Silent and deadly. Loud and proud. Short and discreet. Farts make themselves known in a variety of ways. And we all commit the act — around 15 times per day.
Don’t remember breaking wind that many times yesterday? That’s because we don’t solely do so during waking hours. Yup, sleep farting is totally a thing.
Perhaps you’ve woken yourself up in the night with a noisy release, or your partner has been known to stink up the room as they’re snoozing. Whatever the case, it’s no mystery that it happens most nights. Controlling it, though, can be a little more tricky.
There are four primary culprits that lead to farting. Our first thoughts often sway toward having eaten too many beans or sprouts — and, although food does play a role, it’s a bit more complicated.
“Wind is actually not caused by the foods we eat directly, but by the bacteria in our intestines,” explains Uta Boellinger, nutritional therapist-in-residence at Aiverley Wellness.
“Any undigested foods which cannot be absorbed by the body (such as fiber and certain sugars) move from the small to the large intestine, where they become ‘food’ for your gut bacteria. As the bacteria digest these, they create hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide.”
The way we consume food can also lead to wind.
“We tend to swallow air when we talk fast, eat fast, chew gum, drink from a straw or consume carbonated beverages,” states Dr. Michael Dann, gastroenterologist at Manhattan Gastroenterology.
As they say: what goes in, must come out.
Meanwhile, underlying physical health concerns, including Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes, are all linked to excess flatulence thanks to their impact on gut bacteria growth and absorption in the digestive system.
And, last but not least, there’s our old friend, stress. We know how well connected the gut and brain are, and the stomach is less able to digest food when it’s got itself tied up in knots.
A variety of foods come with a one-way ticket to Windy City territory — and the later you eat them, the worse their effects are likely to be.
“As your metabolism slows down at night, anything eaten too close to bedtime will likely stay undigested through the night and may start to ferment,” Boellinger reveals.
So what are the biggest dietary offenders?
While they’re “an excellent source of protein and minerals such as iron,” states Boellinger, “beans contain high amounts of raffinose, a complex sugar which our bodies cannot digest.”
Cruciferous veggies, such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, also have high raffinose content.
Thanks to their fructose and/or fiber content, some popular healthy snacks can ramp things up down below. (Looking at you, apples, pears, peaches, and mangoes.)
“Rice is the only grain that doesn’t cause gas,” Boellinger notes. By tucking into bread, wheat pasta, or oaty porridge — all of which contain raffinose — there’s a chance you’ll feel it later.
“These contain high amounts of fructose, which contributes to gas as it is broken down by the bacteria in your gut,” says Boellinger.
These offer a gassy double whammy, containing both fiber and fructose. Tiny but mighty.
Another fructose-packed ingredient, eating it raw is likely to encourage even more gas.
If you’re in fart central after diving into Ben & Jerry’s, “it is a sign you may be lacking the enzyme lactase, which helps us digest the sugar in dairy called lactose,” Boellinger explains. In other words, you may be lactose intolerant.
However good that batter tastes, foods with higher fat content are much harder to digest; meaning they fester in your stomach for longer. Eww.
“Carbonated drinks can increase the amount of air you swallow,” states Boellinger. Add to this their very high sugar content, and “they are best avoided altogether.”
These might feel more virtuous than refined sugars but can still create a stink; as animal studies suggest they may negatively impact gut bacteria.
Not only are these high in gas-inducing sugar alcohols, but the sucking motion often increases air intake — which has to be released from the body via belching or flatulence.
Cutting out some of the above is a good idea if you want to reduce your fart rate (apologies, sweet tooth), but many do contain a host of vitamins and nutrients that are hugely beneficial for our health. So, concentrate on portion control and taking steps to control their effects.
If you’re particularly farty during the evening and while you sleep, these little lifestyle hacks could be just what’s needed to help calm things down — with the added bonus that their benefits will likely be enjoyed throughout the day too.
1. Watch the clock
The later we eat, the more likely food will remain undigested; plus, research shows gas spends more time loitering in your digestive system when you’re lying down. While there’s no definitive time to stop snacking, Dann recommends we do so “within 3 hours of going to bed.”
2. Sleep on it
If you’re prone to laying on your back, get ready to roll. Sleeping on your left side is proven to encourage digestion, thanks in large part to gravity.
3. Prep food properly
Especially with beans, “excess gas… can be an indication they were not prepared correctly,” Boellinger reveals. “With dried beans, always ensure they’re soaked overnight, then boiled for at least 30 minutes.” The same goes for lentils, so give them a good bath.
4. Try a tummy chill pill
“Supplements such as probiotics, digestive enzymes, and activated charcoal can reduce symptoms [of gas],” notes Dann. Indeed, according to research from 2000, regularly taking probiotics helps reduce wind, especially in those with digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome.
5. Move it
Exercise is a great way to get food moving through the gut. So, opt for a walk around the block after a hearty meal rather than slumping in front of the TV.
6. A balancing act
Consider how and when you eat fart-inducing foods. Loading up on a bean burrito stuffed with onions and served with fries for dinner is a recipe for a gasaster. Instead, swap the fries for a salad and enjoy it at lunchtime.
7. Tell gum to stick it
Chewing rapidly and for a prolonged period of time on a piece of gum equates to a higher intake of air… and you know the drill by now.
8. Go little and often
“Consuming smaller, more frequent meals can decrease flatulence,” says Dann. This puts less pressure on your digestive system and helps things move along more quickly.
9. The big squeeze
Tight waistbands constrict your digestive system and prevent things from running smoothly. Do your tum and bum a favor by sticking to looser garments.
10. The smell test
If you’re particularly gassy after eating foods containing gluten or dairy, it may be a sign of a food intolerance or allergy. Ask your doctor about getting tested.
Also, if you have a medical condition that’s exacerbating your flatulence, a different approach might be needed. Speak with your doctor about management techniques.
In the majority of cases, flatulence is a totally normal bodily function and indicates your gut is doing its job. In fact, Boellinger states, “If you do not have any gas at all, you’re probably not eating enough fiber and not feeding your gut beneficial bacteria.”
However, it is important to be aware that excess farting can be a sign of something more serious.
“Additional symptoms of concern include unexplained weight loss, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, a change in bowel habits, persistent abdominal pain, difficulty sleeping due to excess flatulence, foul-smelling odor, and symptoms of an infection, to name a few,” reveals Dann.
Whether you or your partner are the one tooting, there’s really nothing to be ashamed of. Hopefully, armed with these strategies, the only thing getting steamy in the bedroom from now on will be your relationship.
Chantelle Pattemore is a writer and editor based in London, UK. She focuses on lifestyle, health, beauty, food, and fitness.