Most of us can relate to feeling bloated or having excess gas at one time or another. Excessive gas and bloating are one of the most common GI complaints. In fact, it’s normal to pass gas 13-21 times per day! Although there are many factors that can cause gas and bloating, a good place to start looking for culprits is your diet.
Gas can be caused by swallowing air when we eat and drink food too fast. Gas is also produced as a byproduct of bacteria fermenting our food in the bowel. When undigested carbohydrates are fermented by microorganisms in our colon, they produce gas. Just like bread dough expands from yeast fermenting sugar, our colon can become distended when our bacteria have too many carbs to ferment.
Gas and bloating are a pain, both literally and figuratively! The good news is there are several nutrition strategies to decrease gas and bloating.
5 dietary culprits that may contribute to gas and bloating
If you tend to sip on soda, seltzer or other carbonated drinks throughout the day, cutting back can help decrease gas and bloating. Replace carbonated drinks with plain water or water flavored naturally with fruit or fresh herbs. Try water with peaches or strawberries and basil for a refreshing treat!
About 65% of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance, due to a reduced production of the lactase enzyme. Lactase allows people to digest lactose, the main sugar found naturally in milk. People with lactose intolerance typically experience increased gas, bloating and/or diarrhea 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming high lactose foods. High lactose foods include milk, ice cream, yogurt, and some types of cheese.
If dairy foods cause problems for you, try lactose free milk or non-dairy milk with added calcium and vitamin D. Options such as Greek yogurt, kefir and hard cheeses also typically have less lactose. These lower lactose options may be tolerated by people with lactase deficiency.
Sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol are sugar alcohols commonly added to sweeten sugar free and low calorie foods. Sugar alcohols are poorly absorbed in the intestines, and can cause increased gas and even diarrhea in sensitive individuals. Sugar free candy, sugar free gum, and sugar free snack foods can all contain sugar alcohols.
To avoid excess gas from sugar alcohols, reach for naturally flavored sweets and avoid sugar free gum and candy. If you need to limit sugar intake, be sure to consume smaller portions of sweets and avoid sugary drinks.
Raffinose is a sugar found in many gas producing vegetables, such as asparagus, onions, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, beans and bran. Humans can’t digest raffinose, but our gut bacteria can. When our bacteria break down raffinose, they release gas! Foods high in raffinose are beneficial to promoting a healthy gut micro biome. Unfortunately, they can also cause too much gas in some people.
If foods high in raffinose give you problems, try limiting those foods to a well cooked ½ cup portion per day. Gradually increase as tolerated. If you enjoy beans, be sure to rinse them well before consuming. Certain beans or vegetables may be better tolerated than others, based on your gut microbiome and sensitivity. Consuming an enzyme supplement, such as Beano, with these foods can also alleviate symptoms.
Fructose, found in many fruits, honey, agave, and high fructose corn syrup is another potential culprit of gas and bloating. Cut back on processed foods made with high fructose corn syrup, such as soda, sweets and sugary cereals to help lower your fructose consumption. Fruits with high levels of fructose include mangoes, watermelon, apples, cherries, raspberries and pears. Limit these fruits to a small portion per day to help decrease GI symptoms. Then gradually increase as tolerated. Also, coconut sugar or maple syrup are lower fructose options to sweeten foods.
Bottom Line on Gas and Bloating
If you suffer from gas and bloating you may be sensitive to one or more of the above foods. However, since many of the above foods provide fiber, vitamins and minerals, it is not recommended to cut them all out of your diet. A healthier and safer approach is to work with a Registered Dietitian or other qualified health care provider to create an individualized approach to help eliminate your symptoms. Working with a Registered Dietitian can help ensure the nutritional adequacy of your diet and improve symptoms. If you would like to make an appointment with our Registered Dietitian at Digestive Care Specialists, give us a call at 301-288-1319.
In some cases bloating and excess gas can be related to an underlying gastrointestinal condition, that may require medical evaluation and treatment. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms are accompanied by abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, unintentional weight loss or bloody stool or if your symptoms change suddenly.