While beans are probably most infamous for inducing farts (for this, they even have their own playground song), there are plenty of other foods that lead to flatulence and other types of gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort.
“Gas is predominantly produced by bacteria that live in our large intestine (colon) when they are feeding on food particles passing through,” she says. “Bacteria produce more gas when they are digesting, aka fermenting, specific types of carbohydrates, such as plant-based fiber and sugars.”
Farts can be a signal that your system is in good working order. “Moderate amounts of gas are a normal sign of digestion and can actually signify feeding good bacteria with the things they love to thrive on,” Finkel says, adding that bacteria most enjoy plant-based fiber, which includes foods like nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
“When we eat well-balanced diets rich in these beneficial carbohydrates, we often get gassy.”
Besides beans, there are a number of foods that may make you pass more gas than you’re used to, especially if you’re introducing them into your diet for the first time. But that’s not a reason to stay away from them — read on to find out how to include these healthy foods in your diet with minimal discomfort.
Onions and garlic have high concentrations of fructans, a type of carb that’s tough to digest and may lead to gas, Finkel says. Fructans can be hard to avoid because so many recipes rely on onions and garlic for flavorful cooking.
The good news: Cooking helps break down the compound. Because the fructan content is water-soluble, cooking them in an oil-based dish is a great way to get some flavor without the fructans, per Monash University. After cooking them in something like a stir-fry, you can remove the onion and garlic pieces to reduce their effect on your digestive system.
If you’re finding that your sensitivity to onions and garlic is particularly severe, try experimenting with swapping onions and garlic for a mirepoix of fennel and carrots, which will add flavor but be easier to digest, Christy Brissette, RD, founder of 80 Twenty Nutrition, says.
FODMAPs (which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) are specific types of carbs that humans don’t digest particularly well and are a common culprit of gas — especially for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), lactose intolerance and other GI sensitivities, Finkel says.
Not all fruits will bring on the fumes, but high-FODMAP fruits including these can:
- dried fruit
These fruits have a high concentration of fructose, which, if your system isn’t digesting properly, can lead to gas, abdominal pain and diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you’re finding certain fruits problematic, try noshing on low-fructose fruits, such as cantaloupe, bananas, strawberries and oranges, Brissette says. Once you’re comfortable, you can slowly introduce high-fructose fruits back into your eating routine, which could help you find your sweet spot.
“Sometimes it’s all about the amount. You’ll find you can do an apple a day, but not a big bowl of cherries, too,” Brissette says.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts can be tough on some stomachs. Cruciferous veggies contain raffinose, another type of sugar that can be tough to break down and may sometimes leave you feeling bloated and in pain, Brissette says.
Cooking can help lessen the blow of these types of veggies, too, as doing so can break down raffinose. If you experience cramping and other stomach pains after eating these foods, you may want to cut back on how much you eat at a time — Brissette says to stick to one cup per serving max, and consider getting your greens from easier-to-digest foods like salads, peppers, beets and carrots.
Sugar alcohols are often added to protein powders and bars, packaged foods marked “sugar-free” and other so-called “diet” foods to reduce their calorie counts. Xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and erythritol are all examples of sugar alcohols, and they’re often used to add sweetness, bulk and texture to foods.
Our bodies don’t digest all parts of the sugar alcohol, Brissette says. The undigested parts travel to the colon, where they can “generate some gas and sometimes cramping or abdominal discomfort.”
While some bodies do just fine eating sugar alcohols, others — especially those with GI issues like IBS, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — experience certain uncomfortable effects, including gas, bloating and diarrhea, per an October 2016 study in the International Journal of Dentistry.
The study found that xylitol tends to be better tolerated than other sugar alcohols, so if you often reach for foods containing sugar alcohols, check the ingredient list for xylitol. Brissette also suggests looking for products sweetened with stevia, which are also known to cause less bloat and gas.
As many as 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And as we get older we’re likely to experience more difficulties digesting dairy.
People with dairy intolerance can’t fully digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk. Usually this happens because the small intestine doesn’t produce enough lactase, the enzyme responsible for digesting milk, per the Mayo Clinic. People with low levels of lactase can still digest milk, but if their levels are too low, they might experience symptoms, such as nausea, bloating, stomach cramps, gas and diarrhea.
While most people with lactose intolerance don’t have to give up all dairy products to manage their condition, it has become increasingly easier to find alternatives, thanks to the surge in non-dairy milk alternatives available on the market today. If there’s a dairy version of a food, chances are there’s also a non-dairy version out there somewhere.
Whole grains are your friend: They keep your digestive tract healthy, stabilize blood sugar and provide fiber, which can help with a host of conditions, including weight management.
A study by the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark discussed in a January 2019 scientific article in Gut found that when overweight adults replaced refined grain products with whole grain varieties, they lost weight, ate less and experienced reduced inflammation in their bodies.
But fibrous whole grains can be a shock to your system, especially if you add them to your diet too quickly. “Your body needs to acclimate because fiber creates bulk and moves things through your system quickly,” Brissette says.
She recommends introducing fiber-rich foods gradually and increasing your water intake as you do in order to keep things flowing smoothly. Otherwise, it’s possible to have dry fiber sitting like a rock in your colon, which can be the cause of that gas and bloating.
Many people find that greasy meals leave them feeling less than stellar after the food’s all gone.
Greasy, fried foods commonly cause gas because they’re full of fat, and fat is the most slowly digested macronutrient, per an October 2017 study in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine. Because fatty food digests slowly, it spends more time lingering in your GI tract, which can lead to those not-so-fun symptoms like gas, bloating and diarrhea.
“High-fat foods are not gas-forming on their own, but they do tend to slow down digestion so that food has more time to ferment in the colon,” Finkel says.
Tips for Reducing Gas and Discomfort
“Gas is good,” Finkel says. Still, if gas is causing you pain or continually making meals uncomfortable, it might be worth seeking some help. Working with a registered dietitian is a good place to start, especially because you want to address the root of the problem.
“Some people do very well with a digestive enzyme,” Finkel says, noting that both Beano and Bean-zyme may help reduce the gas bubbles that heavy eating can lead to. If you know you’re about to sit down to a large serving of chili, for example, you can take a supplement beforehand to ease your stomach.
Finkel also recommends fresh ginger and peppermint tea, which she says can be effective in reducing those gas bubbles.
2. Focus on Portion Control
You might be able to tolerate certain foods better if you eat them in smaller, less frequent quantities.
“Many people, even those with life-long IBS, can tolerate many FODMAP-containing foods in smaller amounts,” Finkel says. She says her clients can enjoy a tablespoon of pistachios versus a cup, or a few pieces of cooked cauliflower versus a plate of cauliflower rice.
“Everyone’s tolerance is different, so it’s good to test out your personal digestion threshold of FODMAP foods with a dietitian,” Finkel says. “You may be surprised [to find] you tolerate a certain food just fine even though it’s higher in FODMAPs.”
“Upper GI gas, which includes burping excessively, can be related to SIBO and upper GI bacterial fermentation, but more often it’s just air bubbles,” Finkel says.
“Breathing patterns and even the way you take in air when you eat and talk can have a huge impact. Eating slowly, chewing well and working on calm, deep breathing throughout your day can be a huge help for this. There are many physical therapists, particularly pelvic floor therapists, who assist with breath work to see if you are using your diaphragm and abdominal muscles correctly for breathing.”