Gas (flatulence for the proper faces out there) is one of the most annoying symptoms of IBS. Yes, gas isn’t as traumatizing as a diarrhea flare in public, but gas can be more common and can be an embarassing symptoms to deal with on the daily. Because, let’s be honest, it’s hard to hide a smelly fart. Pardon my french.
Gas is the result of our gut microbes fermenting and breaking down certain carbohydrates, which produces hydrogen and methane (what we refer to as simply gas). Lactose/dairy and beans are the most common gas-causing carbohydrates, but there are many plants that can also lead to more gas production, including cruciferous vegetables and fermentable fibers.
As I grew up with IBS and didn’t understand why these symptoms were occuring, I remember being terrified of having gas in public. I didn’t want to be the girl that stank up a room, and I came from a family that was very reserved about passing gas, so I felt a lot of shame about the possibility of letting it out around others. I also remember the pain that came with trapped gas. There were many moments where I found myself (and still do on occasion) laying on a dirty public bathroom floor, or stepping away from an event to go lie down in my car on my belly to get the gas out. It almost always works for me, but it’s disgusting when you’re on the floor where others let their pee travel all over, or when you have to leave your friends/family to go lie down until things moved along. I never talked about this because I thought I was weird and abnormal, but now as I lead a community of others living with IBS, I realize that we all have these stories and none of us are alone in these symptoms.
Long story short, gas sucks. So what do we do about it? There are plenty of medications out there that target gas, but I want to focus on a few natural remedies for preventing and releasing gas. Before diving in, I will start by saying that if you have IBS, it’s vital that you figure out what your major triggers are. If you’re not managing those triggers, it will be harder to prevent gas. If you haven’t taken that step yet, I have two options for you. If you live in the United States and need more individualized care (personalized process, lots of feedback, ongoing assessment, etc.), my IBS Management Program would be a great fit! If you don’t need an individualized approach, or if you live outside of the United States, my Low FODMAP Diet E-Course could be a great start! As a bonus, use code BLOG for $40 off!
Back to the gas, there are many reasons why you may be experiencing gas, beyond simply having IBS and being more sensitive to foods, like FODMAPs. Potential causes, include:
Eating too fast and not chewing your food
Spicy and fatty foods
Beans and legumes
Garlic and onion
Apples and dried fruits
Alternative sweeteners (sugar-free)
Drinking a lot of water with meals
Wearing tight-fitting clothes
Swallowing excess air from chewing gum, drinking from a straw, and talking while eating
After you determine your IBS triggers, you can then prevent gas by adjusting some of the behaviors and foods listed above. After that, use these simple remedies to get the gas out and move on with your day.
Peppermint is a naturally-occuring, gas-relieving herb that contains monoterpene compounds, including L-menthol, that target the source of IBS symptoms. Dig deeper into the “why” behind peppermint here! You can take peppermint in capsule form, from IBgard, which has the most studies to back up its claims. You can also try a high quality, ingestible peppermint essential oil, or try peppermint tea.
Ginger has been shown to affect the enzymes trypsin and pancreatic lipase during digestion to speed up motility and emptying of the stomach. This can help prevent against constipation, gas, bloating, and indigestion. Read more about ginger and digestion here. You can add ginger to your meals in its fresh or dried forms, or you can make ginger tea when you’re feeling bloated to get things moving along.
Gas isn’t always caused by your enzymes not working properly, but gas can be a result of slow fermentation due to either a lack of enzymes or poor function of enzymes. You can try lactase for dairy and alpha-galactosidase for oligosaccharides found in wheat, garlic onion, beans, and other pulses. Alpha-galactosidase may also help with cruciferous vegetables. Common brands of these are Lactaid and Beano. Read more about enzymes and IBS here.
I included this one because I knew I would get questions about it. There is very limited (almost none) evidence that this is safe and effective for those with IBS. However, this has been used in alternative medicine for a while as a remedy for gas, and many people claim relief from it. Since research is limited, you’ll want to discuss this with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you. Aka don’t just trust the influencers on the internet about it.
This one is my favorite, because it takes the focus off of food for a bit. When you move your body, you increase blood flow to the gut, which helps increase motility to move things along, including gas. Go for a walk or do a little yoga after a meal to help aid digestion, or try moving in an enjoyable way when you feel gassy to help relieve it.