Gassiness isn't a gas, especially in the workplace or nights on the town. Up to 20 percent of adults complain of belching and flatulence, says Brigham and Women's Hospital, and many are too embarrassed to discuss it. The good news? Gas and related symptoms like bloating and abdominal discomfort need not cause alarm. Dietary changes can be your first line of gas-reducing defense. Regarding severe and long-lasting symptoms, consult your doctor.
Beans and Other Legumes
Beans are well-known gas culprits. Although highly nutritious, beans contain large amounts of a natural sugar called raffinose. If you're sensitive to raffinose, eating chili or other bean dishes is likely to cause post-meal gassiness. Other legumes, such as lentils and split peas, also contain raffinose. If you enjoy legumes, stick to modest amounts. You can also add dried legumes to boiling water for two to three minutes, and then turn off the heat and let them sit overnight before cooking them and dining. This process reduces legumes' gas properties, says the Mayo Clinic.
Certain Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are pillars of most healthy diets, but certain varieties cause problems for gas-sufferers. While not as raffinose-rich as beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and asparagus contain smaller amounts of the sugar. Apples, prunes, peaches and pears contain sorbitol, another gaseous sugar. The type fiber in fruits, called soluble fiber, stimulates gas during digestion. When gas is a concern, the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse suggests limiting high-fiber varieties, which include Asian pears, avocados and raspberries. Dried fruit can have similar effects. Non-gassy alternatives include citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, mushrooms and cooked fruits and vegetables.
Like other gas culprits, many starches, such as potatoes, corn and whole-grain breads, are nutritious. The fiber and natural sugars in many fiber-rich starches cause uncomfortable gassiness in some people. If you're one of them, stick primarily to less gaseous options. Rice is the one starchy food that does not trigger gas during digestion, says the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, and wheat bran produces very little. Pealing and cooking potatoes reduces their gas-promoting qualities.
A fizzy drink order can bring a side dish of gassiness. Carbonated beverages, such as soft drinks, energy drinks and sparkling water, cause you to swallow air, which is a major gas and bloating contributor. Brigham and Women's Hospital recommends avoiding sugar-free and low-carb products as well because sorbitol and other artificial sweeteners cause gas. If you are lactose intolerant, which becomes more common in adulthood, dairy products, such as milk, cream and creamy smoothies, can be problematic. Fruit juice contains concentrated amounts of fructose, another gas-promoting sugar.
Fatty foods aren't huge gas promoters, but they can delay stomach emptying, which worsens bloating and discomfort. High-fat dairy products such as whole milk and ice cream can trigger gassiness if you're lactose intolerant. To dodge these risks, choose fish, white-meat poultry, soy milk and low-fat yogurt, which many lactose intolerant individuals digest with ease due to its healthy bacteria, instead of fatty, fried and processed meats. Using low-fat cooking methods, such as baking, grilling and poaching, can also help.
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: How to Decrease Bloating
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Gas in the Digestive Tract
- Mayo Clinic: Beans and Other Legumes
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Fiber Content of Selected Foods
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Lactose Intolerance
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com