Whether we like to admit it or not, we all pass gas. We do it when we sleep, we do it when we’re on our feet, and sometimes, we do it when we eat. While it can be embarrassing to do in the presence of others, it’s a very normal part of the digestive process. Knowing what causes gas and bloating and knowing how much gas we should expect can help us to figure out when gas and bloating are not normal and could be indicators of more serious conditions. It can also help us to feel a little less insecure about our normal bodily functions.
What Causes Gas?
One of the most common causes of gas in the body is from swallowing air. It is normal to swallow air throughout the day, but most swallowed air is taken in when we eat or drink. We tend to take in even more air when we eat quickly, or when we drink carbonated or hot beverages. The amount of gas in your body from swallowed air can vary depending on your diet and how quickly you eat. Some of this air comes back up as belches. The rest of it passes through the body and is released as flatulence.
The other major cause of gas in the body is bacteria in the digestive system. Many carbohydrates contain sugars, starches, and fibers that cannot be completely broken down in the stomach or small intestine. These components pass through the digestive system to the large intestine where they are broken down by bacteria in the gut, and gas is produced in the process. Some foods that contain these gas-causing sugars, starches, and fibers are wheat, milk, artichokes, beans, fruits, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and breads.
What’s Normal and What’s Abnormal?
A healthy adult will typically pass gas between 10 and 20 times per day. That may sound like a lot, but it’s perfectly normal. Many people that think they have more gas than normal fall into this average range. Most of the gases you pass are odorless, but a few like ammonia or sulfurs can be odorous. If your gas is particularly smelly, it can be due to your diet or a sign that you have an overdue bowel movement waiting to be released.
If you are passing gas significantly more than normal, or if your gas is always particularly smelly, or if your gas is accompanied by other symptoms like abdominal pain, it could be a sign of something else. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive condition that is often accompanied by excessive gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and other symptoms. It is a chronic condition that unfortunately does not currently have a cure, but it can be managed through diet, lifestyle choices, and stress management. Food intolerances like lactose or gluten intolerance can lead to excess gas due to a lessened ability or inability to properly break down those components. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and many other gastrointestinal conditions can all lead to excessive gas. There are even conditions like Meganblase syndrome or gas-bloat syndrome that can lead to excessive belching.
Gas, Bloating, and Probiotics
Probiotics are linked to gas and bloating in more ways than one. Probiotics can cause gas and bloat temporarily in some individuals. That may sound like a reason to avoid probiotics, but it’s typically a good thing. In most cases, temporary gas and bloating from probiotics indicate that the probiotics are working as intended. When an intestinal system with a poor balance of bacteria is flooded with healthy bacteria, the healthy bacteria work to bring the gut back to a healthy balance. This means either crowding out or killing off large numbers of unhealthy bacteria in the gut and leads to extra waste and gas that needs to be moved out of the body. This temporary gas and bloating can often last for a few weeks before returning to normal.
Probiotics can also be a great option to help reduce gas and bloating. Strains like B. breve and B. infantis have been shown to help reduce gassiness in both children and adults. There have also been studies showing that probiotics can help to reduce both gas and bloating in individuals suffering from certain digestive conditions, such as L. plantarum for individuals suffering from IBS.1,2 If you are suffering from gas, bloating, or other gastrointestinal issues, Probonix is a good option to supply your body with the good bacteria it needs.
1Nobaek, S., Johansson, M. L., Molin, G., Ahrné, S., & Jeppsson, B. (2000). Alteration of intestinal microflora is associated with reduction in abdominal bloating and pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The American journal of gastroenterology, 95(5), 1231–1238. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1572-0241.2000.02015.x
2Hungin, A. P., Mulligan, C., Pot, B., Whorwell, P., Agréus, L., Fracasso, P., Lionis, C., Mendive, J., Philippart de Foy, J. M., Rubin, G., Winchester, C., de Wit, N., & European Society for Primary Care Gastroenterology (2013). Systematic review: probiotics in the management of lower gastrointestinal symptoms in clinical practice — an evidence-based international guide. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 38(8), 864–886. https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.12460