I always need to fart
December 9, 2012 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I frequently feel gaseous. Help me with my digestive system.

The title was a bit circumspect, but hopefully this is straightforward: I need to fart very frequently, and it's a problem.

Basically every day, I am consciously holding in a fart, hoping I can make it to a bathroom to release. Sometimes they are smelly, sometimes not. In total, I probably fart three to five or more times a day. My bowel moments are fairly soft (but not diarrhea), and they probably happen about two times a day (Google tells me that what is typical is between three times and week and three times a day, so this is the high end of normal).

I'm a guy in my 20s, about 6ft0 160lbs. For breakfast I generally have a bowl of cereal with milk, for lunch I generally have either a couple chicken breasts or a diner cheeseburger/Subway sandwich/Chipotle burrito/the like, for dinner I have a couple more chicken breasts, and I snack on small things (cookies, pretzels, chocolate) every so often during the day when they appear at work. Sometimes I make peanut butter / whole wheat bread sandwiches and snack on those. (The chicken breast thing is basically because I tell myself I want to bulk-up diet-wise, but when it comes down to it, I'm know I'm not all that serious about doing so -- no protein shakes, probably not really eating enough calories, and so on.)

I feel like the gas thing is a relatively new thing for me (within the past two years, maybe the last one), and while I do not know if it's getting worse, it's not getting better. It's certainly getting more prominent in my thoughts, because sometimes I feel like I'm forced to "sneak" a fart while walking down the street or whatever -- and this sort of thing is *going* to eventually get me in trouble.

What do I need to be eating? What should I not be eating? Any other advice?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
3-5 times a day is actually not AB-normal. So the "feels like it's new for me" may be due to your only just now noticing it; but mention it to your doctor during your next visit just in case.

But until then - I have found that a pro-biotic supplement works WONDERS. Either get acidophilous from the vitamin counter, or look for different pro-biotics over in the acid reflux section of the drug store. (Read the label carefully - some of these will need to be kept in the fridge, some won't.) That may also help you with the BMs as well.

I'd also go with more fruits and vegetables as well - I don't see many in your diet above. That would also help with the BMs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:46 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cut out dairy for awhile and see if it helps. It's not uncommon to develop lactose intolerance as an adult.
posted by corey flood at 9:55 AM on December 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Seconding Corey Flood - I developed a dairy allergy in the last year (which is fine cause I'm vegan), but I can tell when I accidentally eat dairy because I get .. unpleasant to be around if you have a working nose.
posted by dotgirl at 10:07 AM on December 9, 2012

Well, the first most obvious thing is to try using almond or soy milk instead of dairy milk on your cereal. The second most obvious thing is your diet is really pretty terrible. Is that actually all you're eating? No vegetables? No fruits?

I will tell you, as an employer with a small office, I've had the opportunity to observe a lot of people's eating habits and smell the results in output, and there's a distressingly direct correlation. Try having nothing but a great big salad (not just lettuce but a wide variety of veg) for lunch for two months straight and I bet you see a huge improvement.
posted by HotToddy at 10:32 AM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I also developed a mild lactose intolerance late in life that I refused to acknowledge for years, because I was "just fine before". Definitely try cutting out dairy for a bit and see if it helps.
posted by corb at 10:48 AM on December 9, 2012

Cut out the dairy, add vegetables and fruit and see what happens.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:52 AM on December 9, 2012

You need to start eating vegetables, especially ones with a good fibre count. Frozen or fresh are usually said to be best. You need to try not eating the greasy stuff, and the high fat stuff. This may mean that you are bringing your lunch for a few weeks. Or, finding a supermarket salad bar, and getting both things done at once.
posted by kellyblah at 11:28 AM on December 9, 2012

If it varies at all from day to day, keep a food diary for a week or two. You might start noticing some trends. For me, I've noticed that dried fruits like raisins and apricots can be problematic.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:53 AM on December 9, 2012

What cereal are you eating? Is it high protein? Soy protein isolate makes me really really gassy. Kashi Go Lean Crunch and some protein bars are the worst offenders.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:54 AM on December 9, 2012

I eat ginger chews after meals for good digestion. They work for me.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2012

Cut out dairy for awhile and see if it helps. It's not uncommon to develop lactose intolerance as an adult.

