man with a clothespin on his nose

Q. For the past few years I have had the most disgusting problem with gas. I work in an office and this problem is extremely embarrassing. I don’t even go to church any more because I never know when it will happen.

I’ve tried to remember what I ate the day before, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve also tried all the gas pills on the market and none of them work. Do you have anything to suggest?

A. Instead of trying to remember what you have eaten, write it down. Then count and record your “flatus events” too. This should help you determine if you have more trouble with pretzels and bagels or apples, raisins and radishes. Sugarless sweeteners like sorbitol may also be to blame.

Some people react to milk and other dairy products with gas and diarrhea. That’s because they lack the enzyme lactase which is needed to digest milk sugar (lactose). By the way, ask your pharmacist whether any of the pills you take (prescription or over-the-counter remedies) contain lactose. That can be an unexpected source of the problem. Even if there is no lactose as a filler, some medications can cause flatulence. While you are at it, ask the pharmacist whether your medicine might be directly responsible for the gas.

Many people cannot tolerate gluten, found in wheat, rye and barley. We are learning that celiac disease or inability to handle gluten is a lot more common than most people ever imagined. The latest studies suggest that one person out of 100 may be vulnerable to this condition.

A proper diagnosis can help determine the cause of your gas. If the problem is milk, Lactaid or another lactase product can be helpful. Beano contains an enzyme that breaks down complex sugars found in beans, broccoli and other vegetables. If gluten is the culprit, you will have to avoid all gluten-containing foods. You may also want to add probiotics to your diet. These beneficial bacteria can sometimes restore balance to the digestive tract and diminish the gas attacks.

We are sending you our Guide to Digestive Disorders with more information about such products and other strategies for fighting flatulence. Anyone who would like a copy, can download it from our library of Guides.

Fennel seed tea is a traditional remedy for gas. Crush a teaspoon of fennel seeds, add a cup of boiling water, steep for five minutes and sip.

If all else fails, you may want to take a special cushion to work that will solve the odor problem for those around you. Here is what one reader asked:

Q. I have been searching high and low for a pillow that is supposed to deodorize gas. You sit on it and something inside the cushion traps offensive odors. If you’ve written about this product, please give me the particulars.

A. Activated charcoal has long been used to trap noxious gasses and chemicals. It is used in gas masks and has been used orally to treat accidental poisoning. Activated charcoal capsules are also marketed to alleviate flatulence.

We are aware of at least two seat cushions that fit the description you have given. Both contain activated charcoal to trap odors. One is called Flat-D. The other is called GasBGon or GasMedic.

For some additional tips on how to overcome gas, we suggest that you may find our video, “How to Prevent Flatulence” of some value.

We hope one of these tips is useful.

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  1. JSW

    The question was asked in an old post with comments back from 2012 so not sure if anyone will even see my comment.
    My gas problem must be set off from different foods; after all, if a person only drank water, they’d likely have little gas before they succumbed to death by starvation. But the types of foods that cause my gas seem to be a VERY long list since eliminating certain foods (for a decent trial period and separately) has done nothing, unfortunately, to change my ‘gas status’. I eat little to no prepared foods, no pop or junk foods since I prefer my own cooking. Sugarless substitutes don’t fit the picture but then neither does lots of sugar as I use very little. Changing to a gluten-free diet (I make GREAT gluten-free bread) made no difference.
    Yes, certain foods will make my gas worse. Onions are a major culprit even in very small amounts. Garlic, foods from the brassica family (cabbages, brocolli, Brussel’s sprouts, etc) contribute too. But so does fresh raw fruit! I can eat a few strawberries or cherries and get terrible gas. A single banana sets me off too. Blueberries, strangely, don’t at all. If I was to avoid all the foods that cause gas with me, I’d have a quite a limited, and probably not very nutritious, diet.
    I’ve tried Lactaid, Beano, digestive enzymes, beneficial bacteria (in yogurt and in capsule form) and yes, ginger, and none of them have made a difference. In fact, the mixed acidophilus capsules made things worse! What I’ve found is that eating to under-satisfication – where I’m still a little hungry and would like more – is the best. It’s like my digestive system can properly handle larger amounts in what would be normal amounts for most people. It seems that I have a very healthy crop of gut bacteria. When I was checked to see if my blood level of various vitamins and minerals were normal, some were found to be above average and none below. I also never have had heartburn, not even during pregnancy when some find it occurs.
    I was told that by a friend and my mother that I’ve always been rather gassy. It’s worse now that I’m older too. Thankfully, I’m pretty good at holding my gas back in public and it’s never caused me pain. So I’ve simply learned to live with it and adjust my life. If I’m going to be continually in public for a number of days, I cut back on amount eaten and make sure I don’t eat any of the worse offenders. And lastly, it’s nice my cat doesn’t care if I have gas at home and my son and I can avoid each other if it’s particularly troublesome.

  2. rev

    When I started drinking alternative milk instead of dairy, I had a similar problem. Pinpointed it to carageenan. Some soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk have it, and some do not. It makes a big difference to me.

