One of the amazing things about human beings is that every single one of us from the tiny babies to powerful rulers are tied to our basic bodily functions: we eat, we sleep, and yes… we fart. During the stages of digestion while our food is bring broken down for our body to use, intestinal gas called flatus is created, and must escape our bodies as either a burp or a fart. When it is first created, flatus is odorless, but by the time it travels through the bacteria in our intestines and exits from the rectum it becomes, as my five year old daughter puts it, “stink wind”.
Everybody farts, on average around 14-20 times a day. Most of the time, those farts are normal and no one will notice, but if you’re passing more gas than average, or if the smell or embarrassment about your farts is interfering with your life, you may have what is considered excessive gas. If you want less stink wind in your life, keep reading to learn about natural treatments that can help you stop farting.
Reduce foods that cause gas
If there isn’t something physically wrong with your digestive tract, the next place to focus on reducing flatulence is your diet. The majority of intestinal gas is caused by the food we eat.
Keep a food diary
Beans get a bad rap for making us toot, but there are many common and otherwise healthy foods that may be increasing your gassiness. Keeping a food diary that includes the type, time, and amount of the food you eat for a week or even a month can help you identify patterns between what goes in and what comes out.
Sometimes, identifying the types of food that are triggering your flatulence can help you manage your gas without major changes in your diet. Skip the bean burrito and milkshake for lunch when you know you’re heading back into an office meeting, for example, but feel free to enjoy them at home when your gas won’t be so embarrassing. You might also realize that certain foods make you so uncomfortable with gas that you want to cut them out entirely. Variation in the effectiveness of the digestive tract means different people will have different tolerance levels for each trigger food, so you may not need to eliminate every food on the list to feel more comfortable.
Foods to avoid
Our bodies are not very efficient at breaking down food with high cellulose content. Plants, specifically, contain cellulose that takes a long time to digest. Animals with long digestive tracts such as cows and sheep are able to fully break down the polysaccharide chains that make up cellulose, but humans have a much shorter digestive system that can’t finish the job. Instead, all that partially digested plant matter is a home for more bacteria in the intestines, which leads to smellier farts. In short, foods high in polysaccharides will usually lead to the worst kind of flatulence. If your farts are particularly stinky, start by avoiding the following foods:
- Root Vegetables
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage)
Choose your starches carefully
If your food diary indicates your gas is related to the kind of carbohydrates you’re eating, look closely at the type of starches you’re consuming. While whole grains are beneficial to our bodies in many ways, they also contain varying levels of cellulose. Wheat is a common starch that occurs in many foods we eat on a regular basis, but it is one of the harder starches for our body to digest. Bread, potatoes, or noodles are all common culprits for increased farting. Rice has lower levels of cellulose, particularly once it’s cooked, so try swapping these gassier starches for rice.
Cut down on dairy
In addition to the polysaccharides in plants, lactose in the diet can also cause excessive gas. Lactose is chain of sugar molecules found most commonly in dairy products. While breaking down lactose causes small amounts of gas for almost everyone, people who are lactose intolerant lack the digestive enzyme to break down lactose at all. Like the undigested cellulose, the lactose hangs out in the digestive tract longer than it should, and bringing flatulence with it.
If you are lactose intolerant or consume a lot of milk, butter or soft cheese, you might find quick relief from flatulence by restricting your dairy to lactose-free sources such as goat, soy, or almond milk. You may also be able to eat some hard cheeses and yogurt, as the bacterial cultures used to create these foods digests the lactose during production, leaving little or none left for you in the final product.
Lactose is one kind of sugar that causes gas, but other sugars also increase our need to toot. Many sugars are digested very quickly by the bacteria in our gut that love to gobble sweets. When they help us digest fructose, lactose, and sorbitol, they create a lot of flatus very quickly, which can lead to painful gas pressure and loud sounds when you pass the gas. Not only does the sugar itself cause gas, but diets high in sugar can lead to insulin resistance and ultimately Type II diabetes, conditions that also disrupt normal digestion and cause intestinal gas. There are plenty of health benefits to cutting down on your sugar intake in the long term, but taking a total break from eating sugar might give you almost immediate relief from excessive gas.
