You always order the side of broccoli
Or you eat a lot of beans, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or bran—all good-for-you foods that contain fiber, which keeps your digestive system moving, helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and keep your weight in check. The less-than-ideal, somewhat-embarrassing, but can’t-help-it side effect: you fart after eating. That’s because your stomach and small intestine can’t absorb some of the carbohydrates—sugars, starches, and fiber—in foods we eat. Notorious gas producers, like broccoli and beans, are high in a kind of carb called raffinose. “When indigestible sugars like raffinose reach the colon, the bacteria that inhabit that part of our digestive tract feeds on them and produce gas as a byproduct,” explains Rebekah Gross, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center. If it makes you feel better, call it flatus—the proper way to say fart. (Related: Here's exactly how to handle farting in public.)
You eat too fast
It doesn’t matter if you’re inhaling broccoli or a bowl of blueberries—the inhaling part is the problem. You swallow air every time you eat or drink, so the faster you do it, the more air you swallow. Burping typically gets the air out of your belly, but any that remains finds its way into your lower digestive tract and, well, comes out the other side. You may also swallow extra air when you chew gum, suck on hard candy or drink through a straw. (Related: These daily habits can help reduce bloating.)
Your gut bacteria is imbalanced
Think of your digestive tract as one long muscular tube—food goes in the top and the muscle contracts to push it along out the bottom. “Normally, the small intestines makes strong contractions to sweep food into the colon,” says Dr. Gross. But sometimes medications, infections, certain diseases (such as diabetes or neuromuscular conditions) or complications from surgeries can interfere with this “clearance wave,” says Dr. Gross, allowing bacteria to get a foot-hold in the small intestine and overgrow, producing extra gas.
You have IBS
iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund
That’s short for irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic condition that affects the large intestine. The coordinated muscle contractions that keep food moving from your stomach to rectum may be stronger, or last longer, with IBS—causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. Or they make be weaker than normal, slowing things down to the point of constipation. The nerves in your gut may also become extra sensitive to the stretch and distention that gas causes in the intestines, adds Dr. Gross, so you’ll feel more pain or discomfort. In many cases, diet and lifestyle changes may provide relief: “Exercise, for example, is critical for people with IBS, as it helps expel gas,” says Dr. Gross. Following certain diets that limit gas production also helps. Here are clear signs you have IBS.
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Drinking milk gives you “issues”
So does eating yogurt, cheese, and all else dairy. Blame a little enzyme called lactase: it’s made in the small intestine and responsible for breaking down lactose—a sugar found in milk—into simpler forms the body can absorb. Low levels of lactase means lactose gets into the colon undigested, where bacteria breaks it down and your gas issues begin. Lactose intolerance is super common, according to Dr. Gross; and it usually starts in adulthood, when lactase production drops off sharply. These are other symptoms of lactose intolerance to pay attention to.
You’re sensitive to gluten
No one can digest this protein found in wheat, barley and rye, says Dr. Gross—but if you have celiac disease, eating gluten actually triggers an immune response in your small intestine. The reaction can cause a breakdown in the lining of the intestine, affecting its ability to absorb nutrients; and the damage can cause excess gas, diarrhea, and even weight loss. “People without celiac don’t have these same changes to the small intestine, but still may get gas and bloating in reaction to the gluten they can’t break down,” says Dr. Gross. Researchers estimate that only 20 percent of people with celiac disease may receive a diagnosis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pay attention to these silent signs of celiac disease. If you suspect a sensitivity to gluten or celiac disease, talk to your doctor.
You should ease up on the fake sugar
Sure, you save on calories, but for some, our systems simply can’t tolerate artificial sweeteners—such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol; plus, they contain sugar alcohols, which can cause gas and bloating.
Your sphincter is tight
It seems wrong to put “butthole” in bold, but that’s what the sphincter is; and its tightness, plus the speed at which the gas passes through it, determines the volume and pitch of your toot. And if your last fart smelled like a rotten egg, it’s probably because you ate something with sulfur in it. Most of the gas we release is an odorless mix of carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane; but when bacteria breaks down beans, cabbage, meat and other high-sulfurous foods, it creates a tiny amount of sulfur compounds that give off a Napolean-complex smell.
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