Gas and Your Gut
Foods That Trigger Flatulence
"You can fart, or you can be fat." It's something I tell my clients regularly when they ask for weight loss advice. Long-term studies show that fiber can reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and the risk of coronary heart disease. As you increase fiber in your diet, you're likely to release an extra toot or two. But that gas just might be coming from some unexpected places.
Take a look at the food you're eating, but not the typical suspects. When most people think of food and gas, they point the finger at things like beans, bell peppers, cabbage, corn, milk and raisins. Those things can and do cause gas, but there's a new source that many people aren't even aware of, it's the new "high fiber" foods.
Today you can buy yogurt, cottage cheese and protein bars all with extra fiber. What companies are doing is adding something called "inulin," a powder extracted from chicory root.
Inulin is a chain of sugars that isn't long enough to be a starch. That means when it passes through the body, digestive enzymes don't break it down. Once it reaches your intestine, good bacteria eat it up and multiply.
That's good. Studies have shown that friendly bacteria in your gut do ferment inulin and the fermented inulin boosts the levels of bifidobacteria, which can reduce the risk of infectious bowel diseases and colon cancer.
But it's not all sweet-smelling roses. The by-product of that fermentation process can be bloating, diarrhea, nausea and farts. The more inulin you take in, the bigger the problem.
Most people can tolerate up to about 15 grams of inulin a day, but at 20 grams or more, the chances of flatulence grow. A single serving of Activia Yogurt with Fiber has a relatively small three grams of inulin fiber, but snack bars often have much more.
A few bars high in gas causing inulin.
Fiber One Chewy Bars and South Beach Good to Go Bars have nine grams of fiber apiece while Kellogg's Fiber Plus Protein Chewy Bars have 10 grams of fiber per bar. Much of that fiber is from fart-inducing inulin.
Fiber is such a critical part of any diet you should try and take in at least 30 grams a day. But if gas is a problem, get the fiber from traditional foods like whole-wheat breads, oatmeal, beans and vegetables. In "real foods" fiber is digested more slowly and often mixed with other foods that can suppress gaseous effects.
Another hidden trigger for farts are foods with the sugar alcohols sorbitol and maltitol. Lower sugar and sugar-free candy, ice cream and gum all frequently use sugar alcohols to make them sweeter without using actual sugar.
Items that may cause gas because of inulin and sorbitol.
Single and small servings aren't typically a problem, but when you eat a whole bag of candy or a couple helpings of ice cream, it adds up quickly. Tolerances vary but people typically see a problem with about 10 to 20 grams of sorbitol and 30 or 40 grams of maltitol.
Fudgsicle Fudge Pops have five grams of sorbitol per serving, getting you halfway to the 10-gram threshold. Blue Bell No Sugar Added Ice Cream has about three grams of sorbitol per 1/2 cup serving. Eat a typical serving of two cups and you've just taken in 12 grams of gas-causing sorbitol.
Baskin Robbins No Sugar Added Caramel Turtle Truffle ice cream has 25 grams of toot-inducing maltitol per scoop.
If you're letting out more gas than you're comfortable with, cut back on foods that have high levels of inulin, chicory root, sorbitol and maltitol.
SPECIAL NOTE: In researching this article I came across dozens of things people say that mean fart. From the common, cut the cheese, to the more exotic, launch a wifter, float an air biscuit, butt yodeling, colon bowlin', roar from the rear and one of my favorites, stink out loud. Feel free to substitute these more colorful descriptions throughout this article to make it more giggle-inducing.
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