How to Prevent Gas and Bloating: 4-Step Action Plan

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Remember those days when you could eat anything and it didn’t matter? For most of us, who are middle-aged, or for women fast approaching menopause, those days are gone.

Today, this kind of eating is likely to send a friendly “reminder” wafting into the air a few hours later, along with abdominal pain.

Occasional flatulence, gas, bloating, and indigestion can be uncomfortable, for you and the others in the room. If it happens often enough, it could mean that there’s an issue with your digestive system that you need to address.

This article will look at various causes of gas and bloating, and a 4 steps for how to prevent gas and bloating. 

Aging Means More Bloating, Flatulence and Gas

As we get older, our bodies become less efficient at digestion. The poor digestion can lead to an increase in bloating, gas and flatulence.

For example, the slow down of a female’s gastrointestinal tract’s processes as she ages can sometimes lead to menopausal indigestion. Learn more about Causes of Indigestion.

There are are a number of other reasons for becoming gassy and bloated, such as eating certain foods, improperly combining foods, or eating/gulping air while you’re eating, but the vast majority of gas is produced by the bacteria in your gut.

The whole story of what’s going on is a combination of the types of foods you eat, loss of digestive efficiency, and the bacteria in your gut.

Even though it feels like these changes happen quickly, in most people they occur slowly over time as their body ages.

Lactose Intolerance Leads to More Gas and Flatulence

Most people have heard of lactose intolerance, but not everyone might know what it is exactly.

Lactose is the sugar found in milk. People with a lactose intolerance do not have the ability to digest the lactose sugar. 

All babies have the enzyme (lactase) necessary to digest milk sugar, so lactose intolerance will develop later in life. Humans can digest lactose when young, but some will lose the ability to digest lactose as they age.

For adults who don’t have the lactase enzyme, the lactose sugar from milk and dairy products, like cheese and ice cream, will pass through the stomach and small intestine undigested.The lack of digestion leads to the gas and other digestive issues.

How many people who have lactose intolerance will vary by ethnicity. In general, about half the population of the United States is considered lactose intolerant.

Lactose intolerance is highest among Asians (greater than 95%) and Blacks (around 80%). On the other end of the spectrum are Scandinavians with as little as 2% are lactose intolerant.

For suggestions on lactose substitutes, review our article on Food to Relieve Gas and Bloating.

Bacteria in Your Gut

Unprocessed sugars and carbohydrates are treats for the bacteria that live inside your digestive tract.

Your gut is full of bacteria microbes, both good and bad. There are far more microbes living inside our bodies than there are human cells.

There are billions of both good and bad bacteria residing in your gut. A balanced gut has a good balance of both types of harmful and helpful bacteria, so one doesn’t overpower the other.

For the peri-menopausal and menopausal woman, good bacteria are essential to staying healthy. They help to metabolize and recycle hormones, such as estrogen, phytoestrogens, and thyroid hormones. That helps to minimize menopausal symptoms and achieve a hormonal balance. 

If undigested lactose sugar reaches the body’s intestines, bacteria will eat the sugars and thrive. The more undigested sugar that the gut bacteria has to eat, the more that bacteria will grow and multiply. 

When bacteria multiplies rapidly and ferments these sugars, gas is produced. Undigested lactose sugar equals more gas and bloating.

Bacteria can also release toxic substances when growing and multiplying, which may harm the intestinal wall. It may cause diarrhea.

You’ve likely figured out by now that not just lactose (milk sugar), but other sugars can cause similar symptoms. Be careful not to eat too much sugar that doesn’t digest in your body, because that will increase gas production and toxins in you. 

Artificial sweeteners like sugar-free chewing gum can also lead to gas and bloating. So be careful with too much of the diet carbonated beverage.

The smell is another story. Some types of bacteria don’t smell when they’re producing gases. As for smells, the main culprits are the bacteria that produce gas containing sulfur and methane. It may be due to an overpopulation of harmful bacteria that produces odors, but there isn’t enough research yet for us to know exactly why.

Don’t assume that just because there are some bad bacteria in your gut, they’re causing disease. They’re vital to your health. They perform many functions, such as breaking down complex carbohydrates (fiber), and providing our bodies with vitamins and other nutrients. It’s just bad when you start overfeeding the bacteria with sugars and they produce excess gas.

Relocated Bacteria Decreases Digestion

Digestive ability directly relates to the bacteria in your gut. As we get older, our digestive ability declines.

As we get older, most of the sugar from foods passes through our bodies without being fully metabolized by the body. Gas-forming bacteria then have plenty of fuel for their activities.

Poor digestion, poor food choices, and certain medications may affect where the bacteria in the digestive tract are located. It may not seem like a big deal now, but where bacteria are found in your digestive tract can have lasting effects on your overall health and the amount of room-cleaning gas that leaves your body.

According to medical textbooks, most of the bacteria in your gut are located in your large intestine (colon). However, in unhealthy people, this may not be true.

The colon runs from just below your belly button down through the lower part of your body until it reaches your anus at the bottom of your pelvis. The colon is the last 4-6 feet of your intestines. Between the colon and the stomach there are approximately 24 feet of small intestine. In most healthy adults, there aren’t supposed to be any bacteria in their small intestine, but in some people, there are.

