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While excessive gas and bloating can sometimes indicate an underlying health problem, they often occur due to the foods that people eat. Knowing which foods trigger gas and bloating can help a person reduce flatulence.
Gas and bloating affect almost everyone at some point in time. While passing gas and belching are natural ways for the body to get rid of excess air that gets trapped in the gut, excessive gassiness can sometimes be embarrassing and painful.
Foods and beverages that can cause gas include:
- dairy products
- sugar alcohols
- fizzy drinks
- chewing gum
- hard candy
- fatty foods
In this article, we look at why these foods cause gas and examine the steps that people can take to reduce flatulence.
The foods that can cause gas often contain substances that have one of the following characteristics:
- hard to break down
- produce gas when the body breaks them down
- cause the person to swallow air while eating
Beans and legumes
Beans and some other legumes, such as peas and lentils, have a reputation for causing gas.
Beans contain high amounts of a complex sugar called raffinose, which the body has trouble breaking down. Beans are also rich in fiber, and a high intake of fiber can increase gassiness.
However, not all legumes increase flatulence equally. A 2011 study found that people who ate baked beans and pinto beans were more likely to notice increased gassiness than people who ate black-eyed peas.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables
Like beans and legumes, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain large amounts of raffinose and fiber.
Other cruciferous vegetables that contain raffinose and have a high fiber content include:
- Brussels sprouts
Some of these foods, such as asparagus, may cause particularly odorous gas.
Wheat and other whole grains
Wheat and other whole grains, excepting rice, all contain raffinose along with large amounts of fiber. Both of these can lead to increased gas and bloating.
Some whole grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye, also contain a protein called gluten. Some individuals are sensitive to gluten and may experience gas and bloating after eating it.
Onions are a common food that features in many different types of cooking. People can eat onions raw or cooked.
Onions contain fructose, which the intestine breaks down during digestion. The breakdown of the sugar causes gas to form.
The gas from onions is also likely to cause an odor.
Garlic is another food that people all around the world use in a wide variety of cooking, and it can also cause excess gas. In rare cases, a person may have an allergy or intolerance to garlic that causes bloating and gas.
People who are gassy due to garlic consumption may notice some odor.
Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are often excellent sources of protein and calcium.
However, according to a 2013 study, up to 75 percent of the world’s population will lose the ability to digest lactose, the sugar in dairy products, as they age.
A person who loses the ability to digest lactose will suffer several potential symptoms, including smelly gas, if they consume dairy.
Sugar alcohols are growing in popularity as a substitute to sugar.
Sugar alcohols remain mostly undigested before reaching the large intestine. When they arrive there, the bacteria that live in the intestine will start to break them down. These bacteria are ultimately responsible for causing excess gas.
Soda is a carbonated beverage. When people drink soda, they consume excess quantities of gas. As a result, they will often belch to relieve the gas pressure that builds up in their stomach. In some cases though, the air can become trapped and cause bloating in the gut.
Some diet sodas also contain sugar alcohols. These can cause excessive flatulence as they pass through the digestive system.
Beer is a carbonated beverage that people produce by fermenting various grains from around the world. The gas from both the fermented carbohydrates and the carbonation process can lead to excess gas and bloating in the gut.
People who are sensitive or allergic to gluten may experience these symptoms due to the presence of gluten in beer.
When people chew gum, they tend to swallow a lot of air, which can build up in the stomach and potentially become trapped in the gut.
Many chewing gums also contain sugar alcohols. On ingestion, sugar alcohols can cause gas and bloating in the large intestine.
As with chewing gum, sucking on hard candy can cause gas as a person is more likely to swallow air that then gets trapped in the digestive tract.
Many hard candies also contain a lot of sugar alcohols, which can lead to gas and bloating.
Fatty foods slow digestion. When the body has to work very hard to digest food, as is the case with fried foods, gas may become trapped in the gut.
A person can reduce gas by adopting certain measures, many of which relate to the diet. These include:
- soaking beans and legumes in water before cooking them
- ensuring that dentures fit well to avoid swallowing excess air
- avoiding chewing gums and hard candies
- steering clear of fizzy beverages
- eating more slowly to reduce swallowed air
- recording food intake along with any symptoms of gas to identify trigger foods
- reducing the amount of fiber in the diet
- increasing the intake of foods that are less likely to cause gas
Some over-the-counter anti-gas medications could also help reduce flatulence. These products are available to purchase online.
Staying active and doing regular exercise can help gas move through the gut more quickly, which can reduce bloating and flatulence.
In most cases, limiting or avoiding foods that cause gas is the most effective way to reduce overall gas and bloating.
However, some other foods may help reduce the amount of gas that the body produces.
These foods include:
- lean meats and proteins
- apple cider vinegar
- chamomile tea
- some vegetables, such as lettuce and zucchini
- certain fruits, including tomatoes, grapes, and melons
- peppermint tea
In most cases, gas is not a cause for concern. Many benign causes of gas, including specific foods, do not require evaluation or treatment.
However, in some cases, excessive gas may be a sign of a more severe underlying condition. Some potential causes of gas that a person should talk to their doctor about include:
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- problems absorbing certain nutrients
- lactose intolerance
- fructose intolerance
- food poisoning
- celiac disease
- stomach flu
- overgrowth of bacteria
- a blocked intestine
Gas is a normal bodily function, but it can be painful and embarrassing at times. Knowing which foods tend to cause gas can help a person identify and avoid dietary triggers of gas and bloating.
The foods that cause gas are either difficult to break down, contain substances that produce gas during digestion, or lead to people swallowing more air than usual.
In most cases, gas is not a symptom of a serious problem. People can often reduce flatulence and bloating by making changes to their diet and lifestyle.