When Should I Worry About Passing Too Much Gas?

Causes and Prevention of Excessive Flatulence

Do you worry that you have more flatulence than normal? Call it passing gas, breaking wind, or farting— most healthy people do it between 14 and 23 times each day. But if you fart more than the typical person, you may wonder what's going on in your digestive tract and whether it's a symptom of a more serious health condition.

Excessive flatulence has some common, harmless causes such as swallowing air, gas-producing foods and drink, anxiety, childbirth, and the effects of aging. However, excessive gas and bloating can be signs of health conditions. Learn more about what is normal, what you can do to reduce gas and bloating, and when to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

tips to reduce excessive gas and bloating
Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell

How Much Is Too Much Gas?

Your doctor might encourage you to count the number of times you pass gas daily, as well as start a food and drink journal to try to find the cause of the excess gas. Anything over 23 farts per day is considered more than normal but still may not warrant concern.

Don't Believe These Flatulence Myths

Does the Smell Mean Anything?

The smell of your gas depends on the food that you eat and is a result of the gasses made in your small intestine and colon during digestion.

A foul smell doesn't mean anything by itself, except for the possible embarrassment when passing gas happens at an inopportune time.

The consensus is that animal proteins, such as eggs or meat, cause more foul-smelling gas, whereas soluble fiber (like that found in fruits and vegetables) can cause gas, but it won't smell as bad.

Swallowing Air Causes Flatulence

You might not realize that you have habits that cause you to swallow air frequently. You might burp much of it out, but some can remain in your stomach and eventually be released at the opposite end when you pass gas.

Things that can result in swallowing air include smoking, chewing gum, sucking on hard candy, drinking carbonated drinks, eating or drinking too fast, or wearing loose-fitting dentures. Anxiety may also cause you to swallow more air, leading to more gas. You might try addressing these issues to see whether it reduces your number of emissions per day.

Foods and Drinks That Cause Flatulence

Most people know what foods will upset their stomach and cause them to bloat or pass gas. For instance, the cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli, are common gas-causing culprits. Eating lots of carbohydrates, such as pasta and bread, can also cause extra gas. Other flatulence-forming foods and drinks include:

  • Lentils and beans
  • Dairy, including milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt (especially if you are lactose intolerant)
  • Soy products, such as tofu and soy milk
  • Vegetables such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, asparagus, artichokes, onions, mushrooms, sprouts, and cucumbers
  • Fruits such as apples, peaches, pears, and fruit juices
  • Whole grains and bran
  • Alcohol (especially beer, which is also carbonated)
  • Carbonated drinks and those with high-fructose corn syrup
  • Sugar-free gum and candies (due to sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol)

As you get older, you may have more problems with these foods than you did when you were younger.

It's important to note that many of the foods that cause flatulence are also good for you, for example, the cruciferous vegetables. In this sense, having a high-normal amount of flatulence may simply be a sign that you are eating a healthy diet. Many people note that the amount of gas they pass increases when they decide to become healthier and add these foods to their diet.

Health Conditions With Symptoms of Increased Gas

Most of the time excessive gas is due to what you are eating and drinking and habits that cause you to swallow air. But it can be a symptom certain health conditions. Some other causes of excess gas include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Fructose intolerance
  • Malabsorption problems
  • Celiac disease
  • Stomach illness (such as food poisoning)
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  • Conditions that cause a blockage in the intestinal tract, which can include abdominal adhesions, abdominal hernia, colon cancer, and ovarian cancer
  • Childbirth, which affects the muscles and nerves around the anus and causes new mothers to pass more gas for months 

When Should You See Your Doctor?

If your flatulence and bloating concern you, discuss these symptoms with your doctor. She will check your history and symptoms to see if they point towards a health condition that can cause excessive flatulence. Many of these are treatable.

Before your visit, keep a diary of what you are eating, drinking, and doing and your episodes of flatulence. This will be a useful part of your visit. Be sure to discuss systemic and digestive symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, a change in your bowel habits, or rectal bleeding. Your doctor will take your history and further explore your symptoms and general health. There are many different tests she may recommend which will depend on your specific symptoms.

What Can You Do About Excessive Gas?

If your doctor gives you the green light that you're disease-free, she may send you home with a new prescription for anti-gas medications, such as simethicone. In addition, there are things you can do to help reduce your flatulence.

  • Quit smoking.
  • Slowly introduce more insoluble fiber into your diet (think bran and edible vegetable peels).
  • Limit your consumption of carbohydrates, such as pasta or corn.
  • Chew your foods carefully, as carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth.
  • Drink plenty of fresh water daily. Hot water in the morning—a glass of hot lemon water, for example—can help get things moving and prevent consitipation, which can cause gas and bloating. Tea can also help.
  • Do not use straws when you drink.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating.
  • Exercise daily, if it’s safe for you to do so.
  • Stop chewing gum.
  • Slow down and enjoy each meal—don't gulp it down.
  • Try heat, for example, a heating pad or hot water bottle. The heat will help relax muscles within the large intestine, causing them to release trapped gas.

Although some of these things primarily cause burping or releasing gas through your mouth, if the air makes it past your stomach, it will be released sooner or later.

Natural Ways to Reduce Gas

Over-the-counter options can also help:

  • A laxative (consult with your doctor first) can help move things along.
  • Simethicone products like Gas-X can provide relief, but they do not work for everyone.
  • Beano is useful if your symptoms appear after eating beans or certain vegetables.
  • For those who are lactose intolerant, a lactase supplement (e.g. Lactaid), allows you to enjoy smaller portions of dairy products.
  • Probiotics, in general, can improve your gut bacteria balance, helping improve underlying causes of gas and bloat.
The Causes of Morning Gas

A Word From Verywell

Everybody passes gas, but it can be distressing if you experience it more often than normal.

The most common causes of increased gas are "lifestyle" factors, such as smoking, chewing gum, and the particular foods you eat. This isn't always bad, and many people note that they have more gas when they introduce healthier foods into their diet. By looking at your habits and assessing what you eat and drink, you may be able to prevent some of the episodes or at least be comfortable knowing that they are normal.

At the same time, excess gas can sometimes be a sign that something is amiss in your body. If you continue to have symptoms, especially if you notice any other changes, make an appointment to see your doctor.

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Article Sources
  • Greenberger NJ. Gas-related complaints. The Merck Manual website. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/symptoms-of-gi-disorders/gas-related-complaints. Updated March 2016.
  • National Institute of Health. Gas in the Digestive Tract. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gas-digestive-tract/symptoms-causes. Updated July 2016.