How much gas is normal?

Let’s face it, nobody wants to feel like a social pariah or clear a room with their flatulence. However, it is important to remember that passing gas is completely normal and that we all do it! In fact, the average person can have anywhere between 0.5 and 1.5 litres of gas in their digestive tract and can pass gas up to 20 times per day! So if you’re feeling a little gassy after eating, don’t worry – it is actually a sign that your digestive system is working properly.

What causes it?

Now, you may be thinking – “what causes all this gas?”. The answer is, there are two main sources of gas in the digestive tract: swallowed air, and the breakdown of food by your gut bacteria.

Swallowed air can come from a variety of sources: perhaps you’re a big fan of chewing gum, or fizzy drinks. Maybe you just have a habit of talking when you’re eating. All of these actions can cause air to make its way into your digestive tract where it will eventually be released as gas.

Certain foods, including broccoli, beans, and brussels sprouts can also cause gas when they are broken down by the friendly bacteria of your gut. This is because they contain complex carbohydrates that cannot be entirely broken down in the stomach. Once those carbohydrates get to the colon, the bacteria get to work breaking them down, and gas is produced as a by-product.

When should I be concerned?

Whilst gas is an entirely normal part of the digestive process, significant changes in your usual patterns can be a sign of underlying digestive issues. It is important to speak with your doctor or dietitian if these changes occur.

Additionally, if you have an onset of any of the following symptoms alongside excessive gas, seek medical attention as it is possible you could be suffering a more serious condition such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stools
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fever

Management of excessive gas

If you are looking to manage excessive gas, keeping a food diary, and noting which foods cause the most gas can be helpful in identifying the culprits. Once you are aware of your dietary triggers, you may find it helpful to reduce the portion sizes of these foods, or choose to consume them less frequently.

Here in the UK, we tend to eat less than our daily recommended intake of fibre. Whilst this information might tempt you to suddenly start consuming twice the amount of fibre you usually do, be sure to increase your fibre intake gradually over a period of a few weeks to avoid excessive gas and bloating.

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