A burp or a fart at wrong times can be a source of embarrassment and discomfort. Nonetheless, it is a part and parcel of life because an average adult produces about 0.5-1.5 litres of gas every day which is either passed as flatus or as a burp. The amount of gas produced depends on the diet and other individual factors. Certain foods, eating habits and disease conditions can cause you to make excessive amounts of gas. This piece of writing reviews the sources of intestinal gas, conditions that increase sensitivity to gas and measures to reduce gas production.
As a student, we study the three states of matter: solids, liquids and gases. The lightest state of the three can act quite heavy when inside the intestines. Intestinal gas comes from two primary sources of intestinal gas: gas that is swallowed and gas that is produced by bacteria in the large intestine.
Swallowed air is the major source of gas in the stomach. It is normal to swallow a small amount of air while eating and drinking and this is mostly eliminated by burping.
Bacterial production: The colon normally houses billions of bacteria which support intestinal health. Certain carbohydrates which are incompletely digested by our intestines are acted upon by these bacteria. In this process, certain gases are produced like carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and very small amounts of sulfur.
Causes of Increased Gas Formation
- Larger amounts of air can be swallowed when eating food rapidly, gulping liquids, while having carbonated beverages or chewing a piece of gum, or smoking.
- Foods that cause gas: Several foods contain a carbohydrate ‘raffinose’, which is poorly digested and can increase gas production. Foods like beans, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus (shatavari), etc.
- Some laxatives contain soluble fibre and may cause gas, particularly during the first few weeks of use.
- Certain Diseases: Lactose intolerance – Lactose intolerance occurs when your body has difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and most milk-based products. Gluten Sensitivity or celiac disease – Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. The people who are not able to digest gluten are said to be sensitive to gluten. Irritable bowel syndrome – Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are sensitive to normal amounts of gas and normal movement in the intestines feels painful or overactive.
- Stress can also lead to increased gas formation because people under stress often swallow a lot of air.
Measures to reduce Gas
- Avoid foods that appear to aggravate your symptoms. These may include milk and dairy products, certain fruits or vegetables, whole grains, artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages. Keep a record of foods to help to identify which foods are troublesome.
- If you are lactose intolerant, do not consume products that contain lactose or use a lactose-digestive aid, such as pre-digested dairy products or lactase supplements (e.g., Lactaid® tablets or liquid).
- Fructo-oligosaccharides present in certain foods promote the growth of friendly bacteria in the large intestine which help in keeping the growth of gas-producing bacteria in check.
- Chew food thoroughly. Large particles cause gas when they pass into the large intestine without being completely digested.
- Eat slowly. If you eat too quickly, you tend to swallow more air.
Though relatively harmless, excessive gas in the gastrointestinal tract can be quite annoying. By checking our food habits we can put a gag on this gas.