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So You’ve Got Gas. What’s Next?

health-article

Just about every human being has, at some point, found him or herself in an uncomfortable social situation due to gas, where everyone around him or her wrinkled up their noses in recognition of an increasingly pungent, inescapable smell. It’s a common enough scene, yet it somehow still manages to elicit an enormous sense of embarrassment.

The fact of the matter is passing gas is perfectly normal. The average adult will release three pints of gas a day, either through their anus or through burps. That is, generally speaking, around 14 to 23 instances of “passing wind” every single day. Most people who feel that they produce more gas than usual are simply more self-conscious of the fact than others. However, there are certain factors that can lead to an extra buildup of gases. If you’re particularly prone to flatulence or burping, try to pay attention to the following.

Air swallowing.

We all inadvertently swallow a certain amount of air while eating. It’s the reason that we tend to burp or belch around meal times. Eating too quickly can often result in too much air going into the digestive tract, leading to unpleasantness later on. Eat slowly and mindfully in order to minimize discomfort. Chewing gum and speaking too fast are also related.

Watch out for certain complex carbohydrates.

Most carbohydrates are completely digested and processed within the confines of the small intestine. However, some complex carbohydrates are trickier for the body to break down, and pass to the colon. These are the broken down by the millions of bacteria that naturally inhabit the large intestine. Unfortunately, gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen are a normal byproduct of this process. Since they have to come out somewhere, they are released by the anus. The resulting gas usually has a mildly unpleasant smell due to traces of sulfur.

Consume problematic foods in moderation.

Common sources of these complex carbohydrates that can lead to flatulence include brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. There’s also a good reason that beans have the rather unfortunate reputation that they do. The soluble fiber found in oat brans, bean and legumes is a common culprit. Interestingly, although many whole grains contain these problematic carbohydrates, rice does not. If you’re looking for the nutritional benefits of whole grains without the gas, consider adding brown rice to your regular dietary rotation.

There might be another underlying condition.

In many cases, excessive gas is actually symptomatic of something else. For example, those suffering from lactose intolerance cannot break down the sugars (lactose) in milk and dairy products. As a result, dairy may cause them to release additional gas. People with scleroderma or diabetes may have difficulty thoroughly digesting nutrients in their small intestine over time. Individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may also suffer from bouts of flatulence.

References.

  1. Ohio Gastroenterology & Liver Institute: Gas Problems. Available from: http://ohiogi.com/clinical-research/symptoms-and-solutions/gas-problems/. Accessed on March 21, 2015.

Photo Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg via Compfight cc

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