Have you been passing gas more than usual lately? If your answer is yes, then you most likely have excessive flatulence.
Flatulence is a natural physiological function where your digestive system passes gas (or ‘flatus’) from the intestines and out of your body through your anus, and is often characterised by a sound and an unpleasant smell. The more common expressions for this are “passing gas,” “passing wind” and “farting.”
Gas, particularly carbon dioxide, is produced in your digestive tract when stomach acids interact with secretions from your pancreas during the metabolic process. Flatulence also results during bacterial fermentation when your gut produces methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide as by-products of certain food substances. While some gases are assimilated into your bloodstream and expelled when you breathe out, the rest exits your body through your anus.
Common causes of flatulence
There are other factors that lead to gas build-up in your gastrointestinal tract, apart from digestive processes. Below are the most common ones:
- Swallowing air when you talk, especially when your emotions are high
- Eating or drinking quickly
- Sipping from straws or pull-top bottles
- Chewing gum
It is normal to pass wind up to 14 times in a day. But if you are passing gas more than this or more than you normally do, you may be experiencing an episode of excessive flatulence and find yourself in socially awkward situations. What’s worse is that your excessive flatulence may be linked to a more serious medical condition such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Foods that cause excessive flatulence
Excessive amounts of gas in your digestive system may be attributed to some of the foods you eat. These gases arise from the way the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract reacts to certain substances and ingredients. Below are the usual suspects:
1. Foods high in dietary fibre
Although fibre is good for your digestive system, it also increases the gas churned out by your gut bacteria. Fibre has certain compounds that cannot be broken down by your small intestine and thus, end up being fermented in your colon.
Adding more fibre to your diet should be done gradually to give your bowel enough time to adapt and reduce your risk for excessive flatulence.
2. Foods containing sorbitol
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol found in fruits and vegetables. It may also be derived from glucose and used as an artificial sweetener for chocolates, candies, gums and beverages labeled as “sugar-free.”
While sorbitol promotes good oral health and keeps blood sugar levels low, it takes a long time to digest and can reach your bowel in its undigested state. Gut bacteria then feeds on undigested sorbitol and, in the process, produces hydrogen gas that causes excessive flatulence.
3. Foods with fructose
Fructose is a type of sugar that is naturally present in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Dates, figs, grapes, pears, prunes, and watermelons are examples of fruits high in fructose. Vegetables like asparagus, onions, peas and zucchinis also contain this sugar. Fructose can also be found in honey and corn syrup, and is commonly used to sweeten sodas, fruit drinks, cakes, and pastries.
If you eat foods containing fructose and have fructose intolerance, your digestive system will experience difficulty processing it and produce an extra amount of gas.
4. Raffinose-rich vegetables
Raffinose is a complex, naturally-occuring sugar that is also difficult to digest. It is found in beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, and other types of cruciferous vegetables.
Raffinose travels from your small intestine to your large intestine in its original form. When it arrives in your large intestine, it gets broken down by gut bacteria and generates hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane as by-products..
5. Dairy products
Lactose intolerant individuals don’t have enough lactase in their bodies, the enzyme needed to digest milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products.
As with the previous substances, undigested lactose is fermented by bacteria in your colon and is converted to gas, which passes out of your body through your rear end.
6. Nuts, seeds, and legumes
Nuts, seeds and legumes are wrapped in a food inhibitor known as phytic acid. This prevents stomach acids from completely digesting these foods and lowers your body’s ability to absorb nutrients like calcium and magnesium..
Insufficiently digested food particles are turned into carbon dioxide and hydrogen by gut bacteria. High amounts of these gases bring about excessive flatulence.
7. Foods high in FODMAPs
FODMAPs is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that can be difficult to digest if you have FODMAP intolerance. Many of the previously mentioned foods on this list are foods high in FODMAPs.
8. Carbonated beverages
Sodas, tonic water, champagne, and other types of fizzy drinks can make you extra flatulent. Unlike the other foods mentioned earlier, carbonated drinks make you gassy, not because they’re hard to digest but because they contain carbon dioxide which they release into your gastrointestinal tract.
What are other causes of flatulence?
Certain medical conditions such as IBS and giardiasis (a diarrhoeal disease caused by parasitic infection) and medications like the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine (Questran) and the weight loss pill orlistat (Xenical) also have flatulence as a symptom or side effect.
How to manage excessive flatulence
Giving up poor eating habits and reducing your consumption of foods and substances that contribute to excess wind can go a long way in lessening the build-up of gas in your body. You may also want to consider paying a visit to your healthcare provider so you can get yourself diagnosed and treated for any medical conditions that may be causing your excessive flatulence.
Need our help?
Our team of highly qualified dietitians and nutritionists have spent many years helping individuals from all over Brisbane deal with their excessive flatulence and other gut and bowel disorders. We can offer you the same level of care and attention for any digestive issues you may have. Book your appointment with us by calling (07) 3071 7405.