If much to your own chagrin, you’ve ever accidentally let one (OK, several) rip in public, you’re not alone. Battling a discretionary war on burps and farts can be trying—and that’s true for all of us. Despite our avid denials, each of us passes upwards of about 1-3 pints of gas, 14 times a day on average.
Many farts are actually odorless and have nothing to do with digestion. Stink factor notwithstanding, farting, along with burping, carries with it cringe-inducing social stigma. Nobody wants to cut one loose at an inopportune time, such as in a yoga class or during sex. But the frustrating thing about having gas is that it can feel random, hard to control, and difficult to pin on anything in particular.
In fact, there are several surprising things that cause gas that you do have some control over. About half of all burps and farts are caused by aerophagia, otherwise known as swallowing air. Bloat is a different beast altogether: “Although many people who are bloated feel like they have gas, they don’t technically have extra gas—they just have the sensation of bloatedness,” says Patricia Raymond, MD, FACG, assistant professor of clinical internal medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School, practitioner at Gastrointestinal Consultants, LTD, in Norfolk, VA, and a member of the American College of Gastroenterology’s public relations committee.
“Most of us know when we poorly absorb something we eat, it travels down to the colon, where the bacteria spew out smelly gas in small volume,” says Raymond. “This gas smells bad, like rotting eggs—think of your high school days’ silent but deadly moniker.” But non-smelly, voluminous gas, expressed as noisy farts or big burps, means too much air is the culprit. “The GI tract was not made to absorb gas,” says Raymond. “If you are putting it down your stomach it will either come back up or go back out further down.”
Here are 6 unexpected things that may be causing you to pass gas—and how to find relief.
Many medications cause dry mouth, which can intensify the amount of air you consume, says Raymond. Investigate whether the side effects of your medications are linked to dry mouth. If the gas bothers you, it may be worth finding out if you can switch up your prescription to one with less side effects.
“Chewing gum makes you swallow more air than normal, and can lead to burps or farts,” says Raymond. While gum may provide a quick pick-me-up if you’re feeling peckish or stressed, you probably don’t want to spend your day tooting along. Plus, chewing sweetened gum does your teeth no favors, and sugarless gum contains controversial artificial sweeteners. (Here are 6 gross side effects of chewing gum.)
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Drinking through a straw
Drinking through a straw is like blowing up a balloon in reverse. As you suck your beverage through the straw, you’re inhaling air into your belly, creating the perfect storm for gassy conditions. Instead of straws, which can’t be recycled and are destined for the landfill, hydrate the old-fashioned way and drink directly from the glass.
Smoking is very similar to sucking through a straw: When you inhale, you swallow air—and gas. And don’t be lulled into thinking electronic cigarettes are any different from conventional cigarettes in terms of making you gassy. Either way, smoking doesn’t do you any favors: A growing body of evidence, including a recent study published in JAMA Cardiology, suggests electronic cigarettes are also linked with increased cardiovascular risk.
MORE: 6 Daily Habits That Are As Bad For You As Smoking
Drinking from a bottle
“Something about how your mouth wraps around the bottle mouth versus how your mouth wraps around a cup or a glass makes people burp,” says Raymond. If you want to minimize flatus (gas), ditch the bottle—and the burps.
Eating too fast
If you’re wolfing down your food, chances are you’re downing a lot of air as well. Speed eating causes several problems, from weight gain to gastric reflux. Aim to eat without distraction (a recent study shows eating while driving is almost as dangerous as texting) and chew each bite 20-40 times. If you pay attention to your food and internal cues of fullness, expect a range of health benefits, including the potential for weight loss, according to a study published in Eating Behaviors.
This article originally appeared on Prevention.com.
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