Take a break from bubbles
Carbonated drinks directly add air in the form of tiny bubbles to your gut, which is an obvious problem for people with excessive gas: after all, you’re reading this article about how to reduce the amount of gas in your digestive tract! A single can of soda or a champagne toast on special occasions shouldn’t cause noticeable problems, but if you’re also having carrot sticks (those polysaccharide foods!) and a dairy based dip (lactose!) and if there is sugar in the soda, you can see how it can quickly exacerbate the gas situation in your gut.
Many men in particular find that cutting back on beer is hugely beneficial to reducing the amount of farting they do in the evening. Not only is it the most carbonated alcoholic drink, the barley and yeast used to brew beer contain polysaccharides that increase flatulence.
Even healthy carbonated drinks can increase flatulence if you drink them frequently. Sparkling water is a hugely popular drink with women these days, but many regular drinkers don’t know it can be even more carbonated than soda. If you’re consuming more than one sparkling water per day, try switching to regular water with a splash of fruit juice or some cucumber slices as a less gas-producing alternative.
Foods that reduce gas
Sometimes removing foods from your diet are not enough to totally stop excessive farting, but don’t worry: there are plenty of natural foods and supplements that can decrease your flatulence even more.
Not all bacteria is inherently bad for our health. In fact, our digestive systems rely on a mix of healthy bacteria and yeasts to assist with digestion. This gut flora is an ecosystem that needs to maintain a balance in order to run efficiently, but sometimes that ecosystem can get disrupted. Taking antibiotics, abrupt changes in diet, illness or even stress can all affect your intestinal flora and decrease the helpful bacteria colonies. Other bacteria can then take over, digesting our food less efficiently and increasing the amount, speed, and smell of our farts.
If your gut flora has been disrupted, you can recolonize your digestive tract with helpful bacteria. Probiotics are dietary supplements that come in pills or drinks that include live cultures which can be reintroduced to your body. Look for probiotics that contain the following helpful bacteria:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Streptococcus faecium
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
Feed the good bacteria
Once you have helpful gut flora established in your digestive tract, you can help keep it healthy by eating food that contains active cultures and supports digestive health. Yogurt is a great source for live cultures, but read labels carefully, many brands contain added sugar or additives that might increase flatulence. Look for all-natural ingredients and sweeten your yogurt with honey or fresh fruit. Other natural foods with live cultures include Kombucha, a fermented tea drink that you can buy prepared or make at home.
More delicious probiotic foods you can choose include:
- Miso soup
- Dark chocolate
Energize your enzymes
In addition to the helpful gut flora, our digestive systems rely on enzymes to break down the food we eat. Normally, many different kinds of enzymes are created by our bodies naturally to digest the different kinds of nutrients we eat. If one or more of those enzymes is not produced, or decreased in amount, we can experience difficulty with digestion and increased gas during the process. Women, in particular, tend to have lower levels of the enzyme called papain, which can decrease nausea and bloating caused by gas. Increasing natural sources of digestive enzymes in your diet may reduce that gas.
Some whole foods, such as pineapple and papaya, contain the specific enzymes that many people lack, so add those fruits to salads and smoothies a few times a week. You can also take a digestive enzyme supplement. Particularly if you plan to eat foods high in polysaccharides or sugar, consider having an enzyme supplement 15-30 minutes before a meal to increase a whole suite of enzymes that can assist with digesting the food you’re about to eat. Always choose enzyme supplements with all natural ingredients and without any added sugar for taste.
Add seeds to your diet
Many edible seeds have been shown effective in decreasing digestive gas. When crushed, they release enzymes that reduce the volume of flatus in the gut, and also neutralize the smell producing compounds that make a fart smell.
Fennel seeds act fast to relief the pressure of excess gas within 10 minutes, so keep them on hand at work or other close quarters for urgent needs. Crush them to release the enzymes by chewing them, or briefly grinding them in a coffee grinder before you swallow them. If you don’t like the texture, you can also use the whole seeds to brew an anti-farting tea by steeping a tablespoon of seeds in boiling water for 4-9 minutes.
