself a lighter, and make some fireworks!
For more information about your natural gas-producing abilities visit The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)