"Little evidence suggests that lactose intolerance increases in older persons. These trends need to be verified by representative population studies using the case definition of lactose intolerance. [...]


1.Lactose intolerance is a real and important clinical syndrome, but its true prevalence is not known.
2.The majority of people with lactose malabsorption do not have clinical lactose intolerance. Many individuals who think they are lactose intolerant are not lactose malabsorbers.
3.Many individuals with real or perceived lactose intolerance avoid dairy and ingest inadequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, which may predispose them to decreased bone accrual, osteoporosis, and other adverse health outcomes. In most cases, individuals do not need to eliminate dairy consumption completely."

Hi. I don't want to pile on corey flood, whose views are not unique. But please be careful about just knocking whole food groups out, which carries its own health risks. The simple steps are to make sure you drink plenty of water, eat at least five pieces of fruit of vegetables each day, don't eat too much read meat and avoid processed foods where you can. Don't eat too much saturated fat. Take exercise. Do all of these things before assuming you are intolerant of something or have some issue. I re-read your question. No mention of fruit or vegetables. Try the obvious and common remedies first.

If you are going to drop a major food group then do so in a controlled fashion (i.e. don't change several elements of your diet at once) and make sure you get the right supplements to make up for what you aren't getting as a result. Nutrition is one of those areas where junk science and voodoo have proliferated wildly in the past 30 years and only now are we starting to see proper evidence-based rigour make its way back into proceedings.

Onto what is normal: everyone farts. Even my wife. Two poos a day is not a sign of a problem by itself. But I'd start with actually going back to basics and eating simply and properly before you start mucking about with removing food groups.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:28 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The NIH says most people produce about 1 to 4 pints of gas per day and pass gas around 14 times per day (although a lot of that can be in your sleep).

The adult onset food intolerance that people mention above is definitely a thing, milk's a good bet but it could also come from other things... Do you drink soda or juice? How about artificial sweeteners in things like tea or coffee? A food diary and controlled elimination is the way to go.

(On a side note, the NIH also says that lactase production tends to drop as you age. So you might not have a clinical problem with milk, but it could still be at the gas-and-bloating stage if you drink too much--and how much is too much is something you would need to find by trial and error.)

(Second side note, intolerance != allergy.)
posted by anaelith at 12:38 PM on December 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

I had this problem and eliminating gluten from my diet fixed it.
posted by anotheraccount at 4:59 PM on December 9, 2012

Align probiotic! Expensive but totally worth it.
posted by moammargaret at 5:16 PM on December 9, 2012

Nthing it could be lactose intolerance. Consuming any kind of dairy product -- milk, yogurt, cheese, cream -- makes me very sick now, but when this problem first started for me years ago, I had your symptoms after eating something like a bowl of cereal.

And yeah, lactose intolerance is caused by the absence of the enzyme lactase in your digestive tract. It is NOT an allergy.
posted by Lobster Garden at 5:19 PM on December 9, 2012

Your 3 meals are grain/dairy, meat and meat.
First, cut out the dairy like everyone else has suggested. Eat some whole grains and fruit in the morning only on an empty stomach.
Second, replace one of the meat meals with a veggie based meal.
Third, everyone farts. But when you have a gut heavy with slow-digesting meat it becomes an odor problem.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 5:30 PM on December 9, 2012

...plants! Your diet seems bizarre to me; fruit and veg should be the majority, not toppings.

My uneducated guess would be that nothing is that off, though, and you are just starting in on the slow slide from being a young person who never ever thinks about digestion into an old person who has it as a regular topic of conversation with all his peers. Try to see the humour in it... More produce really will help.
posted by kmennie at 5:54 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

in terms of milk, the fat in whole milk slows the digestion of the lactose which might help you out
posted by jander03 at 6:31 PM on December 9, 2012

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel, so eat them beans at every meal!! They're good sources of protein and fiber. But beans [the legumes, not green beans] are major gas-producers for me. If you take digestive enzymes, you can digest them more readily. Some people say that papaya enzymes help to digest meat. TAKE THE ENZYME TABLET BEFORE EATING.

