Gas is a normal byproduct of digestion, thanks to the bacteria in our gut. Every time people eat, they can expect a little bit of gas to come from it, but some foods can cause more gas than others. In this article, we will look at why some foods cause more gas and which ones you may want to cut back on if you are looking to reduce the amount of gas you are producing every day.
The microbiome refers to all the good bacteria in your gut that help you digest different foods. These bacteria are the most important factor in determining which foods are going to make you gassy.
As bacteria break down different foods, they produce several other gasses, including hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Most of this gas is actually absorbed into the bloodstream, but its rest generally exits the body through the anus. Data shows that the average person will pass gas between 14 to 23 times a day, most of the time, without even realizing it.
Foods That Help Make Gas
Since the bacteria in our gut are why we have a lot of gas production, then reducing the amount of bacteria in the gut is one way you can go about lowering your gut production in the long term. To do this, you also reduce the bacteria’s ability to produce gas in the short term. Both of these pathways have to do with starving the bacteria.
As mentioned earlier, soluble fiber is excellent sustenance for many of the microbes in your gut.
Fiber refers to carbohydrates that your body is not capable of digesting on its own. These are plant materials that our bodies lack the proper enzymes to break down and take advantage of. However, bacteria are able to break down this plant material, at least the soluble kind.
Since gas is very closely correlated with gut bacterial activity, decreasing the amount of soluble fibers in your diet will likely also decrease the amount of gas you expire.
Generally, foods high in sugars and fiber and are easily fermentable (FODMAP) will be the foods you want to avoid to starve these bacteria.
Simple sugars, especially fructose and lactose, are foods that can cause lots of gas. Lactose is the primary sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Staying away from these foods could potentially help reduce gas.
Fructose is the primary sugar found in most fruits. Fructose is broken down very similarly to glucose in the body, but it does not promote an insulin response.
Since glucose and fructose go down the same pathway, fructose consumption can lead to the slower digestion of glucose. This, coupled with the insulin response not responding to fructose, can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and potentially even hyperinsulinemia.
Foods that fall into this simple sugars category can include:
- Milk products with lactose
- High fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juices
Beverages and Alcohol
Food, as well as beverages, can cause gas. The most obvious of these being carbonated beverages, but also foods containing alcohol. Alcoholic beverages might be the most obvious place to find alcohol sugars, but they are also found in many other “sugar-free” or artificially sweetened products.
Beverages are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols that can cause the microbiome to be disrupted. Some examples can be aspartame, xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and others.
Some examples of products to stay away from in this category include carbonated beverages like soda, seltzer, and sparkling water. These, along with beer, ale, sparkling sangria, or wine coolers, can increase gas in your system.
Processed foods and beverages tend to include many artificial sweeteners that can increase gas. Mints and gum also contain many of these products.
Foods high in fat content, although delicious, are harder for the body to digest. This may result in fatty foods remaining in the gut for longer periods of time. Foods such as fried food, animal fat or saturated fats require the body to work harder to digest them resulting in gas and bloating.
The bacteria Bilophila wadsworthia has been shown by one study to be correlated directly with the volume of gas that was evacuated from the body. They thrive off of fats, but most specifically milk fat, and can potentially be harmful to the body as they break down the gut’s mucosal layer, allowing for a greater number of infections.
Here are some suggestions of foods from this category that you might want to reduce in your diet:
- Cream Cheese
High Fiber Fermentable Foods
Fiber is food that is not digestible by humans, but bacteria have no problems. In this case, bacteria later down the digestive tract have a field day with these fibers. This is why the colon is the central hub of fermentation in the gut and why most of the gas is evacuated out of the anus. If it doesn’t get evacuated, it might stall in the gut, getting stuck along the digestive tract instead of being absorbed.
Fiber supplements can be beneficial for various other digestive issues since they promote a diverse and healthy microbiome. However, in the attempt to control or avoid gas, fiber supplements may increase the potential for gas because of this digestive process, specifically those supplements that contain psyllium husk.
Foods that fall into this high fiber fermentable foods category can include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Whole grains
- Bran related items like cereal and muffins
Considerations of Bio-Individuality
Although avoiding foods that cause gas is an important step to ending excessive flatulence, one of the most important pieces is to find personal triggers. Each person is different, and their gut microbiome is different.
The body's response to each of these foods will vary based on the current state of gut health. Eliminating small sections of food groups may help determine which foods cause the discomfort or reaction resulting in gas.
Once the trigger foods are identified, you can start avoiding certain foods instead of all foods with a potential for increased gas in the gut.
Retaining Microbiome Health
Reducing the amount of bacteria through eating less of the mentioned foods might be an excellent way to reduce gas, but it may hurt your digestive health in the long run.
By avoiding certain foods altogether, certain species of bacteria in the gut can begin to die out, which is not good for your overall health.
The best thing to do would be to support your gut microbiome while also reducing the amount of fermentable carbohydrates. Consider taking a probiotic regimen for a few months to restore those good cultures and reduce - don’t eliminate - fibers and fermentable foods.
In the meantime, using an elimination diet to figure out which specific foods are causing you the most trouble and avoiding them is another key implementation to reduce gas and boost your health.
Many foods may cause gas. Learning to avoid the most upsetting foods to your microbiome can cut down on the amount of gas you will produce. Aiming to keep a balanced diet can help promote diversity in the microbiome and promote your overall wellbeing.
Foods that are hard to break down or cause gas as they break down may result in an increased amount of flatulence. Poor behaviors like eating too quickly, swallowing air, and drinking carbonated beverages will also increase gas.
Experiment with your diet and find what works for you.
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