Other helpful anti-gas seeds like chia, flax and anise seeds can be used in similar ways. Check out this video for ways to use anise seed to stop your farts.
Drink more water
Being well hydrated is a crucial part of proper digestion. Drinking water helps us move food through the digestive tract and remove the waste compounds that gas causing bacteria feed on. Water also helps keep fiber and undigested food particles lubricated, which allows quick movement through the digestive tract and prevents build ups that might trap air or produce more gas in the intestines.
Drinking enough water during the day is a quick and easy way to increase your digestive health and reduce gas, but the timing of when to consume that water matters in terms of stopping the post-meal fart party. Try to drink water first thing in the morning, and steadily throughout the day to keep your body consistently hydrated, but take a break from drinking while you eat. Adding liquid to your gut while you eat will dilute the enzymes that metabolize your food, and keep them from doing their job.
Activated charcoal is an all-natural compound that can has millions of tiny pore that which can trap the chemicals in the gut that cause smelly farts, such as hydrogen sulphide. It also can absorb the gas itself, allowing flatus to pass through the body in stool instead of as disruptive farts.
The more common materials used to create activated charcoal are coconut shells, bamboo and other fast growing woods. You can purchase activated charcoal as a fine powder that can be mixed into liquid, or as capsules that will be tasteless and less messy. Taking a small dose of activated charcoal shortly before eating, particularly if you are choosing foods you know usually cause a lot of flatulence problems for you.
In addition to adjustments to your diet, there are other natural remedies you can try to decrease your amount of farting.
Sometime the digestive tract may work slower than optimal speeds which leads to a build-up of gas. This happens naturally as we age, but also might be a temporary state due to pregnancy, illness, or chronic disease. Acupuncture and massage have been shown to increase the efficiency of the movement of food through the digestive tract. Shiatsu massage, specifically increases blood flow to key nerve centers and circulatory system hubs that can give your gut more cellular energy and remove toxins and unhealthy bacteria from your gut more quickly.
A massage therapist can help you target the most effective points for digestive circulation along your meridian, just share your concerns and describe your symptoms before the massage begins. You can expect to lay on your belly and have pressure applied to your abdominal areas, which will likely cause you to fart. Massage therapists are professionals with medical training who have seen it all, so there’s no need to be embarrassed if you pass gas during the session: that means it’s working!
Reducing your weight to a healthy range through exercise improves digestive health in many ways, and also decreases gas. Any kind of exercise that gets your body moving will increase circulation to the digestive tract and help with flatulence. In addition, there are several specific fitness activities that target a farting problem. Walking is a great low impact exercise that reduces flatulence for all ages. If you’re feeling bloated from gas and want immediate relief, you can try doing some crunches to contract your abdominal muscles and push out the farts. There are also several asana yoga poses that specifically reduce and relieve gas, including the Wind Relieving Pose and Child’s Pose. Watch this video to practice these poses at home.
Rule out serious problems
If you suspect you are experiencing an excessive amount of intestinal gas, and especially if your farts are accompanied by abdominal pain or unusual bowel movements, your first stop should be the doctor. Most farts are caused by diet and other behavioral causes, but it’s important to rule out any underlying health conditions.
Excessive flatulence can be caused by constipation, a condition where some feces remains in the colon accumulating bacteria and producing extra gas. Constipation is often thought of as not being able to poop, but many constipated people are able to pass stool, and may not even realize their colon remains partly blocked.
More serious conditions that lead to extreme gas include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some colo-rectal cancers. Both conditions are rare, but share your concerns about gassiness with your doctor so she can make sure you’re not at risk.
Everybody farts. We don’t have to make excuses or feel embarrassed about normal gas, but the experience of excessive farting or flatulence with an offensive smell can disrupt our lives in a negative way. Learning more about what is causing your excessive gas and making changes to your diet and behavior can drastically improve your comfort without invasive medical procedures. Natural remedies, including supplements and natural health practices of yoga, walking, and massage can offer choices in how to best control your gas in a way that compliments other healthy living habits.