IBS and Gas

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on March 17, 2024
4 min read

Many people with IBS say they're extremely gassy. It’s not clear why. They don’t seem to make more gas than anyone else, but it seems to bother them more. Studies have found that people with IBS have trouble getting rid of gas, possibly because of problems with how the nerves and muscles in their gut work. Their intestines may also be extra sensitive. Even a normal amount of gas may cause pain.

Dealing with IBS and gas is hard. Symptoms vary widely from one person to the next, and no single treatment works for everyone. What gives someone else gas may not bother you at all. What brings you relief may have no effect on someone else. There are many different strategies you can try. Most have to do with what you eat.

Because IBS is different for everyone, it may help to keep a food diary to see what triggers your symptoms. Once you know the problem foods, you can avoid them.

Foods on most people's lists include:

  • Beans and other legumes like peas, peanuts, and lentils
  • Cabbage
  • Raw broccoli and cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Raisins

"Get more fiber" is standard advice for people with IBS, especially if you have constipation. But sometimes it can make gas worse. The type and amount of fiber you add matters. So does how you add it to your diet.

Insoluble fiber, found in whole wheat, tends to make more gas. Two types of fiber appear to reduce gas: methylcellulose and polycarbophil. They can be found in some fiber supplements.

Increase your fiber gradually. It may give you more gas at first, but that should get better as your body gets used to it.

Certain carbs called FODMAPs are a problem for people with IBS. These carbs aren’t absorbed by the small intestine. When they hit the large intestine, they quickly break down and make gas. It happens to everyone, but it can be a problem for people with IBS.

These foods are high in FODMAPs. Scientists in Australia created a diet to avoid them. It's shown good results, especially with reducing gas. But the foods you're supposed to cut out are good for you in general. So you should try it for no more than 2 months, and only with your doctor’s approval.

Among the foods the diet suggests you stop eating:

  • Apples and apple juice, pears and pear juice, watermelon, mangos, cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, and blackberries
  • Asparagus, artichokes, legumes like beans and lentils, sugar snap peas, snow peas, onions, garlic, leeks, cauliflower, mushrooms, celery, and corn
  • Milk, yogurt, soft cheeses like ricotta, cottage cheese, and cream cheese, custard, and ice cream
  • Honey, high-fructose corn syrup, and certain sugar-free gums and candy
  • Wheat and rye
  • Cashews and pistachios

One theory about IBS is that the normal blend of helpful bacteria that live in the intestines has been disrupted. Some of them make more gas than others as they help break down your food. People with IBS may have too much of those types of bacteria.

Probiotics are supplements that add bacteria to the digestive system to bring back the right balance. Studies on taking probiotics for IBS show some promise.

Some people with IBS have reported less gassiness after taking antibiotics. That could be because the drug is killing gas-producing bacteria in your gut.

Some over-the-counter dietary supplements help your body make less gas. The enzyme lactase helps you digest milk and dairy products. It can be bought as a supplement, and it is added to some milk products for people with lactose intolerance. Alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme found in some gas-relieving over-the-counter medications, helps your body break down the sugar in beans and other vegetables.

One of the main causes of gas is swallowing air. That can happen when you chew gum, eat or drink too fast, or drink through a straw. What you don’t get rid of by burping ends up in your intestines.

Anything that keeps your IBS under control may also help with gas. Eating smaller, regular meals may reduce bloating. So may regular exercise. Get enough sleep and take care of your mental health. While stress and anxiety don’t cause IBS, managing them can make your symptoms better.