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What You Need To Know About Passing Gas
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What You Need To Know About Passing Gas

By Valerie J. Halpin, MD


Even though we may have trouble talking about it openly, passing gas is completely normal. In fact, the average person passes gas around 13 to 21 times a day.


One of the more common complaints I get from my patients is they have increased foul smelling gas. This may cause physical discomfort in addition to social embarrassment or family discord due to the noise and odor.


Why does this happen? Intestinal gas is formed when bacteria in your colon break down food that has been incompletely digested in your small intestine. There are many common foods that may result in increased production of intestinal gas including beans, lentils, dairy products, garlic, scallions, and root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and rutabagas. Foods that are associated with an increase in odor are cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Some people may have lactose intolerance where intestinal bacteria feed on milk or lactose containing products and produce intestinal gas.


What can you do to deal with the gas?


Don’t eat too fast or too much. Many people have faster bowel activity after bariatric surgery. Eating fast or even slightly larger portions may result in food getting to your colon before your small bowel has had a chance to completely digest it.


Make the right dietary choices. Certain spices counteract the effects of gas such as cumin, coriander, and caraway. Rice generally does not cause gas. Beans and legumes may be less gas inducing if soaked or cooked for a long period of time. Probiotics and yogurt, with live cultures of Lactobacillus Acidophilus, may help restore intestinal bacteria and reduce gas. Avoid foods that trigger gas when you are going to be in social situations. Prebiotics should generally be avoided as they increase gas production.


Medications may help. Digestive enzyme supplements may aid in digestion of some of the gas producing compounds. Surfactants such as simethicone may reduce discomfort from gas by causing smaller bubbles to combine into larger bubbles that are easier for the body to release. Odor from gas can be treated with bismuth containing compounds such as Devrom.


Talk about it with others. Discussing the problem with family or coworkers and coming up with a plan for privacy may help make it less embarrassing for you and less unpleasant for others.