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Why am I so gassy? We asked a doctor, so you don’t have to

Dr. Seema Marwaha answers all your embarrassing health questions in our new video series, Asking for a friend. First up — some stinky science.

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Tooting, farting, bum sneezing. We all do it. But do you ever wonder how much gas is normal (and which side of “normal” you’re on), what causes it, or why we have to live with it at all? Here, general internal medicine specialist Dr. Seema Marwaha answers some of the questions about gas that you’d rather not have to ask.

Why does your body get ‘gassy’?

Gas collects in your digestive tract in two main ways. The first is by swallowing air while you eat or drink. This causes oxygen and nitrogen to collect in the digestive tract that you eventually burp or fart out. If you chew lots of gum, smoke, drink lots of carbonated drinks or suck on your pen top, you might swallow more air than normal.

Second, you can produce digestive gases as you break down the food you eat – gases like hydrogen, methane or carbon dioxide collect in your gastrointestinal tract and can cause gas.

Eating things like beans, cabbage or broccoli cause more gas production. These foods are only partially broken down in the stomach. Bacteria in your intestines help break it down completely – but they produce a lot of gas as they do this.

Same with carbohydrates found in fruits, soda and milk. Sorbitol, fructose and lactose also commonly cause gas, bloating and abdominal cramps in some people.

How much gas is normal?

According to the Mayo clinic, most people pass gas more than  10 times a day. If you are finding that you are overly gassy –if you’re passing gas more than 20 times a day, or don’t have control over it – keep a food diary. See if drinking soda, eating carbohydrates or certain fruits or vegetables set you off.

How do I know if I have some kind of intolerance?

If dairy appears to be linked to feeling bloated and gassy, you may be one of the 50 million North Americans that have some degree of lactose intolerance. Talk to your doctor about trying an ‘elimination diet’ where you cut dairy out for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference.

If you have other symptoms along with gas, like abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, you might have a condition called irritable bowel syndrome, and should talk to your doctor. Exercising, staying hydrated and having a high fibre diet can help IBS.

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