My preschooler recently told me she no longer liked eating black-eyed peas (beans as we call it) because it makes her fart. Wait what?????? I had to do a double take and keep a straight face while trying to quickly decide what my response would be. You see, it took over three years and many tries (I stopped counting after the tenth try) for my daughter to start eating beans and I was not about to ruin everything we had accomplished so far by not thinking carefully about my response. Many of us have been faced with making a decision about certain foods because of the unpleasant experience of abdominal bloating and pain associated with gas and for my daughter, this was a big issue. But gas, is only natural so what’s all the fuss about?
Let’s start at the beginning.
Gas is created from swallowing air during eating and drinking, or the breakdown of undigested sugars, starches or fibers by harmless bacteria in the gut. Swallowed air is released through burping or belching through the mouth, or the rectum (flatulence aka farting, passing wind/gas). Many people who eat mostly plant-based meals would probably tell you that passing gas is normal and it is. In fact the average human passes gas about 20 times per day but who’s counting?
An average human passes gas 14 to 23 times per day!
Common symptoms of gas are bloating, cramping, pain, belching and flatulence. The abdominal bloating and pain associated with gas in the digestive tract can be very uncomfortable for most of us but unless you have an underlying health condition such as irritable bowel syndrome or food intolerance such as lactose intolerance, there is no cause for alarm. Always consult your health care provider, for a proper assessment if you are concerned about gas symptoms.
Common causes of gas include:
- Foods that contain carbohydrates (sugars, starches and fiber) such as fruits, grains, vegetables, beans, lentils, peas, cauliflower, onions, cabbage and broccoli.
- Processed and fried foods such as chips, candy, sugar-free foods as well as foods with sugar alcohols xylitol, xylitol and sorbitol.
- Soft drinks and fruit juices.
- Dairy products may cause gas for people with lactose intolerance. Lactose is the sugar in milk and people with lactose intolerance make very little or lack the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose.
- Wearing loose dentures.
- Eating and drinking rapidly or chewing with your mouth open.
How you can reduce gas.
- Wear properly fitting dentures.
- Don’t talk a lot while eating, eat slowly, close mouth while chewing food.
- Avoid using straws to drink.
- Avoid fizzy drinks like pop.
- People with lactose intolerance could drink lactose-free milk and may be able to handle other dairy products such as yogurt and hard cheeses.
- Soak dried beans, peas and lentils overnight and up to 24 hours. This will result in a foamy residue which should be discarded prior to rinsing thoroughly and cooking.
- If you are trying to incorporate more plants into your diet, do so gradually to give your body time to adjust to the new diet especially if you aren’t used to eating plant-based meals.
- Eat smaller amounts of foods that make you ‘gassy’ and less often. However, always check with a dietitian if you are avoiding many nutritious foods so that they ensure you are not losing out on any nutrients.
- Some medicines can help to relief gas symptoms, if you are unsure, talk to the pharmacist about which one to use. Antacids with simethicone relieve extra gas such as belching, bloating, and feelings of discomfort in the stomach/gut. Lactase may be helpful for people with lactose intolerance. Beano can be taken to reduce gas in the stomach/gut from eating high-fiber foods like whole grains and beans.
To sum it up, everyone has gas. Is it embarrassing? Yes. Is it uncomfortable? Yes. Can it be cured? Probably not but there are ways to help reduce its frequency and the effects of certain foods in our bodies. As for my daughter, we had a heart-to-heart session and learned the following: 1) farting is very natural because our gut bacteria gotta eat, so she wants to keep eating beans because she loves them, and 2) apparently I never fart unlike everyone else in my family (according to her) or do I? I guess we’ll never know, ha! Gas is not life-threatening, just let it go (cue chorus from Disney’s Frozen theme song) and to guide you, I thought I’d leave you with a few precautions to follow :-)!
Please feel free to share this post, leave your comments and tips on how you manage gas. Thanks for stopping by.