You've made changes to your diet to ramp up your weight loss, and now you're noticing an unwelcome, gassy side effect. Sound familiar?
Our guts can be finicky, so when you start tinkering with your diet, they're one of the first parts of the body to respond — often by way of gas in the form of bloating and flatulence.
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Being gassy isn't always a sign that something bad's happening, by the way. It's possible that you're having gas because you've added more healthy foods to your diet and your body just needs some time to adjust. If your gas is particularly persistent or is causing you pain, though, you should see your doctor.
If you're hoping to get to the bottom of all that bloat, here are four reasons your weight-loss diet is making you gassy, and what you can do to find gas relief.
Do You Lose Weight When You Fart?
Though you may feel lighter after passing gas, farting can't actually help you lose weight because it doesn't burn calories. In fact, it can often be an unconscious process, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
1. You’re Eating More So-Called 'Diet' Foods
If you're stocking up on more "no-sugar-added" or "sugar-free" foods as part of your weight-loss plan, an intolerance to sugar alcohols could be the cause of your gas troubles.
Sugar alcohols, also called polyols, are common in diet-type foods like diet soda, light yogurt and sugar-free snack bars because they don't contain as many calories as regular sugar.
The trouble is, our bodies can't digest sugar alcohols, so when they make their way to our colon, the gut bacteria there break them down, causing gas, bloating and sometimes diarrhea.
Certain fruits and vegetables, like plums, pears, apples, sweet potatoes and mushrooms naturally contain sugar alcohols, which can cause gas and other GI issues in some individuals, per a June 2016 study in Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology.
How to fix it: Limit your intake of foods containing sugar alcohols, and if the problem persists, try skipping them altogether. Aside from wreaking havoc on your gut, these types of foods are typically highly processed and contain other unwanted additives. Stick to whole foods as much as possible, and if you're going to enjoy something sweet, go for the real thing — just enjoy a smaller portion.
When you're reading food labels, look out for ingredients that end in "ol," like xylitol and sorbitol. More often than not, these are sugar alcohols.
2. You’re Eating More Fiber
Eating foods rich in fiber is a smart play when trying to lose weight. A high-fiber diet may keep you feeling fuller longer, per the Cleveland Clinic, and eating more nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods (think: fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds) means you're likely eating less of the unhealthier options.
But most of us aren't eating enough fiber.
On average, we get about 16 grams per day, yet guidelines recommend between 25 and 38, according to the USDA.
Because we run at such a deficit, this often means we're adding more high-fiber foods to our diet when we're trying to lose weight or following a weight-loss plan — and that can take some getting used to.
Our bodies don't digest fiber until it reaches the large intestine, where the bacteria in our guts break it down for food via fermentation. Fermenting means bubbles, which is why you may get gassy when eating fibrous foods.
How to fix it: The answer isn't to avoid eating more fiber but to add fiber-rich foods into your diet at a more gradual pace. Start with an extra piece of fruit each day or an extra serving of vegetables. Add a half-cup of beans to your dinner and increase as tolerated. Your body should adjust over time.
3. You're Sipping Carbonated Drinks
Many diet plans encourage drinking more water and less juice and other sweetened beverages. This is a good thing.
But water can get boring for some people, and oftentimes we look for alternatives to help soothe our cravings, turning to diet soda and other low-calorie carbonated beverages.
Carbonated beverages contain bubbles, which means when you drink them, you're putting more air into your gut. Trapped air causes gas. If you're drinking your diet soda or sparkling water with a straw, you're likely swallowing even more air.
How to fix it: If you think carbonated drinks are the culprit, assess how much you're drinking and begin to cut down. You may need to eliminate altogether. If you're missing out on flavor, try drinking plain water with whole fruit infused instead.
4. You're Eating More Raffinose
Raffi-what? Raffinose is an oligosaccharide — a type of sugar found in some vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, as well as in whole grains and beans.
Raffinose isn't something you should avoid — it's common in plenty of good-for-you foods — but know it may upset your stomach, especially if you're eating it in large quantities.
Like fiber, raffinose bypasses your small intestines — virtually untouched — and isn't broken down until it reaches your colon, where bacteria get to work. The digestion process here releases hydrogen, carbon dioxide and, for about 30 percent of people, methane gas, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
How to fix it: Increase your intake of these foods slowly, especially if you find you're sensitive to them. You can also try alpha-galactosidase, an over-the-counter medication — this is an enzyme that will help your body digest raffinose and other complex carbohydrates.
Try These Products to Nix Gas
- Life Extension Enhanced Super Digestive Enzymes ($16.50, LifeExtension.com)
- Doctor's Best Digestive Enzymes ($20.99, Swanson Health)
- Beano Ultra 800 ($4.88, Walmart)
- Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology: "Efficacy of the Low FODMAP Diet for Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The Evidence to Date"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Improving Your Health With Fiber"
- USDA: "Fiber Intake of the U.S. Population"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Gas in the Digestive Tract"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Gas (Flatulence)"
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.