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Let's Talk Gas Crisis

4 mins

Gastroenterologists assure us that passing wind up to 25 times a day is quite normal. Not that they would choose to be sharing your elevator when all this normalcy is being dispensed. How to turn down the gas? We know—you're asking for a friend.

Table of Contents

“…how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, how like an angel in apprehension…” Hamlet’s brief, exultant flight on the nature of humankind is one of Shakespeare's more famous soliloquies.

For those of you who likewise believe humans are exalted angelic beings of light and spirit, I pose this question.
What angel has flatulence?

Breezy with a Chance of Utter Humiliation

Yes, Shakespeare’s “paragon of animals” is prone to gassiness. Don’t tell the neighbors. This is a mechanical issue with which we are all woefully familiar. You might even say it joins the human family in a common, nose-wrinkling embrace.

What causes it? [and here we’ll dispense with the clinical nicety of “flatulence” in favor of “passing wind”, since that sounds more like a day spent sipping champagne on a yacht…]

Many causes have been identified for passing wind.

One of them is something called “aerophagia”.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Well, it’s the medical term for swallowing air. Yes, the experts would have us believe we get gas from swallowing too much air, often during fits of laughter.

This must be something like a solid consensus opinion or the experts wouldn’t say it with such confidence. Someone should tell them, though, that it is during these fits of hilarity we are in the greatest danger not of swallowing air but of dispensing it out the tailpipe.

Trillions of Needy Friends

Gastroenterologists go on to tell us that passing wind up to 25 times a day is quite normal. Not that they would choose to be sharing your elevator when all this normalcy is being dispensed. What causes this windy distress, apart from episodes of happy laughter?

You can blame it on your trillions of little pals. You know the ones: the bacterial buddies that inhabit your gut, controlling like a command center your general health and even your mental wellness.

The happy microbial control freaks in your intestines are on your side—big time— and if you’re being a gracious host you know how vitally important it is to keep them nourished.

We don’t want the biome — your microbial metropolis — to get out of whack. Hence the emphasis on pre-and-probiotics; food for the standing army in your bowel. When your gut is happy, all is well. Pretty much.

Food-Based Flights of Foulness

What is the fave food of the clamoring, white-hat microbes in your gut? Complex Carbs and Fiber. They love the stuff! And sometimes the microbial joy they feel while dining … well, you can feel it too — and then some. Let’s just say that your microbial army settling down to din-din best not coincide with someone telling you a really funny joke.

The irony of course is that the radiantly healthy, plant-based nutritional lifestyle can come with a caveat, at least during the period of dietary transition. And not everyone will be affected the same way. Nature, in her delicate wisdom, has gifted us each with our own unique gassiness. It does come down to complex carbs and fiber.

Complex carbohydrates — so called because they feature longer, more “complex” sugar molecule chains — are slower to digest, dispensing their energy load more gradually. This is a good thing. Simple carbs are quickly processed and burned for energy, but this can lead to a spike in blood sugar, which in turn increases the flow of insulin from the pancreas – which can have its own negative health effects.

Fiber-Loving Friends

So the complex carbs, these favored by your bacterial cohort, are the healthier carbs, and foods that contain complex carbs often contain a goodly amount of fiber, as well. Guess who loves fiber, too?

When your microbes are enjoying their feast of complex carbs and fiber, high-fiving each other and so on, they are also readying you to pass wind. (Oh ... yes I’d love a little splash of champagne! Thank you!)

Beans, whole grains, and cruciferous vegetables — broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, turnips — have it all: complex carbs for a more reasonable, blood sugar-sparing provision of energy, and the fiber to both maintain your GI and give you that mellow feeling of fullness that tamps down snacking.

Lower the Octane of Your Gas. So to Speak.

Fiber is kind of miraculous, and getting it into you is a worthy self-care goal. Insoluble fiber pleasantly affects the running of the trains down there (do l have to spell it out?) and soluble fiber positively affects your cardio health (hence the oatmeal habit adopted by those with high LDL), and your blood sugar.

You want the super-powered plant diet without strapping a jet engine to your posterior. Not an unreasonable wish. Try these easy remedies for … passing wind.

Take smaller bites of your carb/fiber-based eats. Honestly. Your bod is a machine and when it gets a reasonable request to process fuel it works perfectly, and without the bloat. As you up your fiber intake, also try upping your water intake, as well. Fiber pulls water into the bowel, and will be looking for that water.

Don’t disappoint the fiber in your bowel. There, I said it.

One should also avoid carbonated drinks, unless you want all that pleasant, nose-tickling fizz to blast out of your backside at an inopportune moment. And if you get your beans from a dry goods store, soak them in water the night before you cook them. Next day, drain and rinse prior to cooking.

Basing your diet on the goodness of the plant kingdom is pure power; as evidenced by the rude happiness of your microbial minions. This too shall pass. Hopefully not in a crowded, confined space.


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