Table of Contents
- Understanding Your Flatulence
- Causes of Flatulence
- Conditions that Contribute to Excess Gas
- Benefits of Flatulence
- When Flatulence is a Sign of a Problem
- Foods That Contribute to Excess Gas
- How to Decrease Your Flatulence Naturally
Excessive gas can make you uncomfortable, and can even lead to embarrassing situations.
While most of us experience occasional or mild flatulence every day, others cope with bloating and excessive farting more frequently.
While excess gas can cause many problems, finding the cause and identifying solutions can be tricky.
Our guide helps you understand what causes flatulence, and how to minimize the impact it has on your life.
We reveal natural remedies and lifestyle changes that can reduce your bloating and farting, helping you feel better and live easier.
When gasses build up in your digestive system, it causes flatulence or farting.
Passing gas is a regular part of normal digestive processes, but when it becomes excessive or embarrassing, it is time to look for solutions.
Each of us reacts differently to foods and other substances in what we eat, so determining the cause of your gas can prove challenging.
Most of us expel gas many times per day, as many as 18 times for the average person (1).
Farts usually have little or no odor and produce no sound.
This gas is a normal byproduct of digestion, and should not concern you.
The smell of your flatulence is more telling than the frequency when it comes to diagnosing a possible problem, though.
If your emissions are particularly foul-smelling, it could be a sign of digestive problems or another medical condition.
When you eat a high-fiber, whole-foods diet, you can expect to have regular gas.
Excessive gas, when combined with other symptoms, can signal a problem.
If you are experiencing more gas than normal, or your farts smell worse than usual, your gastrointestinal system may be experiencing problems.
Let’s consider how flatulence happens, in order to understand the kinds of problems to which excess gas might be pointing.
Understanding Your Flatulence
Your farts are comprised of many types of gas.
Nitrogen is the most prevalent gas in flatulence, and carbon dioxide, oxygen, methane, and hydrogen make up the remainder of your intestinal gas.
These gases are either swallowed or created during the digestion process.
Bacteria in your large intestines break down undigested foods that reach that part of your digestive tract and release gas as a natural byproduct.
Whether or not your flatulence makes a sound depends mainly on the muscles that control the release of gas.
When the muscles around your rectum allow air to pass through quickly, it usually causes a sound.
When gas passes slowly, it is more likely to pass silently.
If you have good control over your sphincter muscle in your anus, you can likely control the release of gas, and thereby better control the release of flatulent gas.
It is common for farts to smell sulfuric, like rotten eggs.
Many foods you eat contain sulfur, which can contribute to this smell.
Two common flatulence gases, methane, and hydrogen are also flammable.
The composition of gases that make up any single person’s farts varies with the foods they eat, how much air they swallow, and other internal processes that affect food digestion.
What is normal for one person, then, is not necessarily so for another.
The smell of your flatulence is based on the percentage of gases that make up your fart.
While nearly all the gas in a single fart is odorless, just a small amount of sulfur gas and sulfur-related compounds can significantly impact the smell (2).
The following are compounds that have a noticeable impact on the overall smell of your flatulence.
- Hydrogen sulfide – This compound contributes the rotten smell of farts. It is flammable. Foods that are likely to produce high amounts of this compound include meat, dairy products, and eggs.
- Methanethiol – Our bodies naturally contain this compound. Foods that are also likely to give off this gas are cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Methanethiol can be released through your skin and respiration, as well, creating unpleasant body odor and breath.
- Dimethyl sulfide – This compound is usually present in the same foods as methanethiol, and is created by the reproduction of certain types of bacteria.
When you eat a high-fiber, whole-foods diet, you can expect to have regular gas.
Excessive gas, when combined with other symptoms, can signal a problem, though.
If you are experiencing more gas than normal, or your farts smell worse than usual, your gastrointestinal system may be having problems.
Let’s consider how flatulence happens, to understand the kinds of difficulties excess gas might be indicating.
Causes of Flatulence
Why does gas accumulate in your system, and what causes excessive amounts of gas to form?
The process by which gas forms in your body is the same for everyone, but the impact of that gas varies from person to person.
Sometimes, excess gas can cause pain and bloating, while in others, it causes little trouble.
Some health problems can produce gas, but so can normal body functions and metabolic variations.
