Everyone passes gas. It's a normal part of life. According to research (yes scientists really do study this), the average healthy male passes gas 14 times per day. It's no surprise to many of us that men tend to be more gassy then females, but up to 25 times per day can be normal for either sex. It is when that gas involves stomach pain, bloating, and interferes with your daily life that you may have a problem. Your diet is the key to controlling gas and bloating.

How does gas happen?

Flatulence is a medical term for releasing gas from the digestive system through the anus. It happens when gas collects inside the digestive system. This happens for two reasons.  First, swallowing air when you eat or drink can cause gas to collect in the digestive tract. Secondly, as you digest the food you eat, gases such as methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide collect. Both of these things can cause stomach gas.

How does diet affect the amount of gas and bloating you have?

Food sensitivities can be very individualized, but there are some foods that can commonly cause problems. There are certain sugars and fibers in foods we eat that can be hard to digest. These are found naturally, but can also be added to foods. Research on the Low FODMAP Diet started back in 2005.  It has been scientifically proven to help symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

FODMAPs are a group of short chain carbohydrates that can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine or are completely indigestible in some people. The acronym stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Let's translate these complicated words into simple guidelines!

Possible culprits of your gas/bloating:

#1 Lactose 

  • Lactose is found naturally in dairy products. Lactose content varies from less than 1 gram in a serving of cheese to 6-20 grams in a serving of milk or yogurt. You can manage your intolerance by choosing lactose free dairy or dairy alternatives (almond milk, soy milk, rice milk). You can also limit your portions of cheese without having to give cheese up entirely. Your ability to digest lactose can often improve with time. This is especially true if you have chronic diarrhea and you are able to get your bowel movements back to normal with dietary changes.

#2 Fruits 

  • Fruits are made of natural sugar. Although fruit is a healthy source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, too much can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Stone fruits are especially high in FODMAPs (cherries, mangoes, plums, peaches, avocados).  Others include apples, blackberries, watermelon, and dates. As fruit ripens, the sugar intensifies. Bananas may be tolerated when they are yellow, but waiting until brown spots develop can increase the amount of fructose and cause problems.   If you pack your morning smoothie with too much fruit, it can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable before you even get to work!

#3 Vegetables

  • Vegetables are an extremely important part of a healthy diet, but too much of a good thing when you're FODMAP sensitive can be bad. Possible triggers are cauliflower, mushrooms, onion, garlic, asparagus, and sugar snap peas. Concentrated tomato products (tomato sauces, pastes, sun dried tomatoes) can also cause problems.

#4 Beans, Nuts, Legumes 

  • Beans, Nuts, and Legumes are healthy plant based protein sources, however, those with sensitivities may need to eat these in moderation.  Foods that are especially high include cashews, pistachios, kidney beans, black beans, and split peas.

#5 Grains

  • Grains such as wheat, barley and rye can be culprits. This isn't necessarily because of the gluten protein they contain, but rather because of fructans. These are types of Carbohydrates that can be highly fermentable and can cause stomach distress. Sourdough wheat bread can be a safe alternative because the natural fermentation of the yeast starter can "eat up" those problem causing fructans making it easier to digest.

#6 Sweeteners 

  • Sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, and high fructose corn syrup have the highest FODMAP content. Do you chew gum or eat breath mints? Calorie free sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol) which are found in the ingredients could be causing your stomach problems. In addition, the fact that you swallow a fair amount of air while chewing gum can magnify the problem!

A Low FODMAP Diet often helps:

A Low FODMAP Diet is often my first approach to help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.   Symptoms such as gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation usually improve or can disappear all together.  I have my patients eating only low FODMAP foods for 10-14 days or until their symptoms get better.  An organized approach to "challenge" different categories of FODMAPs is then used to pinpoint food sensitivities or intolerances. I will help you to recognize which foods need to be avoided or limited to develop a unique diet for gas and bloating.  A Low FODMAP Diet is not designed to be followed forever.

There is still plenty of flavorful food that fits the nutrition profile of being Low FODMAP. Try this Mediterranean Pasta recipe as an example! The above list may seen daunting, but rest assured that most people are only sensitive to several categories of FODMAPs and not all.  My goal is helping you plan what you CAN eat and not just what foods to avoid!

Is gas, bloating, or bowel irregularity making you (or those around you) uncomfortable?

Make an appointment with Nutrition Dynamix. Office visits are available at the Longmont location or virtually anywhere in Colorado or Wyoming. We accept most major insurances for payment.

Want to see how much you know about flatulence? Check out this quiz!