  3. debbie

    I am having a problem with trapped gas. last night i was in pain for 12 hours, felt like labor pains. I take gas x but it did not help. I am still in pain today just not as severe. HELP! I cant stand this much longer.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: There aren’t many treatments for trapped gas, which can be excruciating. One possible way to help it move along out is to spend several minutes in an undignified pose in private. Get down on all fours, then put your head low, almost to the floor, and your buttocks higher. An expert told us about this posture several years ago. Gas rises. Good luck!

  4. Eleanor K.

    I had the same problem until I stopped all dairy products. Lactaid and other products made no difference. You were the one who suggested it was the protein in dairy products, which it proved to be – yogurt and cheese with the most protein were the worst. Surprisingly, I have good bones.

  5. KBR

    I too have an excessive gas problem. However, a registered nurse friend suggested something to me that has changed my life. I now take two Beano tablets every morning along with my other medicines, and before eating or drinking anything.
    It has cut down DRASTICALLY on the amount of gas I have. If you eat something during the day that may cause excessive gas, you may want to take an additional Beano, or chew some Gas-X after that meal. It has been a life-saver for me!

  6. diane

    i had a tummy problem a few years back…i could never tell WHEN the gas would hit and i could not seem to pin it on any particular food. i started taking a probiotic and within 2-3 weeks i was cleared up for good. i have a theory that once i started having this problem, my innards got more and more irritated. the probiotic seemed to have help clear me up and have hardly had a problem since then.

  7. SueB

    I, too, have a problem and discovered that it is soy. I noticed that when I went to a certain salad bar and used their salad dressing, I was miserable for the rest of the day. Soy is in many products now and I have to be very careful.

  8. JunieM

    I found that magnesium tablets give me gas: I need the mineral, so I bear with the gas. However, the magnesium does not cause odors, thank goodness!

  9. abigail

    Some popular vegetables like broccoli and others in the brassica family such as cabbage and brussels sprouts cause gas that is powerfully sulphuric.
    Many breads, especially the gluten free breads, contain soy flour. Soy causes gas for many of us. Ice creams have additives that cause gas. And beware of the popular natural sugar substitutes. All are derived from plants you may be sensitive to. Stevia is from the daisy/aster family and agave from, I believe,the rhubarb family.
    Sensitivity to gluten foods does not mean you have celiac disease. We can test ourselves for gluten sensitivities by going gluten free for a few weeks. the results can be astonishing – increased energy, freedom from explosive gas and/or diarrhea attacks.
    As we age tour intestinal tracts/colons can have indentations in them that attract pieces of nuts and seeds which decay there and cause problems.

  10. r.s.

    Enteric coated peppermint oil capsules work great for me. One capsule about 1/2 hour before eating solves the problem.

  11. Angela

    At one point I was seriously addicted to chewing gum and found that the Xylitol in such large concentrated quantities was giving me gas. I have also found that un-fermented soy products cause the same problem.

  12. Ark

    Good info as always ….thanks.
    Another home remedy is to take few pieces of fresh ginger about 10 minutes before a meal, it helps a lot with reduction in gas.

  13. DS

    I think taking digestive enzymes and a good probiotic would help your digestion and general lower GI health.

  14. lsg

    I just turned 85 & emit flatulence after eating pm meals. is this something
    I will have to live with due to my age – do others in this age range also have this? HELP

  15. JS

    Since both gluten problems and Beano are mentioned in the article, I think it important to note that Beano is NOT gluten-free. I have celiac disease and cannot use Beano. I buy a house brand product at a dollar store that is gluten-free.

  16. sb

    Activa, no kidding it helps.

  17. spayneuteryourpets

    Too many carbs give me problems

  18. AM

    I had the exact problem and embarrassment you mention Since going gluten free about 6 years ago the problem is completely gone. It takes research and diligence but is oh so worth it. Good luck.

  19. KM

    Another possibility that wasn’t mentioned that may be causing the problematic gas is the inability to digest the fats that this person is consuming. They may also be eating foods made with rancid oils… this will cause some of the worst possible smelling gas. In this case lipase would help with the issue but more importantly this person should become better educated about healthy fats and ensure that they are not eating any of the oils that easily become toxic when exposed to heat. Soy, safflower and sunflower come immediately to mind and these oils are heavily used in our fast food world.
    See the Weston A Price or Price Pottenger Foundations for an education on healthy fats.
    In the interest of health and vitality,
    K McFarland, NTP, CHFS, CGP
    Essentials for Enduring Health, LLC

  20. KAREN

    I found when I was following the Atkins diet I never had gas. Before that I had a serious case of the “walking toots”. Whenever I got up from my desk at work, it just happened. It was very embarrassing. I discovered that if you don’t eat sugar, the food in your stomach does not ferment and cause the gas. Makes sense. The more sugary the food, the more fermentation, and the more gas. Hope that helped.

  21. mm

    I had a similar problem – it even interfered with my sleep at night. I had been snacking during the day on peanuts. After I stopped eating peanuts and peanut butter, the excessive gas was no longer a problem.

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