Few things are as annoying as irritated bowels and the fear that those intestinal gases will escape the body unexpectedly in public. Why is it that our bowels are on some days more troublesome than on others? Gastrointestinal doctors point out the most important causes.
No matter what people may say about bowels and flatulence: we all sometimes expel gas from our bowels. On average even 15 to 20 times a day. "The bacteria in our bowels produce gases, and those gases have to go somewhere", explains gastrointestinal doctor Dr. Sophie Balzora. Whether it's burps or farts, those gases find a way out one way or the other.
No matter how 'normal' it may be that we expel gases, we rather don't do it, especially not when we have company. Does it feel like you have to hold in gases more often than should be normal, then there are a few possible causes.
1. You eat a lot of fibrous foods
Go see a doctor if your flatulence is accompanied by other symptoms, and maintain an extensive diary on your diet. It's logical that what you eat affects the gas production in your bowels. It strongly varies from person to person, but there are a number of things that cause flatulence in most people.
"Fibrous foods, such as wholegrains and wheat, fresh fruits and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, ...) can cause flatulence", explains gastrointestinal doctor Dr. Flice Schnoll-Sussman. Fibres are recommended for fighting constipation, but if you eat a lot of them, they may cause flatulence. "The trick is to add it to your eating pattern carefully", the doctor adds. "Do not eat a whole lot of kale at once because it is said to be healthy, but make sure you have a varied diet consisting of smaller amounts."
2. You may be sensitive to certain foods
"There are people who have problems with processing dairy products when they grow older", says Schnoll-Sussman. Even when you're not lactose-intolerant, you may have less lactase in your body than is usual. Lactase is the substance which usually breaks down lactose. It can lead to problems ins digesting dairy products. "Someone who is really lactose-intolerant may be troubled by cramps, a bloated feeling and flatulence after eating and drinking dairy products. But the symptoms strongly depend on your sensitivity to lactose."
Sensitivity to certain carbohydrates, such as sugar and starches, can also cause bowel problems. Are you often troubled by irritable bowels and cramps which interfere with your normal life? Then you had best consult a doctor.
3. You swallow too much air
"By chewing a lot of chewing gum, drinking a lot of soda, smoking or eating and drinking too fast, you may swallow more air than is necessary", explains Balzora. "Mouth-breathing while you sleep can also cause this. Are you often troubled by flatulence or do you feel a bloated sensation when you rise? It might be caused by the way you breathe." In order to avoid flatulence and burping too much due to the swallowing of air, it is better to drink soda through a straw and it is best not to talk too much while you eat.
4. You have problems with your intestinal bacteria
Since bacteria are the cause of gases in your bowels, it may help to boost those intestinal bacteria by eating certain foods. "Probiotics are a great help", says Balzora. "These are tiny organisms which positively influence the intestinal flora. Foods which contain a lot of probiotics are for instance Greek yogurt or kefir."
5. You have a gastrointestinal disease
Excessive gas production and flatulence may be a symptom of a gastrointestinal disease. If flatulence is your only problem, the cause is probably your diet or perhaps you gulp too much air. But if it goes with stomach-aches, gastric acid or a fluctuating body weight, it may be a symptom of a bigger problem.
"It is important to know that farting is normal", Balzora emphasises. "But you cannot ignore it if it comes with other symptoms as well." You should consult a doctor if aside from flatulence you have other problems. Before you consult the doctor, you should maintain an extensive diary on your diet.