The Ins and Outs of Passing Gas

Friday Author: Seth Kaplan

Everybody knows about passing gas. My youngest granddaughter, when she was two, asked me after I made that sound, “Grandpa, did you just toot?” I fessed up. You can’t fool a two-year old. But, since we have all passed gas—the average person does so 13 times a day—you may have wondered from time to time what is it, why does it happen, why does it smell only sometimes, and what can be done to stop it. I hope the following information will give you some food for thought.

Eructation or Flatulence—or Both

Passing gas: Everybody knows about gas. My youngest granddaughter, when she was two, asked me after I made that sound, “Grandpa, did you just toot?” I fessed up. You can’t fool a two-year old. But, since we have all passed gas—the average person does so 13 times a day—you may have wondered from time to time what is it, why does it happen, why does it smell only sometimes, and what can be done to stop it. Gas forms in the stomach. If you belch, it is called eructation; if you fart, flatulence. While paying close attention to your diet can disclose the food(s) causing you to pass gas—beans, spicy foods, cruciferous vegetables, cow’s milk, sugar, and many other fruits and veggies—bear in mind that it is not the foods themselves that cause gas formation, it is bacteria in the food, in your system, or both, plus any conditions you may have.

For example, Dr. Smith points out in Brenda Watson’s excellent book, “Gut Solutions,” that people with inflammatory bowel system diarrhea expel higher levels of hydrogen, but those with inflammatory bowel system constipation tend to expel more methane. The point is that different people provide different intake which produces different results. It is all individual.

Who Cut the Cheese?

Who Cut the Cheese?  By way of a humorous, yet scientific, digression, note that nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen produce farts that do not smell. The ones that are odoriferous contain clues in their names:  Cadaverine, putrescine, skatole (all products of anaerobic bacteria). If you pass too much gas, you have too much sulfate-reducing bacteria in your gut. Ugh!By way of a humorous, yet scientific, digression, note that nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen produce farts that do not smell. The ones that are odoriferous contain clues in their names:  Cadaverine, putrescine, skatole (all products of anaerobic bacteria). If you pass too much gas, you have too much sulfate-reducing bacteria in your gut. Ugh!

Causes and Fixes

There are five main causes of passing gas:

  • Incomplete digestion of carbs, fats, or protein. Mom told you to chew your food before swallowing. If you do not, you are asking for digestive problems, especially if you overeat.
  • Dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) causing bacterial fermentation. No, fermentation does NOT mean beer here (although I read an article this week claiming that beer can help you lose weight!). It does mean an out-of-balance condition in your intestinal flora, which can lead to other disease.
  • You may be extra-sensitive to gas trapped in your digestive tract.
  • Carbon dioxide. It may not smell, but it can make you feel like an over-inflated balloon around your middle.
  • Candida overgrowth. Yeast fermentation, which is hard to diagnose and harder to treat.

To help solve these problems, Dr. Smith provides his 4Rs formula for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth):

  • Remove pathogens with antimicrobials.
  • Reinoculate with probiotics.
  • Replace with digestive enzymes, bile salts, and hydrochloric acid.
  • Repair with glutamine, zinc, Vitamin A, gamma oryzanol (rice bran oil extracted from the hard outer brown layer of rice), arginine, and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine.

Remember the goal here: To prevent intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” which provides a pathway to the body for bacteria and partially digested food. Not good.

Other Solutions May Help, Too

There are many other approaches you can try to reduce or eliminate gas:

  •  	Carbon dioxide. It may not smell, but it can make you feel like an over-inflated balloon around your middle.Have a cup of ginger or chamomile tea after The corollary to this is not to drink during meals. The liquid can dilute your body’s main digestive substance, hydrochloric acid. This could lead to partially digested food. See the problems listed above.
  • Eliminate carbonated beverages. Why add gas if you have gas?
  • Do not talk a lot while eating. You will be swallowing air, and you have enough gases in action already. In fact, a Canadian study found that 90% of intestinal gas is swallowed air; only 10% forms in the intestine.
  • Find out if you are lactose intolerant. How? Next time you binge on a pint of Chunky Monkey, you will know. So will everyone else. Either use lactaid pills or cut out dairy from your diet.
  • Remember to take digestive enzymes with meals and to take probiotics several times a week. Taking antibiotics makes probiotics an imperative.
  • The simethicone in Pepto Bismol may help.
  • The papaya extract in papaya pills, especially when taken right after a meal, will aid with digestion.
  • Homeopathic preparations can help, especially Carbo Vegetabilis, Nux Vomica, and Pulsatilla.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day rather than chowing down on three big meals. Doing so will help you avoid overeating and may help with a weight loss program.
  • Get a good night’s sleep, which you can help make happen by NOT eating within three hours of bedtime.

I realize that this information is a lot to take in. Trust me, too, when I tell you that I exceed my daily flatulence quota, so I know what some of you experience after eating. I have also tried many of my suggested remedies with varying degrees of success. For me, eating smaller meals and especially not eating within three hours of bedtime help the most. Also, staying hydrated by drinking a lot of water.

If all else fails, try meditation. Or humor. Specifically, Billy Crystal’s “700 Sundays,” and its segment about farting Grandpa Julius. And, as always, let me know your thoughts—as long as they’re not too graphic.

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