Food is usually the culprit for flatulence, though.
As you digest food, your body sends the waste products and unusable compounds on through your system, where they stop in the large intestines before exiting your body through your colon and rectum.
Gas travels this same path, and occasionally, gets stopped or trapped along its journey, which can result in bloating, gas pains, and indigestion.
When you have the unpleasant symptom of irritation in your system from excess gas, it usually means your gut is having difficulty digesting one or more of the foods you ate.
As bacteria grow and compounds ferment in your digestive tract, gas is released.
If it is not allowed to continue on its journey through your system, it can cause pain and discomfort.
If your abdomen feels bloated or is distended, you have gas trapped inside your system.
Gas forms or becomes trapped in your body for a number of reasons.
One of the most common is aerophagia, or swallowing air.
When you swallow air, it accumulates in your digestive system and is released through burping or farting.
While everyone consumes small amounts of air while drinking or eating, specific activities increase the amount of air you swallow.
These include chewing gum, drinking carbonated beverages, eating or drinking too quickly, smoking, sucking on hard candy, or wearing loose-fitting dentures.
If you swallow air and don’t expel it by burping, it will continue to travel through your system and be released later as flatulence.
Another common cause of excessive gas is an imbalance in the colonic bacteria that break down unabsorbed food in your lower intestines.
When these bacteria are not working correctly, they can produce excess or smelly gas as a byproduct of their natural fermentation.
If the microflora in your digestive system change, you may notice excess gas.
Each of us has a unique microbiome composition, so what is normal for you will not be for another person.
But if your microflora is altered, due to illness, medication, or other factors, this can impact your digestive process and cause you to produce more gas than usual.
If you are constipated, gas will likely accumulate in your intestines.
Because material stays in your colon longer when you are constipated, the fermentation process goes on for longer, too, producing more gas.
Conditions that Contribute to Excess Gas
If you have excessive flatulence for a prolonged period, you may have a more serious or chronic issue that is causing too much gas to form.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and food sensitivities are likely contributors to chronic excessive gas.
Other conditions that affect how food moves through your digestive system can also lead to excess gas forming when food remains in your system for too long and is allowed to ferment more than normal (3).
Excess gas is a symptom of a number of issues, so pay attention to your other signs, as well, to diagnose better what may be causing your flatulence.
Benefits of Flatulence
If you did not release the gas that is created during digestion, your digestive system would not work correctly.
Flatulence is considered a healthy byproduct of normal metabolic functioning, so stopping gas altogether is never a good idea.
If flatulence is inconvenient or embarrassing, it is usually something just to shrug off and move on.
Your farts are actually good indicators that your digestive system is working correctly, and that your microflora is all behaving as they should.
A healthy diet is one rich in fiber, and this compound can cause a great deal of gas.
So, if you are eating to protect yourself from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, chances are you have a healthy and average amount of gas being created in your gut each day.
Inhaling the gases contained in farts may be beneficial to your health.
Recent research preliminarily suggests that inhaling the hydrogen sulfide emitted from your own body can have protective effects against certain diseases, including cancer.
While this research is in early stages, it is an interesting notion to consider when you think about the benefits of flatulence (4).
When Flatulence is a Sign of a Problem
If your gas emissions are excessive, it may be time to investigate to see if you have a more significant problem causing too much gas.
The most prevalent of these underlying causes include (5):
- Food intolerance or sensitivities. We provide a list of common culprits below.
- Leaky gut syndrome, Crohn’s disease, IBS, or other digestive discomforts.
- Fermentation caused by bacteria digesting certain types of carbohydrates. We discuss these, known as FODMAP foods, below.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which causes the malabsorption of food, and leads to excessive bacteria in the gut which produces too much gas and causes other symptoms (6).
Knowing when to talk with your doctor about your symptoms can be hard to decide, but if you experience any other symptoms in addition to your excessive gas, it is usually an indication that a more substantial medical issue is at play.
Other signs to watch for include:
- Diarrhea or constipation;
- Weakness or fatigue;
- Blood in your stool or urine;
- Skin problems, including rashes, hives, or acne;
- Changes in your vital signs or normal functions, such as weight, sleep, menstrual cycle, or body temperature;
- Pain in your armpit, throat, or groin, where lymph nodes are located.
