Help For Those With Gas

By Lindsey Galloway

Certain foods have been shown to instigate this annoying—and often embarrassing—problem. “Microbes in the digestive tract feed on the carbohydrates we consume,” says Gerard Mullin, MD, director of Integrative GI Nutrition Services at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Those bacteria act like a little brewery in our gut, metabolizing sugars. And that fermentation process produces gas.”

The more complex the carbohydrate, the longer it takes to break down—and the more likely it is to cause a buildup of gas. While people often point to beans and dairy products as gas producers, don’t forget these other common causes:

Cruciferous Veggies. Yes, the cancer-fighting virtues of broccoli and cauliflower can’t be overlooked, but these foods also rank among the worse gas producers, thanks to an indigestible sugar they contain called raffinose (the same sugar that gives beans their gas-producing reputation). Adding new varieties of these veggies to your diet slowly and eating them regularly can actually help your digestive system become more acclimated to the sugar.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup. The human body never evolved to handle the high doses of fructose we consume today—it simply can’t fully digest much more than 25 grams in one sitting. (To put that in perspective, that’s how much is in just one can of Coke.)

Greasy, Fried Foods. While fat itself won’t cause gas, grease puts the digestive system in slow-mo, and that gives bad bacteria more time to ferment the food in the intestine, making gas much worse.

Some foods can actually help prevent gas, or at least lessen the symptoms. “Papaya and pineapple have naturally occurring enzymes that help the intestinal microbes break down complex carbs,” explains Mullin. Yogurt with active cultures can also help restore the natural balance of intestinal bacteria.