Health & Wellbeing

The Low-Down on Breaking Wind

foods that cause farting

Farts (i.e. gas, breaking wind, flatus, flatulence, booty bombs ha-ha) are the passing of gas from the digestive system out through the back passage. Some people only pass gas a few times per day, while for others it might be anywhere from 10-30 times per day. Sometimes you might not even notice it!

Excess gas can be caused by swallowing air, or eating a lot of food that is not digested in your small intestine.  When we eat food we cannot fully digest (e.g. fibre), the microbes in our large intestine ferment it, and produce gas as a by-product. This means that how much gas a person produces can be influenced by how much fibre they eat, and what kind of microbes they have.

Though it might be a little taboo, passing gas is normal and an indicator that things are running smoothly. Despite this, flatulence can of course be inconvenient and totally embarrassing – particularly if it’s in a work environment. Additionally, excess gas can be related to underlying health problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you suspect something more serious is going on, or excess wind is affecting your day-to-day, you should absolutely seek help from a health professional!

When it’s too much OR too smelly…

People are typically troubled by either excessive gas, or smelly gas. If your personal gas producing qualities are making your life difficult – we are here to help!

Treat constipation:

In constipation, the digesting food spends more time in the large intestine, meaning the bacteria have more time to ferment, and more gas can therefore result. Constipation can occur for a number of personal reasons – with two of the big ones being inadequate fibre and fluid intake.

Eat slowly & chew your food:

Eating slowly and chewing your food really well (until it is a paste in your mouth), will help to reduce the amount of air you swallow. Using a straw and chewing gum can also result in extra air being swallowed, and carbonated drinks can add gas to the digestive system – so are best avoided if passing gas is a concern.

Do light exercise:

Even low-intensity exercise like walking, stretching and yoga can help your muscles to contract, and remove gas from your gut.

Avoid sugar-free sweeteners:

Sugar-free sweeteners (found in chewing gum, fizzy drinks etc.) can be a trigger for excess gas. They are not absorbed in the small bowel, so they travel on into the large bowel and are fermented, and produce gas. Food intolerances may cause something similar to occur – so it can be worth to get guidance from your GP and dietitian if you think this might be an issue for you.

Limit sulpher-containing foods:

If you are worried about smelly farts – this one is for you. Though a high-fibre diet might lead to a lot of gas, it doesn’t make it smelly. Certain foods cause gases that contain sulphur – which is not so nice on the nose. These include alcohol (in particular wine), meat, protein powders, eggs and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower and kale).  If your protein (e.g. meat, protein powder, eggs) intake is high – say you’re a body builder with increased requirements – ensure to have high fibre foods with the protein to balance things out.

Include fermented milk foods:

In various studies, consuming fermented milk products (that contain certain probiotics = good bacteria) have been shown to improve tolerance to a healthy high-fibre diet, and reduce gas. One recent study used a product similar to the Activia probiotic yoghurt with great effect, and there are other products on the market with similar claims.

A final note

If you have tried much of the above and are still struggling with excess or smelly gas, you might benefit from trialing a reduction in some high FODMAP foods. These foods are highly fermentable, and thus for certain individuals, can cause excess gas. We strongly recommend doing so under the guidance of a dietitian experienced in this. To start, you might even keep a food and symptom diary, and see if you can identify any patterns in your own diet!

Need help?

If you are struggling with gut symptoms and need help – you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out and find out how we can help!