Terrible fart bombs are a sign that you're not digesting something properly. Try to link cause and effect. I never eat raw onions, heinous sulfur-scented gas. Broccoli has sulfur in it as well.

N-thing fruits and vegetables.

Most fast food restaurants can't provide the right food for lifelong good diet. To really take mastery of your diet, you need to buy food so you have it available.

Frozen vegetables offer a lot of value for the money. Buy 1# bags of frozen green beans, peas, or corn, and divide the bag between two containers. Trader Joe's has prepared fresh vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes-- already peeled and cut into 1" squares. These can all go in the microwave for 5 minutes and you have 1/2 of an amazing lunch, with protein being the other half.

N-thing probiotics. Right now I'm taking Jarrow Formulas Jarro-dophilus.
posted by ohshenandoah at 9:32 PM on December 9, 2012

My sister and I have both had to give up Weetabix and Shreddies in the last year because of bloating (we're both late 30s) They both contain wheat. Rice and and Corn based cereals are fine and I no longer have a problem with bloating.
posted by guy72277 at 12:28 AM on December 10, 2012

This is more honest than I ever thought I would be on the Internet, but...

I've always been gassy (or maybe I'm average and I'm just a worrier, but that's hard to know). Honestly, what worked for me is the opposite of some common advice: I drink as much coffee as I want as often as I want. As a result, all that GI stuff (gas and otherwise) is handled more quickly and at a predictable time of day. There are many people who will tell you that coffee can contribute to GI distress and gas, and that is true for many people. But I have significantly less trouble with gas than I used to because more coffee relieves my symptoms. So if you're a coffee drinker, maybe experiment with that a bit and see if it helps. Decaf works just as well as regular. Who knows, it may be that I tend towards GI slowness and coffee moves me back into the normal range.
posted by Tehhund at 7:49 AM on December 10, 2012

Oops, forgot part of my post. I used to chew tons of sugar-free gum (like, approaching a pack a day). It turns out that the xylitol in the gum I was chewing is known to cause gas. I had fewer problems when I cut back. Check your intake habits - is there anything you consume a lot of? Google it and see if it's known to cause gas.

Also, yeasty beer will do this to me. Are you a beer drinker?
posted by Tehhund at 8:07 AM on December 10, 2012

The suggestions above probably will address your problem, but if they don't or if you really want to dive into this you can get your stool tested to learn more about your gut flora. One company that does this is Metametrix (disclaimer: I am not endorsing this particlar company, just read an article about them a few months ago and remember making another comment about it on AskMe).

They will send you a report of what sorts of gut flora you've got and what it might mean. Your doctor would probably also order tests like this if s/he thought it was worthwhile or if you asked.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:46 AM on December 10, 2012

After tracking my diet for a while, I discovered that I require at least 20 grams of fiber a day not to have adverse gut issues. So I'm throwing my hat in the ring for that solution, along with a caveat: if you suddenly increase your fiber, you may have a LOT more gas and cramping for a couple of days as you adjust to it (as I discovered the day I inadvertently ate about 45 grams!)

I'm also supporting the lactose-intolerance theory, as I am lactose intolerant and those are some of the foulest-smelling farts on earth. If you don't want to get the official checkup from a doctor, avoid dairy for a few days, then put a large lactose load on your stomach on one day (pizza and ice cream works), and check your symptoms over the next few hours. I advise doing that on a weekend when you're at home, not when you're out and about! I basically did that, then bought some of the lactase pills and did it again, and the improvement was immediate and obvious. (And the next time I went to the doctor, I was officially diagnosed with it.)

Also, if you drink soda or other carbonated beverages, the gas in those has to come out somewhere! If you cut back or quit, you may find that your gassiness subsides a bit.

You can also try one of the free diet-tracking services online for a couple of weeks like LoseIt! or Sparkpeople that catalogs fiber content, and keep track of your symptoms for the same duration, and see what you can figure out from there.
posted by telophase at 10:58 AM on December 10, 2012

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