Your digestive system breaks down the food you eat, turning it into usable energy to fuel your body's cells and power its functions. Some of those foods, though, are tougher to break down, and consequently some of those digested particles ferment in the colon, causing gas byproducts.
The Worst Offenders
According to the American Gastroenterological Association, each person has a different reaction to various foods. Some people don't have enough lactose, the enzyme needed to digest milk, while some have a gluten sensitivity, and still others are allergic to specific ingredients. There are those foods that cause gas in the wider population. The top offenders include:
- Milk and dairy products (ice cream, cheese, etc.)
- Beans, lentils, peas and corn
- Onions, shallots, scallions and garlic
- Wheat, rye, barley and yeast
- Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, radishes and other crucifers and sulfur-containing foods
- Pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes and other starchy foods
- High fiber selections, especially those rich in soluble fiber
- Soda, gum, candy and desserts made with artificial sweeteners, especially the sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol
- Bananas, apricots, apples, peaches and pears
- Raisins, dates, prunes and prune juice
- Carbonated and sparkling drinks
- Sugary foods, especially those sweetened with fructose, lactose, raffinose or sorbitol
- Yellow, orange, red, and especially green peppers
- Highly processed and packaged foods
- Deep fried and very fatty foods
- Artichokes and carrots
- Carrots and celery
- Strong spices, especially when aged and dried
- Turnips and rutabagas
Identifying the Cause
Not all of these foods will necessarily cause you to have excessive gas, while other foods not appearing on the list of worst offenders might make you very uncomfortable with gas. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House (NDDICH) says that excessive gas may also be caused by:
- Swallowing too much air when you chew gum or eat too quickly
- Certain medications
- Medical conditions such as infection or irritable bowel syndrome
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking or stress
Change in Diet
One thing to remember is that sudden changes -- even healthy ones -- can cause gas temporarily. If you have recently increased fiber in your diet, for instance (a very beneficial choice), an abundance of gas is common at first. Similarly, if you have recently added new foods or ingredients to your diet, your body may have a gaseous adjustment period and then be just fine.
Some people who are looking to lose weight and improve their health experience gas and constipation while dieting. Your body may well take a couple of days, a week, or a bit longer to get used to your dietary changes.
A Food Diary
Doctors sometimes suggest that eliminating one food from your diet at a time is the best way to determine which ones are causing a problem for you. To figure out what is triggering your flatulence, pay attention to the foods you are eating or drinking. Keep a food diary to connect the dots between what you eat and how you feel. Consider medications, supplements and lifestyle as well. If you experience painful or frequent gas despite not making any dietary changes, and if this continues for more than a few weeks, discuss the issue with your doctor.
Some Gas Is Healthy
Although flatulence can be embarrassing, keep in mind that it represents normal and healthy elimination. The best defense to avoid gas is to track and limit the foods that cause you gas. However, if your flatulence is excessive or if foods that didn't used to bother you suddenly cause uncomfortable gas, you should speak with your doctor to make sure that everything is functioning normally.