Food and Flatulence: Why Gas Happens
When you eat, your digestive system works to break down food into usable energy to power the cells and the body's many processes and functions. But your gut finds certain foods too difficult to break down into just energy and waste, and gas is the leftover product when those foods sit in your colon.
Portions of foods that can't be broken down and digested by the intestines travel to the colon, which is full of bacteria. The bacteria in your colon ferment these undigested particles of food, resulting in gas, burping, and flatulence.
Gas may also be caused by foods that the small intestine cannot handle because it doesn't contain enough of an enzyme called lactase. This enzyme breaks down lactose, the sugar that's in milk and milk products. If lactose can't be broken down, bacteria again begin to ferment those sugars and cause flatulence.
Foods and Flatulence: The Biggest Offenders
Everyone's body reacts differently to different foods — some people have no trouble digesting milk products, while other people suffer excessive gas from it. To figure out what's triggering your flatulence, pay attention to the foods you eat, and keep a diary to link symptoms of excessive gas to your diet.
The different types of sugars found in foods — including fruits and vegetables — are often difficult for the body to handle. Here are specific foods fitting this description:
- Milk and dairy products
- Starchy foods like potatoes and pasta
- Wheat and oat bran
- Foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners, such as soda, gum, and hard candy
- Bananas, peaches, apricots, pears, and raw apples
- Raisins and melons
- Prunes and prune juice
- Colas and fruit drinks sweetened with fructose
- Beans and lentils
- Onions, green peppers, shallots, and scallions
- Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and peas
- Corn, celery, artichokes, asparagus, and carrots
Food and Flatulence: Getting Gas Under Control
Once you've figured out which foods cause you to suffer from excessive gas, it's time to limit them in your diet. One thing to keep in mind is that if you've recently increased the fiber in your diet — a good idea for better digestive health and bowel regularity — excessive gas is common. Your body might take a couple of days or a week to get used to the extra fiber and learn how to break it down. Then, your excess gas should go away. If it doesn't, talk to your doctor about what you can do.
Remember that gas is normal, and there's a huge health benefit to eating a lot of fiber. But if these foods cause you to have frequent, persistent gas or pain in your abdomen, you may have to find some dietary alternatives. A healthy diet should make you feel great, not gassy.