Foods That Contribute to Excess Gas
If you are consistently dealing with excessive gas or smelly flatulence, your first focus to eliminate these problems should be your diet.
Your body may have an overabundance of bacteria or yeast, or you may be having trouble digesting specific foods.
Looking carefully at your diet can give you clues as to what is triggering your flatulence, and then you can work on eliminating certain foods that cause you problems.
Finding your food triggers may take some time.
What causes you problems may not be the same as other people, and you may have to use a trial-and-error technique to identify your problem foods.
Some foods are known common culprits, so starting with these is always a good idea.
FODMAP foods are specific types of carbohydrates that ferment in the lower intestines when not properly digested.
What exactly does FODMAP mean?
The letters stand for:
- Fermentable foods that are broken down by bacteria in the large intestines;
- Oligosaccharides, which are sugar molecules made up of individual sugars joined together in a chain;
- Disaccharides, or double sugar molecules;
- Monosaccharides, or single sugar molecules;
- And Polyols, or sugar alcohols.
When your body digests FODMAP foods, the fermentation process produces hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane, which lead to flatulence.
If you are sensitive to FODMAP foods, you may experience bloating, pain, and abdominal distension (7).
Many healthy foods that should be included in your diet are FODMAP foods.
Garlic, onions, dairy, wheat, legumes, and stone fruit are some examples.
Your reaction may be to all FODMAP foods, only some, or specific combinations.
Eliminating certain foods may help, and each person will be different in their tolerance for FODMAP in their diet (8).
There is a great deal of information available today on FODMAP foods, and if you think this may be contributing to your gas problem, investigate it further.
Beans are perhaps the most well-known gas-causing food.
Beans contain polysaccharides, which are readily fermented in the digestive system.
Your gut bacteria thrive on this type of compound, which increase their number and produce more fermentation and gas.
Soaking beans before cooking makes them more digestible, as does cooking them with a strip of kombu, which is a type of dried seaweed (9).
Either of these methods helps to break down the compounds in beans to make them more digestible.
You don’t want to avoid eating beans, because of their numerous health benefits, so cooking them correctly is essential.
Vegetables Containing Sulfur
Because of their high fiber and sulfur compositions, vegetables in the cruciferous family tend to cause excess gas.
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, among others.
If you cook these foods, you are less likely to experience symptoms versus eating them raw.
Eating small quantities and eating them slowly can also decrease gas problems.
Excess gas is a common complaint among those with Celiac disease.
Because Celiac disease causes malabsorption of nutrients, gas is a common byproduct.
About one in 113 people in the US currently have Celiac disease or CD.
Nearly everyone with CD has an intolerance to gluten, which is found in wheat and wheat products.
By eliminating gluten from the diet, those with CD experience fewer symptoms and lower incidence of flatulence (10).
If you are lactose intolerant, your body cannot properly digest dairy products such as milk, cheese, ice cream, or yogurt.
Dairy contains a high concentration of disaccharide lactose, which is hard for the digestive system to break down properly (11).
While there are many symptoms of lactose intolerance, including diarrhea and indigestion, flatulence is a chief complaint.
Avoiding dairy is the best way to deal with lactose intolerance.
Potatoes, seeds, corn, nuts, and grains that are high in fiber can increase gas.
Because fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, you do not want to eliminate these food sources entirely.
Instead, eating them slowly and in smaller, more frequent meals can be helpful.
If you eat more fiber, over time, your body will adjust and create less gas when consuming these beneficial foods.
For most people, the gas produced by high-fiber foods is a little inconvenient, but not a symptom about which to be overly concerned.
Foods high in fat and artificial ingredients and preservatives are difficult for your system to digest fully.
Your digestive system may lack the proper enzymes to absorb highly-processed ingredients like hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives.
By changing your diet to focus on natural, whole foods, you can help your body better metabolize your food without causing excessive gas.
How to Decrease Your Flatulence Naturally
Changing your diet and lifestyle can help you to eliminate or lessen the impact of excess flatulence on your life.
Because we all react differently to various foods, it can take some time to fine-tune your diet to eliminate the sources of gas.
Be patient, and document your food and symptoms if you are serious about lessening the gas you are experiencing.
Your gut depends on the healthy bacteria that digest your food.
Making sure you have enough of these bacteria is therefore essential.