Small bowel bacterial overgrowth (SBBO) occurs when there is an excessive number of microorganisms present in the small intestine. Bacteria aren’t stupid; they’re just going to go wherever there’s food available.

A high sugar intake, stress, poor digestion, and antibiotic usage can cause bad bacteria to move from the large intestines into the small intestines.

Most nutrient and vitamin absorption occurs high in the gut, just beyond the stomach. Having bacteria high in your gut means that they’re competing for your nutrients.

With higher amounts of bacteria irritating the gut lining, then there’s the possibility of malabsorption syndromes or IBS pain (irritable bowel syndrome) to occur.

What About Foods That Lead To Bloating, Gas, and Flatulence?

Some foods cause gas and bloating but they’re not necessarily bad for you. Beans and cabbage are well-known for that. 

These foods typically contain a specific fiber that’s difficult to digest for us, but the fiber is perfect food for bacteria. Other high-sugar content foods will lead to bloating and flatulence.

Traditional Gas-producing Foods:

  • Vegetables: Peas, cabbage, onions, broccoli, radishes, and cauliflower
  • Fruits: Apples, prunes, bananas, and dried fruit
  • Fiber: Oatmeal and other grains
  • Sugar: Any large amount of sugar, especially those contained in soda

One of the best things you can do is to have a food diary where you write about the intake of foods and any gas pains, abdominal bloating, bowel movements, and any other digestive conditions you experience. 

That will help you figure out the underlying condition and the foods that will trigger symptoms of gas and bloating.

Read the full article on Foods That Cause Gas.

4-Step Action Plan to Prevent Gas and Bloating.

You may think that avoiding foods that cause gas is a good plan to prevent gas and bloating. But these foods are often some of the best foods to eat for their nutritional value. 

Broccoli is in over 200 studies for its ability to help prevent cancers, act as an antioxidant, and numerous other health benefits. Similarly, cabbage, onions, oats, and carrots contain lots of vitamins and minerals that your body requires.

To prevent bloat and gas from occurring, taking an integrative approach is the most effective method. Follow these 4 steps:

Step 1 –  Drop the Fork and Stop the Soda

To begin with, know that digestion starts in the mouth. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that help break down foods into nutrients for absorption by the body, so the more saliva on food, the better.

One of the easiest tricks is to chew more on your food, which you can do by setting the fork down on your plate until you are done chewing.

Most people pick up their next bite after putting food in their mouths. This creates an urgent need for them to eat faster so they don’t miss any bites. So it’s best to put your fork down, eat the rest of the bite in your mouth, and then pick up the fork again before continuing eating.

If you haven’t heard the news about how terrible soda is for you yet, then listen up! Stop drinking soda now. According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, soda is THE largest source of sugar and calories in the United States.

Soda causes many health problems for people trying to stay fit and healthy. It even overwhelms some people’s digestion systems. Soda may feed gas producing bacteria. Other simple sugars should be eaten in moderation or not at all, if you can.

Step 2 – Take Digestive Enzymes With Meals

Digestive enzymes will help your body digest even the smallest amounts of sugar from the food that you eat. 

When taken with meals, digestive enzymes can help support your digestion by relieving gas, bloating, and stomach cramps.

Enzymes help break down foods into smaller pieces so they can be absorbed by your body faster. That leaves less food for bad bacteria to eat and grow in your digestive tract.

Step 3 – Complete a Quick Total Body Cleanse

Periodically undergoing a digestive cleanse may be beneficial for some people.

Look for products that offer valuable nutrients such as:

  • Aloe Leaf 
  • Probiotics 
  • Milk Thistle 
  • Cascara Sagrada 
  • Ginger Root 
  • Choline

Those nutrients help to balance out the good and bad bacteria inside your digestive tract so they’ll be pushed back down to the colon again, where it belongs.

A simple cleanse will do wonders to reduce bloating and flatulence. It will help return the colon and small intestine to a healthier state. That will help prevent it from taking days for food to pass through your body. A shorter transit time through the body means less time for bacteria to produce gas.

Step 4 – Make Anti-Bloat Nutrients Part of Your Regimen

Finally, you should take care of yourself by giving your stomach and whole body a helping hand by taking a daily dose of vitamins every day. There is nothing better at improving digestive and overall health than supporting your digestive system on a daily basis.

People who take supplements often report feeling better physically and mentally than when they don’t. Adding probiotics can help reduce gas and bloating.

Digestive Relief Is Easy

Being the center of attention is no fun if it’s people’s noses that are attracting them to you. 

The good news about gas, bloats, and flatulence is they’re easily managed by making them less likely to happen.

You don’t need to be an expert nutritionist to get results from eating well. People who follow a healthy digestive program will be amazed at how great they feel, especially with the lack of gas, bloating, and flatulence. 

Check out these other articles that will help your digestive system and overall gut health:

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.

  • Chelsea Cleary, RDN

    Chelsea is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) specializing in holistic treatment for chronic digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), SIBO, and Crohn’s disease. She educates patients on how they can heal themselves from their conditions by modifying lifestyle and dietary habits.