A top dietician’s expert guide on how to combat excessive flatulence

Emily Leeming
Daily Mail
5 Min Read
Here are some expert tips on how to combat excessive flatulence.
Here are some expert tips on how to combat excessive flatulence. Credit: Naomi Craigs

While it may be source of amusement for small children, breaking wind is an entirely normal process which each of us does around 15 to 20 times a day.

But there are times when it’s a sign something else is going on.

For instance, smelly or excessive flatulence may be related to a problem with your diet or can be a sign of underlying health problems.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

The same goes for burping, another normal part of everyday life which, for many people, can become a problem.

Despite the embarrassment both cause, neither flatulence nor burping are in themselves bad things.

In the case of flatulence especially, this is often a sign of a healthy gut — it means your gut bacteria are busy at work breaking down foodstuffs such as fibre that cannot be broken down elsewhere in the digestive tract, and a by-product of that process is wind (largely formed of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane).

On average we produce 500ml to 2000ml of wind a day — and most of this is released without you even realising it.

In fact, while a lot of flatulence is released within an hour of eating, a significant amount is emitted while you’re asleep as the anal sphincter muscle, which opens to release gas, relaxes.

Even the gas that’s released during the day shouldn’t be a big deal as 99 per cent of what you produce doesn’t smell.

That’s worth remembering if you’re the type of person who tries to hold wind in when in company.

As a scientist who has spent the majority of her career investigating how the gut works, I can say that while repeatedly

holding it in won’t do any major damage, it can make you bloated and lead to abdominal pain as the gas presses on the gut wall.

BuT why do some people have more malodorous wind? It can just be down to the make-up of your gut microbiome (the community of microbes that live in your gut) — some people just have more of the types of gut bacteria that produce smelly gas.

What you eat can also play a part. One of the most common culprits of pungent wind is eating too much meat: that’s due to a compound called sulphur — found in especially high levels in red meat — which is broken down by your gut bacteria into a gas, hydrogen sulphide, that smells like rotten eggs.

Sulphur is also found in other meats and fish, eggs, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

But it’s normally red meat that’s the culprit — as this is what we tend to eat too much of, rather than vegetables.

So if your wind is smelly you might want to cut back on your red meat consumption.

If you are concerned about your wind and you have a special event coming up, then you could avoid sulphur-rich

foods for the 24-48 hours beforehand.

But what, you may be wondering, about beans — the basis of many a fart joke?

While eating more beans, of any type, may initially increase your wind, in the longer term it usually gets better.

Beans are rich in fibre, which is gut bacteria’s favourite food — and with around 7g in half a tin, weight for weight beans provide more fibre than fruit and veg.

Most of us don’t eat anywhere near the 30g of fibre we need a day.

A lack of fibre can lead to an unhealthy gut microbiome — in other words, the gut bacteria are less diverse, and with more ‘bad’ ones — and this can also cause more wind and bloating. So, ironically, a poor diet low in fibre may lead to more wind —not less.

Eating more fibre will also help with constipation, which causes smelly flatulence as food gets fermented for longer and traps gas.

Just make sure that you drink plenty of water too, as fibre can make constipation worse if you’re dehydrated.

When you start adding more fibre to your diet, be ready for a few days of extra wind, as when you increase fibre intake it’s like throwing your gut bacteria a birthday party — they joyfully binge on the fibre and produce a lot of gas.

If you are new to beans I always recommend to start small with, for instance, a tablespoon of beans every other day and slowly increase across the weeks up to half a can or more most days. I

Another consideration for those experiencing excess flatulence is whether it occurs after eating dairy foods such as milk, yoghurtor butter, as here it could be linked to lactose intolerance.

This results from not having enough of the enzyme lactase needed to break down lactose

As a result it travels, undigested, through the gut where it is met by the bacteria that ferment it —

resulting in a lot of gas. It can also lead to diarrhoea, constipation and nausea. If

You won’t necessarily have to cut out dairy completely — usually the amount in a glass of milk can be tolerated each day, but this can vary.

Flatulence can also be a problem for people with irritable bowel syndrome, the name for a collection of gut symptoms including constipation or loose bowels. This can cause gut spasms and may lead to a painful build-up of wind.

In this case, peppermint oil capsules could be beneficial and peppermint tea can also be soothing, although won’t contain as much menthol.

When it comes to burping — and to some extent flatulence — as well as what you eat, it’s good to consider how you eat.

If you eat very quickly the chances are that you’re swallowing large quantities of air with that food, and while often that will re-emerge as burps, some will carry through the system and be expelled as wind.

And maybe rethink that chewing gum habit! Sugar-free gum provides a double whammy of gas as not only do you swallow air as you chew it, it contains sweeten2ers, including xylitol, that can contribute to flatulence

Whether its flatulence or burping that’s bothering you, one simple way to ease both is to go for a walk in the 30 minutes after a meal as this can help gently disperse any painful build-up of gas and bloating.

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 15-04-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 15 April 202415 April 2024

Justice Lee finds Lehrmann ‘hell-bent on having sex’ with Higgins and ‘didn’t care if she knew what was going on’