When Should I Worry About Passing Too Much Gas?

Causes and Prevention of Excessive Flatulence

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Do you worry that you have more flatulence than normal? Call it passing gas, breaking wind, or farting, most healthy people do it between 14 and 23 times per day. But if you fart more than the typical person, you may wonder what's going on in your digestive tract and whether it's a symptom of a more serious health condition.

Excessive flatulence has some common, harmless causes such as swallowing air, gas-producing foods and drink, anxiety, childbirth, and the effects of aging.

However, excessive gas and bloating can be signs of health conditions. Learn more about what is normal and when to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

How Much Is Too Much Gas?

Your doctor might encourage you to count the number of times you pass gas daily, as well as start a food and drink journal to try to find the cause of the excess gas. Anything over 23 farts per day is considered more than is normal but still may not warrant concern.

Does the Smell Mean Anything?

The smell of your gas depends on the food that you eat and is a result of the gasses made in your small intestine and colon during digestion. A foul smell doesn't mean anything by itself, except for the possible embarrassment when passing gas happens at an inopportune time.

The consensus is that animal proteins, such as eggs or meat, cause more foul-smelling gas, whereas soluble fiber (like that found in fruits and vegetables) can cause gas, but it won't smell as bad.

Swallowing Air Causes Flatulence

You might not realize that you have habits that cause you to swallow air frequently. You might burp much of it out, but some can remain in your stomach and eventually be released at the opposite end when you pass gas.

Things that can result in swallowing air include smoking, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy, drinking carbonated drinks, eating or drinking too fast, or wearing loose-fitting dentures.

Anxiety may also cause you to swallow more air, leading to more gas. You might try addressing these items to see whether it reduces your number of emissions per day.

Foods and Drinks That Cause Flatulence

Most people know what foods will upset their stomach and cause them to bloat or pass gas. For instance, the cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli, are common gas-causing culprits. Eating lots of carbohydrates, such as pasta and bread, can also cause extra gas. Other flatulence-forming foods and drinks include:

  • Lentils and beans
  • Dairy, including milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt (especially if you are lactose intolerant)
  • Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, artichokes, onions, mushrooms
  • Apples, peaches, pears, and fruit juices
  • Whole grains and bran
  • Alcohol (especially beer, which is also carbonated)
  • Carbonated drinks and those with high-fructose corn syrup
  • Sugar-free gum and candies (due to sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol)

As you get older, you may have more problems with these foods than you did when you were younger.

Health Conditions With Symptoms of Increased Gas

Most of the time excessive gas is due to what you are eating and drinking and habits that cause you to swallow air.

But it can be a symptom certain health conditions. Some other causes for excess gas include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Fructose intolerance
  • Malabsorption problems
  • Celiac disease
  • Stomach illness (such as food poisoning)
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  • Conditions that cause a blockage in the intestinal tract, which can include abdominal adhesions, abdominal hernia, colon cancer, and ovarian cancer.
  • New mothers often pass more gas for months after childbirth due to the effects on the muscles and nerves around the anus.

When Should You See Your Doctor?

If your flatulence and bloating concern you, discuss these symptoms with your doctor.

She will check your history and symptoms to see if they point towards a health condition that can cause excessive flatulence. Many of these are treatable.

Before your visit, keep a diary of what you are eating, drinking, and doing and your episodes of flatulence. This will be a useful part of your visit. Be sure to discuss systemic and digestive symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, rectal bleeding, or a change in bowel habits. Your doctor will take your history and further explore your symptoms and general health. This can include blood tests and a breath test.

What Can You Do About Excessive Gas?

If your doctor gives you the green light that you're disease-free, she may send you home with a new prescription for anti-gas medications, such as simethicone. In addition, here are things you can do to help reduce your flatulence.

  • Quit smoking.
  • Slowly introduce more insoluble fiber into your diet (think bran and edible vegetable peels).
  • Limit your consumption of carbohydrates, such as pasta or corn.
  • Drink plenty of fresh water daily.
  • Do not use straws when you drink.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Exercise daily, if it’s safe for you to do so.
  • Stop chewing gum.
  • Slow down and enjoy each meal—don't gulp it down.

Although some of these things primarily cause burping or releasing gas through your mouth, if the air makes it past your stomach, it will be released sooner or later.

A Word From Verywell

Everybody passes gas, but it can be distressing if you experience it more often than normal. By looking at your habits and assessing what you eat and drink, you may be able to prevent some of the episodes. If your symptoms continue, discuss them with your doctor.

Sources:

Greenberger NJ. Gas-related complaints. The Merck Manual website. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/symptoms-of-gi-disorders/gas-related-complaints. Updated March 2016.

National Institute of Health. Gas in the Digestive Tract. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gas-digestive-tract/symptoms-causes. Updated July 2016.

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