All of us, whether we admit it or not, have a story about the one that got away: Maybe you were on a first date and ate something that didn’t agree with you. Or you were in a quiet movie theater, or thought you were alone, but it turned out you weren’t. Embarrassing? Oh, yes. But take heart: Gas -- farting, belching, whichever end it comes out of and whatever you call it -- happens to us all.
In fact, most people pass gas around 13 to 21 times a day. That’s normal.
But if you can’t control it, it’s embarrassing. Even worse, it can start to affect your life.
Gas and bloating can make your body hurt. They can also make it hard for you to feel at ease, which can deal a serious blow to everyday life. When you’re out with friends, at work, or sharing an intimate moment, nothing kills a good time like worrying about whether you’ll let one slip on accident. Between your physical pain and the anxiety in your mind, having excess gas can be a drag.
But there’s good news: Truly excessive gas is pretty rare. Even if you think you’ve got a bad case, chances are you probably fall somewhere in the normal range.
Track Your Triggers
But what if you don’t? What can you do? For starters, keep a record of what you eat and how it makes you feel. Some foods are naturally gas-powered (hello, beans, you magical fruit). But did you know that most carbohydrates cause gas? Steer clear of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, pears, apples, most dairy products, and anything containing high-fructose corn syrup.
Here’s the kicker, though: It’s different for everyone. So while your brother might live on yogurt and cabbages and have no funky issues, those same foods may make you run for cover.
That’s why keeping a food journal can help. Carry a small notebook or use the memo app on your smartphone. Make it as easy for yourself as possible. Before too long, you’ll start to see patterns. Then, once you know your triggers, you can avoid them. It may really be as easy as that.
Here are some other things you can do to get your gas under control:
- Spit out your gum. Lots of chewing causes you to swallow lots of air. Which causes gas. Stop it.
- Slow your roll. Or whatever you happen to be eating. Chew more slowly, and you’ll swallow less air.
- Lay off the bubbly. Fizzy drinks (soda, champagne, even mineral water) are pumped with gas. That’s what causes them to bubble. Choose non-carbonated drinks instead.
- Stay away from fruit juice. Apple juice and pear juice make lots of gas.
- Get properly fitted. If you wear dentures, make sure they fit snugly. Loose dentures can pull extra air into the digestive tract.
- Stop smoking. You know smoking is bad for you anyway. But what if it’s also making you gassy? Knock it off, stat.
- Opt for less fat. Fat alone doesn’t cause gas. But high-fat foods sometimes cause bloating.
- Take a pill. From your local drugstore. Over-the-counter pills or drops can help your body digest the foods that trigger gas (like Beano and Lactaid) or simply relieve gas and bloating (like GasX).
What ifyou’ve done all these things and gas is still getting in the way?
“If it’s interrupting your quality of life, it’s a good idea to see your doctor,” says Wayne Fleischman, MD, who specializes in gastroenterology and hepatology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He says that occasional abdominal pain and bloating are very common. But other symptoms, like weight loss, anemia, and tiredness, could point to a problem that needs attention.
Fleischman says that many different digestive issues often have the same symptoms. That’s why it’s important to let your doctor know if gas is getting in the way of your life. He can run tests to help figure out exactly what’s causing your problems and find the treatment that will bring you relief.