There are a few foods you know are going to give you gas. That's why, before you sit down to a loaded bean chili or try that recipe for cabbage rolls (because, hey, it's a pandemic, so why not), you make sure you don't have anywhere to be.
"Flatulence is normal," says Monica Borkar, MD, a gastroenterologist with NorthShore University HealthSystem in Glenview, Illinois. In fact, you (and everyone else) probably do it around 20 times a day, notes the Cleveland Clinic.
Your diet is a big culprit in creating gas. As you eat, you swallow air, and bacteria in the gut break down food, a process that also leads to flatulence. But did you know there are other things going on in your life — that you'd probably never connect to a troubling case of tooting — that could do it, too?
Here are seven sneaky causes of excessive gas and what you can do about them.
1. You’re Stressed
The stress of the pandemic, your job, caring for kids during e-learning (and the list goes on) could be weighing on your mind — and your digestive system. Your gut and brain are in constant communication, and when you're lacking ways to offload stress, your digestion can pay the price, Dr. Borkar says.
Stress may also inadvertently cause you to make less-healthy choices. "We may drink more coffee, eat more sweets, smoke, consume alcohol or chew more gum," Dr. Borkar says. "All of those factors may lead to even more flatulence."
Your fart-free plan: If you're in a time of high stress, it's even more critical to take care of yourself (even if that feels like your last priority). Dr. Borkar recommends focusing on eating a well-balanced diet, which will not only limit your consumption of the culprits above, but will also help keep you regular in the bathroom. "Staying regular often leads to less bloating and gas," she says.
Drink plenty of water and eat fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
2. You’re Taking in a Lot of Air When You Eat
Eating quickly or mindlessly may mean you're gulping more air than normal when you eat, per the Mayo Clinic.
Your fart-free plan: Slow down at meals and snacks. Eat without distractions like the TV or your phone, take small bites and chew thoroughly.
3. You’re Smoking
Each time you take a puff, you swallow more air, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Your fart-free plan: Count this as a bonus benefit of quitting for good.
4. You’re Getting Your Period
Experiencing GI issues during PMS is common. "Fluctuations in the hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause these symptoms," Dr. Borkar says.
Your fart-free plan: Exercising, drinking water and eating a diet low in sodium and with fewer processed foods can help ease PMS, she says.
5. You’re Not Sleeping Well
Whether its due to stress, busyness or too many new shows on Netflix, cutting shut-eye short may be behind your farts.
"Since lack of sleep simulates a stressful situation, our bodies release a stress hormone called cortisol, which can cause bloating and flatulence," Dr. Borkar says.
Your fart-free plan: The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you're not getting that many hours in before your alarm goes off, try moving your bedtime earlier by 15-minute increments each night (and stay consistent with when you tuck in, even on the weekends).
6. It’s Your Medication
Both over-the-counter and prescription medications, as well as supplements, can cause gas. One common example is NSAIDs (like ibuprofen and aspirin), which you might take to relieve headaches, reduce muscle pain or ease PMS. These might cause gas and bloating as well as diarrhea or constipation, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
And iron supplements that treat anemia have been found to double the risk of GI side effects, including flatulence, according to February 2015 research in PLOS One.
Your fart-free plan: Take NSAIDs with food or along with an antacid, advises the Cleveland Clinic. If you're on a prescription medication, talk to your doctor about switching, as there may be certain formulations that are better suited for your system (it's important not to stop taking a prescription med without first talking to your doc).
7. You Have a Digestive Condition
There are several conditions that count abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas and pain as symptoms, Dr. Borkar says, including constipation and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as well as bacterial or viral infections.
Your fart-free plan: Farting is normal, but if you feel like it's over the top and is accompanied by other symptoms (such as abdominal pain or changes in bowel habits), talk to your doctor.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Gas"
- Harvard Medical School: "Preventing Gas and Flatulence"
- National Sleep Foundation: "How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)"
- Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism: "Understanding and overcoming metformin gastrointestinal intolerance"
- PLOS One: "Ferrous Sulfate Supplementation Causes Significant Gastrointestinal Side-Effects in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Mayo Clinic: "Belching, gas and bloating: Tips for reducing them"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.