Plenty of foods can make you gassy — and it's not just beans. Our food choices, intolerances and eating habits can all contribute to gas and bloat in some way.
"We have 100,000 bacteria in our small intestine and millions in our colon. Those bacteria like to eat the foods we eat. When they metabolize those foods, they produce gas," explains Carolyn Newberry, MD, a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.
This happens with fermentable foods or FODMAPs, which contain specific types of sugars that the bacteria in your gut go bananas for, she says.
Another factor that can contribute to gas? Inadvertently swallowing more air as you chew, drink or sip through straws, Dr. Newberry says. Carbonated beverages are often the culprit here.
Still, what may cause immense discomfort for one person may go down perfectly smooth for another.
"Everyone has a different tolerance about how much gas they can feel," Dr. Newberry says. "It depends on your nerve sensitivity."
That's something you can't change, unfortunately, but if you're struggling with gas pains, there are several techniques that have been shown to help with relief.
1. Get Up and Get Moving
Exercise boosts blood flow, which improves gut motility. In other words, movement increases the activity of the muscles in your GI tract to propel things forward.
Exercise "accelerates the movement of gas through the gastrointestinal tract," according to an April 2019 paper in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. Something as simple as taking a walk around the block post-meal can get things moving again, ushering gas out of your body.
2. Stretch or Squat
"Yoga poses can allow you to release gas," Dr. Newberry says.
Do what feels good for you, but there are a few poses that experts say help target discomfort, including downward dog, happy baby or even the aptly named "wind-relieving pose," in which you lay down on your back and bring your knees into your chest. Even a few squats might help, she says.
3. Try Self-Massage
Gentle self-massage may help gas escape, Dr. Newberry says. It can also help move stool in your colon.
To try it, the University of Michigan suggests rubbing your belly in a circular motion from the right hip bone up to your ribs, across your upper abdomen, then back down to the left hip bone and across to your belly button.
4. Drink Tea
The warmth of hot tea soothes your stomach and keeps things moving forward as they should, Dr. Newberry says.
If you're dealing with gas pain at night, make sure you're drinking herbal tea, or another caffeine-free variety (black and green teas contain caffeine).
You might look for tea specifically made with plants like fennel, licorice and peppermint to ease digestion. Here are a few we love:
Teas for Gas Relief
5. Consider OTC Relief
When it comes to meds, Dr. Newberry recommends Gas-X.
"This medication, available over-the-counter, contains simethicone, an ingredient that pops gas bubbles to relieve abdominal pressure," she says.
6. Burp a Little
If your gas pain is accompanied by belching or you're getting gas pain while eating, then slow down and try diaphragmatic breathing, says Cecilia Kelly, MD, clinical associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
Try it: While sitting, inhale through your nose "into your belly" (your belly should expand) and take a long exhale out through your mouth.
How to Prevent Gas and Bloating
Preventing discomfort from coming on is important — especially if gas is happening often or is particularly debilitating. The following can all help reduce symptoms:
- Slow down when you eat
- Sit up at the table with proper posture
- Chew food completely
- Cut down on chatting during meals
- Avoid carbonated beverages, gum and using a straw
If you're dealing with other GI issues, like diarrhea and constipation, or if you're experiencing blood in your stool or fevers, talk to your doctor, Dr. Newberry says.
And don't feel ashamed: While pooping and farting might not be dinner-table fodder, it's what gastroenterologists talk about all day.
"If you ever have questions, talk to your doctor," Dr. Kelly urges. "I have patients every week who say they're embarrassed to ask something, but these topics are not embarrassing to us."