Almost everyone has experienced an embarrassing episode of passing gas. For me, it was an unfortunate childhood incident during quiet reading time in the fifth grade (that incident and parachute pants continue to haunt me to this day). Gas is known by many names: belching, burping, flatulence and (dare I say) farting.
“Gas comes from two main sources: swallowed air and normal breakdown of certain foods by harmless bacteria naturally present in the large intestine,” explained Susan McCormick, MD, at a recent patient education event called “Caring for Your Colon.”
Swallowed Air Can Cause Gas
- Chewing gum
- Drinking carbonated beverages (soda pop, carbonated water, beer)
- Drinking through a straw
- Eating rapidly
- Poorly fitting dentures
- Sipping hot beverages
- Sucking on hard candy
Foods Can Cause Gas
- Apples, pears, peaches, apple juice, pear juice
- Aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda
- Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, peas
- Fructose, high fructose corn syrup (sweetener in soda pop and some juices)
- Milk products (milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt)
- Potatoes, corn
- Soluble fiber
- Sorbitol (sugar free candy and gum)
- Wheat, pasta (not rice)
Thanks to this long list of culprits, we pass gas from 10 to 20 times a day (though I doubt many would admit to it). But, you can reduce the amount of gas you have by drinking lots of water and non-fizzy drinks, eating more slowly so you swallow less air when you eat, and avoiding products that give you gas – for example, milk products if you’re lactose intolerant.
We all want to behave politely in public, but passing gas is a minor concern and usually doesn’t indicate a serious medical condition by itself. But, if your gassiness is very bothersome or accompanied by abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract or bad heartburn, a trip to your primary care provider may be in order. Otherwise, over-the-counter medications, such as simethicone or Beano, can help if you’re having beans washed down with a bubbly beverage for lunch.