You probably have a special name for the act of passing gas, especially if you have kids. So, whatever it might be — a toot, beef, bomber, stinky — it's a natural occurrence and everyone does it. In fact, the average, healthy person will pass gas between 10 and 20 times a day. If you're passing more than that, feeling painfully bloated until you pass gas or passing gas with extremely foul odors, it's time to talk about it.
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Gas doesn't just poof out of your backside. It comes from somewhere! Your gastrointestinal system is long and complex and full of very helpful bacteria. Along the road (from the mouth to the bottom exit), there are trillions of microorganisms that work in conjunction with your body's immune system and perform vital extractions of nutrients from the food you ingest. It's a sensitive system with a lot of moving parts. When you eat something "off routine" or bad for you, when you are exposed to a new environment or schedule, when you're stressed, you can experience a shift in the GI system that leads to inflammation and gas.
Gas is a by-product of the bacteria breaking down food and nutrients. Chemically, the by-product is hydrogen sulfide. Each person has their own unique grouping of bacteria, and therefore, their own unique odors! Additionally, there will be certain foods that set you off while others allow for smoother sailing. It's important to keep the gut balanced by maintaining a balanced diet. Fibers, sugars and starches are more likely to cause gas while high fat foods and proteins simply take longer to digest, giving the bacteria more time to create more gas.
If you're passing gas more than 20 times a day (more than 2 liters worth), you need to take a closer look at your diet. If all seems well there, it's time to dive into other causes of gut dysfunction:
- Stress: Your body transfers your stress into the gastrointestinal system more than you realize. In fact, it can be difficult to diagnosis or treat GI problems that are caused by stress because the stress isn't visible on X-rays and endoscopies. (Click here to see 11 ways stress affects your body.)
- Food allergies/sensitivities: You might be one of the 50 million Americans dealing with lactose intolerance, which causes gas and bloating. Food sensitivities are also linked to high sugar diets and those heavy in dairy. It could also be a sign of a gluten allergy or sensitivity. Click here to decode allergies and sensitivities.
- Intestinal infections: A very common gut infection is actually a yeast infection. If you have a high sugar and dairy diet, the bacteria could be fermenting inside your intestines. You can also get infections from heavy protein meals because they take so long to break down.
- Inflammation: Any time you experience inflammation anywhere, it's due to your body's defense system. When the intestines become inflamed, it means something is irritating them, like your diet, stress, lifestyle, cholesterol levels and so forth. It's matter of finding a balance!
- Type II diabetes: Medications used to treat diabetic symptoms can often cause extra gas.
- Disease and chronic conditions: Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), coeliac disease or colorectal cancer (via Microbial Ecology)
>> Read more: Why Celiac Disease Is on the Rise
In order to avoid being "that girl," review your food intake. Keep a food journal for a day or two and see if that gives you a better idea of what's happening in your gut. You might also be swallowing a lot of air, so close your mouth when you eat, chew gum less and limit sipping from straws. Slowly incorporate a probiotic to your daily diet, including healthy yogurts or kefir. Get the scoop on how to include probiotics here. If you're still passing embarrassing gas, make an appointment to chat with your doctor.