Eating foods rich in probiotics can help your gut bacteria thrive (12).
Kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics.
Eliminate Certain Foods
When you eliminate the culprits causing your digestive problems, you can expect to see improvement in your symptoms.
Start by eliminating the highly-processed foods in your current diet, and switch to a whole-foods approach to eating.
Next, document your symptoms and all the foods you eat to determine patterns.
If you notice excess gas developing, eliminate foods one at a time to determine if they are contributing to the problem.
Elimination diets can take time but are well worth it if your symptoms cause you distress or have altered your lifestyle (13).
Add Spice to Your Life
Many herbs have digestive properties that help some of the issues that cause gas.
These have been used in many cultures for centuries to treat all sorts of stomach and intestinal problems.
Fennel, cumin, caraway, ginger, and licorice root are just a few of the spices and herbs that aid digestion and calm gas symptoms (14).
- Fennel is useful and works quickly to reduce flatulence. You can either chew fennel seeds slowly or brew a tea from boiled water and seeds. Within just a few minutes, you will start to notice a difference in your gas symptoms.
- Ginger can stop gas from forming in the stomach, which is preventative when treating gas. Chewing fresh ginger, using ginger in your food, or drinking ginger tea are all excellent ways to ingest this powerful root.
- Caraway seeds reduce bloating, cramping, indigestion, and trapped gas. Make a tea with the seeds for best results. Chewing the seeds, or adding them to your foods, are also beneficial. This treatment works well as an overnight therapy for gas, too.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has many curative properties, but it is especially effective at helping with digestive problems.
Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with warm water and sip slowly.
Do this at least three times per day for best results in restoring proper digestion.
Your gas is most likely caused by improper digestion.
When you cannot metabolize the foods you eat correctly, gas forms.
Natural digestive enzymes can help.
These supplements provide your body with a needed boost to the digestive process using enzymes that come from natural sources, such as pineapple and papaya.
Digestive enzymes help to break down the simple sugars, fatty acids, and nucleic acids in our foods, allowing your body to absorb them instead of leaving them to form gas in your intestines.
Peppermint is a natural relaxant and reduces muscle spasms in the digestive tract, thus aiding digestion.
Peppermint can help stomach gas pass easily through your system, which can reduce bloating and cramping, as well.
Because it naturally eases digestion, the chances of flatulence are also reduced.
Sip a tea made from peppermint leaves, add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to water and drink, or take peppermint supplements to aid your digestion.
Drink More Water and Move
Being properly hydrated and physically fit will greatly improve your digestive processes.
You will avoid constipation if you drink enough water.
Also, exercise encourages the movement of your system on a regular basis, and both of these can reduce gas.
Activated charcoal capsules are excellent for reducing excessive gas and bloating.
It is a form of carbon that has been processed to have small pores to absorb gases.
Activated charcoal has been used for many years to treat gastrointestinal issues.
Reduce the Air You Swallow
Besides the food you eat, reducing how much air you swallow can be helpful in reducing flatulence.
Do not drink from straws or chew gum if you have trouble with flatulence.
Don’t smoke, either. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly.
Reducing the air in your stomach will lead to less gas in your digestive system overall.
Dealing with flatulence is, for most people, a minor inconvenience.
When the gas becomes excessive or interferes with your ability to engage in social situations, it may be time to address its underlying causes.
If your gas symptoms persist or are accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms, talk to your doctor to rule out a significant medical problem that may be causing your excessive gas.
Treating your occasional flatulence at home is easy with changes to your diet that may be contributing to the problem.
Common causes of excess gas include FODMAP foods, beans, some vegetables, gluten, dairy, and certain kinds of sugars.
Eliminating these from or reducing these in your diet can be helpful to alleviate gas pains and other symptoms.
It is entirely normal to pass gas regularly, as this is a sign of a healthy digestive system.
Most of your gas is made of nitrogen, while other gases make up smaller percentages.
The smell of your flatulence is actually more helpful than the quantity in understanding if you have any sort of problem.
You can help treat your gas at home by using an elimination diet, eating foods with probiotics, using certain spices in your cooking, taking digestive enzymes, using apple cider vinegar, drinking plenty of water, and reducing the amount of air you swallow.
When you reduce your gas symptoms naturally, you are promoting proper digestion and a healthy immune system.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.
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