What passing gas can say about your health
Dr. Mark Corkins, division chief of pediatric gastroenterology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. “There are two sources of ‘gas,’ and not all gas is gas. Part of what we pass is air. We all swallow some air, and some people swallow a lot of air. Now that seems to be odorless.”
Real gas, on the other hand, is primarily the byproduct of the fermentation of food in the colon, said Corkins, who is also a professor of pediatrics. “Our colon has (billions of) bacteria living in it. … If we don’t digest (food), the bacteria will.”
Some odors are more pungent than others for these reasons, experts said, but there aren’t any smells that are red flags.
Gas isn’t as much of an indicator of gut health asbowel movement frequency and texture. But dietary choices can lead to more or less gas.
Factors of flatulence
Gut flora are important because they help the body make vitamins and produce some of the sh ort chain fatty acids that feed our colon lining, so a little gas (from those processes) is good, Corkins said. “Otherwise, we’re not feeding our flora, which actually is a symbiotic relationship,” he added.
But what can especially lead to gas, or excessive amounts of it, is eating foods that are more difficult to digest and therefore more likely to ferment, experts said.
The old classic is beans, and there’s a protein in beans that tends to be difficult to digest.
Beans are one source of FODMAPs — fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These areshort-chain carbohydratesor sugars that, for some people, are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, leading to digestive issues such as gas, cramping, diarrhea, constipation or stomach bloating.Foods high in FODMAPsinclude certain vegetables, fruits, starches and dairy products such as cauliflower, garlic, apples, peaches, milk, wheat and high fructose corn syrup.
“Many of us unknowingly do eat a lot of FODMAPs, but everyone has a little bit of a different pattern as to how well they can absorb and metabolize these,” said Dr. Rena Yadlapati, professor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology at the University of California, San Diego.
“Some people will, alternatively, have trouble when they eat a lot of red meat,” Chey said. “In fact, (for) pretty much everybody, if you eat enough red meat, you will not be able to properly digest or absorb all of it, and it’ll get down to your colon where it’s fermented to produce gases and chemicals.”
“The other thing is making sure that your bowel habits are regular,” Chey said. “Individuals that have constipation are much more prone to getting bloating and flatulence. The reason for that is, if things move very slowly through the GI tract, they have more time to interact with the bacteria in the GI tract, particularly the colon. And that’s going to produce more gas.”