By Noelle Patno, PhD
The common complaints of bloating and flatulence, while not immediate reasons to go to the doctor, often create discomfort both individually and socially. There may be a great deal of information about intestinal gas that is considered “common sense,” but you may be interested to learn what research studies in this area have revealed. Let’s begin!
What causes intestinal gas?If you’ve ever heard someone sing to you, “Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot,” you’re probably already familiar with several foods that can cause gas production and flatulence.
Certain foods are known to be metabolized by intestinal bacteria and generate gas.1 The gas within our digestive system consists mainly of nitrogen and oxygen. Foods composed of complex carbohydrates, including beans, and foods high in polysaccharides (particularly oligosaccharides such as inulin) tend to cause, or worsen, flatulence. When we digest these foods, gas, mainly in the form of hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide, is released.2
To reduce risk of excess intestinal gas, AVOID eating too much of these foods:
Typically, people pass minor amounts of gas without noticing it—gentle release of the small pockets of air that may have been swallowed and small amounts made by bacteria—it even happens during sleep; larger volumes are typically released after meals. 6 (hint: plan accordingly!).
While flatulence releases intestinal gas, the problem of trapped gas found with bloating, according to the medical community, is actually a problem of gas dynamics.3
Bloating—a problem of trapped gas, not excess gasA recent analysis by computed tomography (CT) scans has identified that the average intestinal gas volume, about 200 ml, does not differ in those patients with gastrointestinal diseases accompanied by obvious symptoms (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease or IBD) from those whose symptoms are not externally validated (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome or IBS).7 Research has shown that in people who complain of abdominal pain, and sometimes have an increased waist circumference, when objectively measured, are shown to have only about 28-118% (about 2 to 8 ounces) more gas in their intestines.3 The researchers concluded that the amount of just 1.9 to 8 oz. more gas wasn’t enough to create the problem of bloating but that the distribution of the gas was cause of the problem.3
Theories on the causes of bloating include:3
This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.
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Certain persons, considered experts, may disagree with one or more of the foregoing statements, but the same are deemed, nevertheless, to be based on sound and reliable authority. No such statements shall be construed as a claim or representation as to Metagenics products, that they are offered for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease.