Digestive Health

This Is What Your Excessive or Foul-Smelling Gas Could Mean

Originally published January 31, 2018

Last updated August 15, 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

If there is one subject few people discuss, passing gas just might be it. Don’t let your embarrassment keep you from staying healthy.

Intestinal gas is completely normal, and it goes unnoticed until it is passed through your mouth as a burp or your rectum as flatulence. The problem is when passing gas becomes excessive or overly foul-smelling. How can you tell if gas is just an inconvenience or a sign that something more serious is happening?

Does your gas occur after eating?

There are many common foods that may produce gas. These include beans, sodas and other carbonated drinks, sugar substitutes such as sorbitol and other artificial sweeteners, milk and dairy products, cabbage, bran, cauliflower and broccoli. For some people, having gas after eating these foods is perfectly normal. On the other hand, if your gas is particularly bad after eating foods such as these, you may have irritable bowel syndrome.

Do you bloat and pass gas after eating foods with wheat, barley or rye?

It could signal a more serious condition called celiac disease, an immune reaction that, over time, damages the lining of your small intestine and keeps nutrients from being absorbed into the body.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 2.5 million Americans go undiagnosed and may be at risk for long-term health complications, such as the development of other conditions, including type I diabetes, dermatitis herpetiformis (itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, migraines and intestinal cancers.

Is your gas worse after eating foods with dairy products?

People with lactose intolerance may experience diarrhea, gas, abdominal cramping, bloating and nausea from 30 minutes to several hours after eating food containing lactose. Most symptoms of lactose intolerance can be managed by limiting or avoiding the consumption of products with lactose. Tablets or drops that help manage symptoms are also available, but they may not be recommended for all patients, including small children and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Your doctor can help you determine which dietary changes and treatment options may be best for you.

Have you had stomach surgery?

If you have had bariatric surgery, it could be that your gas is a symptom of a malfunction in the way your stomach is emptying waste into the small intestine. This condition is called dumping syndrome. It occurs when waste is rapidly flushed from the stomach into the duodenum — either too early or too late — after eating. Nausea, excessive gas, severe cramping, sweating, dizziness, diarrhea, bloating and an irregular heartbeat are some of the symptoms of dumping syndrome.

For any of these concerns, it’s important that you visit your doctor to discuss your symptoms and possible treatments. Waiting might only make your condition worse.


Heidi Tyline King
Heidi Tyline King is a former magazine editor who has written for numerous national publications.