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Unfortunately, there is no simple solution - what works for one person may not work for another. However, some people have found the following ideas helpful:
Think about the way you eat
Create a relaxed environment when eating, as nervous tension at meal times can affect digestion.
Eat small, regular meals (perhaps 5-6 a day), as an empty bowel produces more wind and rumbles.
Some people find that eating a large meal late at night makes them feel uncomfortable. If you find this is the case for you, try to leave a longer time between eating and going to bed, to see if this helps.
Eat slowly with your mouth closed to avoid gulping down air with your food, and make sure you chew each mouthful thoroughly.
Avoid foods that may affect you
Some foods, such as baked beans, onions, cauliflower, pulses, and whole grains are well known to be ‘gassy’. Although what produces a lot of wind for one person may not for another. You could also try avoiding:
High fat foods and eggs – these can produce bad smelling gas.
Refined and sugary foods, especially those which contain sorbitol – an artificial sweetener.
Hot spicy food, particularly if you are not used to it.
Food with a high content of bran fiber (for example, brown bread and some cereals).
Raw vegetables, particularly if you have Crohn’s Disease and strictures (narrowing of the bowel). Cooking vegetables thoroughly helps to break down the fibers, which may aid digestion, and may improve bloating and wind symptoms.
Some carbohydrate foods which are cooked and then cooled become ‘resistant starch’ which may cause bloating and wind, when eaten. Such foods include potato or pasta, and cooked potato products that are eaten after reheating, such as potato waffles and oven chips.
You may know that you have an intolerance or are sensitive to certain foods or ingredients. If you are having a problem identifying which foods are causing bloating and wind, it can be helpful to keep a food diary for a week or two. Note down everything you eat and drink and how it makes you feel.
It may be worth experimenting by cutting out certain foods for a short period (4-6 weeks) to see this if this helps. However, bear in mind that cutting out a number of foods can mean missing out on valuable nutrients. It is important, if you can, to maintain a good balanced diet. Talk to our IBD team to see if they can refer you to a dietitian, particularly if you want to try a longer term or more extensive exclusion diet.
Consulting your doctor is also a good idea if you suspect you may be lactose intolerant. There are several types and levels of intolerance, and correct diagnosis is essential to identify the right solution.
Some people with IBS have found that eating a low FODMAP diet helps reduce bloating and wind. FODMAP is an abbreviation for a group of food molecules known as fermentable carbohydrates which are found in foods such as fruit, wheat and dairy products. These molecules are difficult to digest properly, so the undigested molecules pass into the colon where they act as a food source for bacteria. As the bacteria digest the FODMAPs they can cause symptoms such as bloating and wind. Cutting down food containing FODMAPs is thought to relieve these symptoms, and many people with IBS have found low FODMAP diets especially useful. Research has suggested that people with inactive IBD may also have IBS or IBS-like symptoms and that a low FODMAP diet may be beneficial for some of these people. However, the FODMAP diet is quite restrictive and difficult to follow, so if you want to try it, you should get the help of a dietitian to ensure you do not miss out on important nutrients.
For more information on how food affects IBD and suggestions for healthy eating with UC and Crohn’s, see our page Food and IBD.
Drink plenty of water, ideally 2 liters per day for a woman, and 2.5 liters per day for a man, dependent on age, climate, physical activity and individual condition. It is worth checking with your IBD team how much water they suggest you should drink.
Avoid caffeine in coffee, tea and cola. You could try decaffeinated tea, peppermint tea, green tea, or herbal and fruit teas instead.
Avoid fizzy carbonated drinks because these contain gas.
Alcoholic drinks can also increase the amount of gas produced.
Avoid drinking from a straw as this can make you swallow air.
Try to avoid stress, which can make you gulp air. When you are tense, practice slow breathing.
Avoid sitting for long periods. If sitting at work, take regular breaks (at least every hour) to stretch the legs and abdomen.
Try to take regular exercise to help improve intestinal transit, for example, it may help to go for a short walk after eating in order to move digested food and gas around.
Gently, but firmly, massage the abdomen from right to left to release trapped wind.
Practice anal sphincter exercises to help with an uncontrollable passing of wind.
Wear clothes that are not too tight around your waist, as these can increase the pressure on your abdomen and make it harder for wind to pass along normally.
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