You need fiber in your diet to keep your digestive tract moving. But if you ingest a lot at one meal or aren’t used to getting fiber in your daily diet, you could run into problems, particularly gas. For the most part, any uncomfortable gas side effect should resolve on its own. If it’s persistent or causes a lot of pain, go in to see your doctor.
Why Gas Occurs
Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber sops up fluid in your gut, slowing down digestion as it ferments. While it is vital for helping nutrients fully absorb, the downside is that soluble fiber-rich foods -- fruits, oats and carrots, to name a few -- tend to produce gas as the natural flora in your gut tries to break them up. Oligosaccharides, a type of insoluble fiber found mainly in beans and dried legumes, are also known to create gas in your intestinal tract as bacteria attempt to break them down. Gas can even occur when you chew your food too quickly and swallow a lot of air, or when you quickly increase your fiber intake.
Many high-fiber foods are notorious for making you feel gassy. Beans, cabbage, lentils, onions, carrots, soy beans, apricots, bananas, prune juice and wheat germ are some of the biggest offenders. These foods are high in sugars and indigestible carbohydrates that are particularly rough on your digestive tract. While the gas will eventually subside, if you’re planning a night out, these are foods you may want to avoid.
Rather than waiting for gas from fibrous foods to go away on its own, aim to prevent gas from occurring in the first place. Anytime you prepare dried beans or lentils, soak them overnight and rinse away the residue before cooking. You’ll be removing some of the sugars that produce gas. When you eat, take small bites, put your fork down between each nibble and allow yourself to chew your food. By making your mouth do most of the work breaking down fibers, your digestive tract will have an easier time passing them, resulting in less gas. Lastly, if you recently increased your fiber intake, cut back on fiber for a few days to give your body time to adjust. Slowly start adding high-fiber foods back into your diet after several days. Continue gradually upping your intake as long as you don’t seem to experience too much gas.
If you continue to experience gas after eating any kind of fibrous food, consider taking an over-the-counter supplement -- after getting clearance from your doctor, of course. Gas blockers come in a variety of forms and can help either prevent or treat gas. Preventative supplements can break up some of the indigestible components of foods, limiting the amount of gas you’ll experience after eating. Some supplements help make the gas bubbles smaller, forcing them to dissipate quickly, before causing an embarrassing scene.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.