Whether you’re young, old, male, female, or even a family pet, gas happens and it’s rarely pleasant. At best, it’s an uncomfortable annoyance. At worst, gas can make you feel bloated, crampy, and lousy by day then disrupt sleep at night. Making matters worse, gassiness, though universal, can be embarrassing, particularly when it falls on the noxious end of the fragrance spectrum. So what’s going on in our bodies to create all that gas? And what can we do to minimize it? Here are a few tips for less gassy living:
Is Your Gut in the Gas-manufacturing Business?
For most people, belching or breaking wind frequently is a pretty clear indication of excess gas. Though you can get gas from something as simple as gulping down too much air while eating too fast, drinking too quickly, or as a by-product of certain medical conditions (Crohn’s disease, bowel problems, etc.), with the typical, run-of-the-mill gas issues, poor or incomplete digestion plays a big role. So instead of moving swiftly through the digestive tract and out the back door, the carbs you’ve eaten hang around in the gut too long, then start to ferment—and voilà! You’ve got gas.
Ditch the Everyday Gas-makers
To cut the gas, you need to get a better sense of the source. While there are quite a few dietary and behavioral culprits, here are a few of the more common and easily eliminated ones:
- Fizzy drinks: Need another reason to lay off soda? Carbonated drinks literally pour gas into your gut. And that gas will need an exit route, usually in the form of a burp or a fart or, put more politely, flatulence.
- Dairy: If your body doesn’t produce enough lactase, the enzyme necessary to break down the sugar in dairy products, try avoiding dairy products, which can help reduce gas (and the accompanying pain and gastric distress).
- Gluten: Whether you’re severely allergic or just mildly sensitive to gluten, this protein (present in wheat, barley, and rye) is a gas maker. Ditching gluten can significantly reduce problems with excess gas and bloating.
- Artificial sweeteners: For many people, sweet substitutes like sorbitol and xylitol are adept at triggering gas, cramps, and even diarrhea. If you must sweeten, switch to whole-food sources like honey or blackstrap molasses. Better yet, ditch sweeteners, both real and fake, altogether.
- Chewing gum: As with eating or drinking too quickly, chewing gum encourages swallowing too much air, which can lead to increased gas. In addition, many chewing gums are made with artificial sweeteners, making gum chewing something of a double whammy of gas creation.
But Keep the Good Gas-makers
So here’s where it gets a little tricky. Many good-for-digestion, fiber-rich foods like beans, certain veggies, and some fruits can also contribute to gas production. The difference is, these are the keepers. You may just have to introduce them into your diet gradually to give your gut time to adjust. Bottom line: Don’t dump them from your diet with hopes of cutting gas—because all that fiber is exactly what your gut needs to keep digestion (and numerous other functions) on track. What’s the work-around?
Who You Gonna Call? Gas-busters!
OK, so you’ve learned to eat more slowly, and you’ve ditched the carbonated drinks, chewing gum, gluten, dairy, and faux sweeteners, but you may still be gassy from your intake of fiber-rich whole-food veggies and fruit. Here are ten more gas-taming ideas:
- Take a good digestive enzyme formula. Among the simplest strategies for reducing gas are digestive enzymes, which help your body break down and digest protein, carbohydrates, and fats and also help reduce symptoms of gas and bloating.
- Drink your bitters. Adding a few drops of bitters to your water before meals helps boost digestive action while taming gas, bloating, and constipation—a digestive win-win!
- Pop a probiotic. Another quick, healthy fix? Pop some probiotics, particularly those with the bacterial strains bifidobacterium and lactobacillus, which studies have shown to be among the most effective for gas reduction.
- Lay off sugar and sweet fruits. When it comes to sugar, be it the awful processed corn syrup, the cane stuff, or the sugar found in the sweeter whole fruits, like melons or mangoes, go easy on it. Sweet stuff of all kinds can encourage bacterial overgrowth and gas.
- Prep your beans. Soak beans overnight and slow-cook them in a Crock-Pot to help reduce some of their gas-inducing oligosaccharides.
- Just add a little kombu. A few crumbles of this salty and sweet sea veggie not only boosts flavor and mineral content, but also helps make beans easier to digest.
- Pour on the carminatives. Carminatives reduce flatulence while adding fantastic flavor, so pour them on! Among the better known are: fennel seeds, mint, parsley, basil, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, dill, garlic, ginger, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, onion, oregano, pepper, rosemary, saffron, and spearmint.
- Consider a healthy cleanse. If gas and bloating are getting in your way, consider a cleanse that includes anti-microbial herbs, which kill the bad guys and help heal a number of gut issues—including too much gas.
- Try a low FODMAPS diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that are healthy for most, but for some sensitive people can be difficult to digest, causing gas and bloating.
- Shake your groove thing. Next time you have a bout of gas, simply get off your duff and take a walk, go for a run, or do some crunches or a few downward-facing dogs. Getting your body moving is a great way to help you pass gas and keep it moving out! Another way to relieve gas? Try this classic yoga pose, Pawanmuktasana.