Flatulence may be perfectly natural and something that everyone gets, but if you have more than your share, it’s a major annoyance.

Where does all that gas come from, anyway? Often, it comes from swallowing air. It’s also generated by intestinal bacteria that produce carbon dioxide and hydrogen (both odorless, by the way) in the course of breaking down carbohydrates and proteins in the food you eat. The minute quantities of other, more pungent gases gives flatus its characteristic odor. Eating certain foods, like peas, beans, and certain grains produces noticeably more gas than eating other foods. All roughages in the diet will produce flatulence. A high roughage diet, especially, will do this. When increasing dietary fiber in your diet, do so gradually. This will lessen the increase of flatus. Gas may signal a variety of other problems worth looking into:

  • Lactose intolerance (inability to properly digest milk, cheese, and other dairy products).
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines (often caused by certain antibiotics).
  • Abnormal muscle contraction in the colon.

Self-Care Tips

Common sense says eliminating food items that often cause gas (or eating them in small quantities) can go a long way toward reducing excess flatulence. Well-known offenders include:

Apples Eggplant
Apricots Nuts
Beans (dried, cooked) Onions
Bran Peaches
Broccoli Pears
Brussels sprouts Popcorn
Cabbage Prunes
Carrots Raisins
Cauliflower Sorbitol
Dairy products (for persons allergic to lactose) Soybean

[Note: Eliminate or go easy on only the foods that affect you personally. With the exception of sorbitol, these foods listed provide nutrients, so should not be cut out altogether.]

  • Keep a list of all of the foods you eat for a few days and note when and the number of times you have gas. If you notice that you have excess gas after drinking milk, for example, try cutting down on it or eliminate it from your diet. See if the flatulence persists. Do the same for other suspecting foods.
  • If you are lactose-intolerant use lactose-reduced dairy foods or add an over-the-counter lactose-enzyme product such as Lactaid. These can be drops or tablets that you add to or consume with dairy products to help you digest the lactose they contain.
  • Avoid swallowing air at mealtimes.
  • The medication simethicone may help reduce flatulence by dispersing gas pockets (and preventing more from forming). It has no known side effects. Simethicone is available by prescription as well as over-the-counter under the brand name Mylicon.
  • An over-the-counter product called BEAN-O may curb flatulence caused by eating some foods.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021