Gas and bloating can be embarrassing for you and uncomfortable for those around you. But it may also be a characteristic of good health.
The foods that often cause those gassy side effects are also nutrient dense and important for staving off disease and increasing immune system health. Roughage, or the indigestible parts of cabbage, kale, broccoli, and so many other foods, may make you fart, but they’re also good for your heart, and it turns out, your immune system as well. As good bacteria in your gut digest your food, they also create molecules that boost immunity.
“Eating foods that cause gas is the only way for the microbes in the gut to get nutrients,” says Purna Kashyap, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn on NPR’s The Salt. “If we didn’t feed them carbohydrates, it would be harder for them to live in our gut.”
These microbes, along with swallowing air when you chew, cause gas and bloating. Like fiber, they don’t digest. But at the same time, they promote the growth of good bacteria. Up to 18 farts a day is perfectly healthy. And while gas is usually odorless, it’s not such a bad thing when it smells. That means sulphur made its way in the mix, and sulphur is linked to a reduction in cancer.
“Yes, a more fiber-rich diet will produce more gas,” Kashyap adds. “But completely eliminating fiber from the diet should not be the first option. You don’t want to starve your microbes.”
But if gas is downright uncomfortable and embarrassing, take a gradual approach. If you go from 0 to 60 in a day, it’s no surprise that your system is fighting back. Increase your fiber intake about 5 grams per day until you’re at the required amount for your age group. And as you add in fiber, also make sure that you’re adding in water to push the fiber through. The combination of dehydration and roughage isn’t a pretty sight.
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Image: Dave Austria