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14 Tips for Preventing Gas

Pass on Gas with These Better-Digestion Tips
  -- By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer
Poot. Toot. Cut the cheese. No matter how you say it, we all pass gas from time to time. But some days you might feel like you can't leave your house without making a stink. Maybe you had an extra serving of broccoli with dinner or went a little overboard on the whole grains. But don't worry, although many wholesome foods are the worst culprits when it comes to intestinal gas, your body will adjust to a healthy diet over time. In the meantime, we've got 14 tips to help you cut down on the toots.

What Causes Gas?
Gas has two main causes: 1. swallowing air while eating or drinking and 2. the breakdown of fiber in the small intestine, which creates hydrogen and carbon dioxide that is then converted to methane and sulfur by other bacteria in the large intestine.

How Much Gas Is Normal?
Passing gas 15 to 20 times a day is a normal part of the digestive process but, in excess, could be a symptom of another condition like celiac disease, gastroparesis or irritable bowel syndrome.

For everyday gas, and the kind that results from adding more healthy foods to your diet, there are several simple steps you can take to help prevent it.

1. Eat and drink slowly. Chew your food thoroughly and don't gulp down drinks or soups quickly. Limit talking while chewing your food and try to chew with your mouth closed. All of these things will help prevent you from ingesting excess air.

2. Skip the straw. Drinking through a straw causes you to swallow air, which can lead to gas.

3. Avoid chewing gum and hard candy. Chewing on gum and sucking on hard candy can force air into your stomach.

4. Skip the carbonated beverages. There are plenty of good reasons to limit soda intake, and gas prevention is just another one. The carbon dioxide that makes soda fun to drink also forces excess air into your stomach.

5. Make sure your dentures fit well. If you have loose-fitting dentures, they might cause you to swallow excess saliva that carries air bubbles to the stomach.

6. Quit smoking. Sucking in smoke doesn't just bring air and smoke into your lungs--it also sends air into your stomach.

7. Exercise. Moderate exercise, like a walk around the block after dinner, helps gas move through your digestive system more quickly, rather than building up and causing pain.

8. Limit your intake of sugar alcohols. These particular sweeteners that often end in "-ol" (sorbitol, mannitol, etc.) and sweeten sugar-free candies, treats and gums cannot be digested and can lead to gas and even diarrhea if consumed in excess. Read labels carefully to determine which kinds of sweeteners are used in the foods you eat.

9. Check for chicory. Chicory root contains a high concentration of the fiber called inulin. Food manufacturers now extract inulin from chicory root and add it to foods such as breakfast bars, meal replacement drinks, ice cream and cereals. It not only boosts the fiber content in the food but also adds a creamy texture and sweet taste. While this ingredient can promote the growth of health bacteria in your gut, it can also bring about gas and bloating when consumed in larger amounts. If plagued by excessive gas, read food ingredient labels to determine how many servings of chicory root or inulin you are getting daily; cutting back might be the cure.

10. Try a lactase supplement. If you notice that drinking milk tends to result in excessive gas formation, then talk to your doctor about testing for lactose intolerance. Aged cheeses and yogurt are tolerated better, as are smaller portions of milk. Consider an over-the-counter supplement like Lactaid or Dairy Ease to help your body break down the lactose in milk and other dairy products.

11. Take an enzyme. The enzyme in Beano helps the body to break down the polysaccharides in beans and in vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

12. Wash beans before cooking. If you're preparing dried beans, soak them in water overnight, and then rinse them several times before cooking to remove much of the gas-producing starch. You can also drain and rinse canned beans before heating to achieve the same effect. 

13. Change your diet slowly. If you're trying to eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, make the change gradually to avoid overloading your system. Over time, you can slowly increase your intake of these foods as your intestinal bacteria have a chance to multiply and ingest the soluble fiber.

14. Loosen up your belt. Tight pants or belts can constrict the abdomen and compress the intestines, which can lead to several symptoms of digestive distress--including gas distention.

Passing gas can be embarrassing, but it's just a part of having a digestive system. Taking a few simple steps can cut down on excess air in your stomach and intestines. But if you ever feel like you’re breaking wind around the clock, see your doctor, there could be a medical cause (and a cure).

This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, M.Ed., Licensed and Registered Dietitian. 
 
Sources
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, "Tips on Controlling Gas," www.iffgd.org, accessed on November 26, 2013.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Gas in the Digestive Tract," www.hopkinsmedicine.org, accessed on November 26, 2013.

Mayo Clinic, "Gas and Gas Pains," www.mayoclinic.com, accessed on November 26, 2013.

Mayo Clinic, "Intestinal Gas," www.mayoclinic.com, accessed on November 26, 2013.

MedicineNet, "Intestinal Gas," www.medicinenet.com, accessed on November 26, 2013.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Gas in the Digestive Tract," digestive.niddk.nih.gov, accessed on November 26, 2013.