9 foods that cause flatulence – and how to avoid it

Farting more than you’d like? A gut specialist dietitian reveals the foods that cause gas and what you can do about it.

Farting, passing gas, wind, flatulence or whatever you want to call it (trumping, if you grew up in my family) is something many of us feel embarrassed by. But, in actual fact, most people fart around five to 15 times a day (although the amount can vary), and this is completely normal.

What is “normal” is different for each person and most gas is odourless. However, if you notice a change, you fart a lot or your gas is smelly, this is when it can become embarrassing and uncomfortable. It could be related to a gut condition, which can become more common with age 

Farting is the process of passing gas from the digestive system out of the anus – and the main cause of gas in the bowel is food. Some foods – mainly fibre and some starches and sugars – aren’t digested in the small intestine. These then pass into the large intestine, where naturally present bacteria break them down, producing gases in the process that are then released through the rectum.

It’s important to note that many gas-producing foods are still good for your gut health and different foods can cause gas for different people. Fibre is especially beneficial for your gut. But if farting is a problem for you, being aware of foods that cause flatulence and the alterations you can make, without compromising your gut health, can help. 

A woman suffering from flatulence holding her stomachCredit: Shutterstock / Kmpzzz

Excessive or smelly farting can be a sign of a health condition, such as IBS. If youre struggling with flatulence, consult your GP or a dietitian before making significant changes to your diet. 

Which foods cause flatulence?

Despite the connection between intestinal gas and bloating not yet being fully understood, the foods that cause bloating and foods that cause flatulence are closely linked. As well as taking time over meals and chewing your food thoroughly to reduce swallowed air, some of which can pass through to the intestines, gut specialist dietitian Dr Bridgette Wilson says using a food diary can be useful to identify personal triggers. Be aware that “it can take roughly seven hours from when you’ve eaten food to when it might start to produce gas”, she adds.  

Professor of gastroenterology at Imperial College London Julian Walters says: “All foods containing FODMAPs cause flatulence.” This happens for everyone. However, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can have issues with the speed at which contents move through the intestines and/or be sensitive to these processes, resulting in symptoms such as pain, excessive flatulence, bloating, distension and diarrhoea (IBS-D), constipation (IBS-C) or mixed bowel habits (IBS-M). 

Many different FODMAPs are found in a wide range of foods. Here are some common culprits of flatulence, and other gut healthy foods you can try. 


What are FODMAPs and how do they cause flatulence?

Once FODMAPs have been eaten, they move slowly through the small intestine, attracting water. They then reach the large intestine, where gut bacteria use the FODMAPs as a source of fuel to survive. The bacteria rapidly ferment FODMAPs and, as a result, produce gas. FODMAP stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. 

1. Beans and other pulses

We’ve all heard the saying: “Beans, beans good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you fart.” There could be some truth in that. Beans, as well as chickpeas and lentils, are all examples of pulses, which are gas-producing foods.

Wilson says this is because they contain chains of plant sugars called galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) – a type of oligosaccharide (FODMAP). “We don’t have the enzymes to break down these chains,” she adds. This is what causes the flatulence.  

Despite this, pulses are good for us and there are many health benefits of beans, in particular, from reducing our risk of dementia to actually promoting good gut health. Therefore, we wouldn’t want to completely remove them from our diets.  

If you do find legumes and pulses to be particularly troublesome, you can try soaking beans before cooking them, or reducing portion sizes and adding low-FODMAP protein options instead.

Alternatively, Wilson says you can take a digestion supplement containing the enzyme alpha galactosidase, which helps to ease flatulence specifically related to pulses. 

Tip for reducing flatulence: Walters suggests substituting chickpeas or beans for chicken in a meal like a curry as a way to reduce your intake. You could also try this tasty fish curry recipe instead.  

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2. Fruits

Walter says some fruits can also cause flatulence because they contain the FODMAPs sorbitol and excess fructose. Apples, pears and cherries contain both, while apples, pears, mangoes, cherries, figs, pears, watermelon and dried fruit are high in excess fructose. Fruits rich in sorbitol include apples, blackberries, peaches and plums.  

As we know, fruits are excellent sources of nutrients needed for important bodily functions, especially as we age, so it’s vital that we are still including them as part of our five-a-day.

To reduce uncomfortable symptoms, you could, again, try reducing portion sizes to make them a low-FODMAP serving. For example, Monash University confirmed 20-25g of Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples is a low-FODMAP portion. Depending on how they affect you, you might not need to do this.

Alternatives: Low-FODMAP fruits such as kiwis, oranges, pineapples and cantaloupe melons. 

3. Vegetables

Another “main gas-producer in our diet are fructans,” says Wilson. You won’t be surprised to learn that this is a type of oligosaccharide (FODMAP) and the main FODMAP found in many vegetables along with mannitol (a polyol). Vegetables particularly high in fructans include globe and Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, leeks, onion and spring onion. Meanwhile, mushrooms, cauliflower, mangetout and sugar snap peas are particularly high in mannitol. 


We should avoid removing vegetables from our diet where possible if we are to achieve our five-a-day. Plus, eating a range of plant foods increases our gut bacteria diversity, which supports our gut health. This is even more important as we age because our gut bacteria diversity decreases. 

Alternatives: If you are particularly sensitive to the vegetables mentioned, you could opt for low-FODMAP vegetables such as aubergine, green beans, pak choi, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, lettuces, potatoes or courgettes.

You could even try eating just the green parts of spring onions, which are lower in FODMAPs. 

4. Protein (in excessive quantities)

You might be surprised to hear that “excess protein consumption can lead to more foul-smelling gas”, says Wilson.

“It can also cause constipation, which can lead to trapped gas, as it takes longer for contents to pass through the bowel and the gas can’t escape.

Walters agrees and says that eggs are a common source of this foul-smelling gas. 

Tip for reducing flatulence: The key here is getting the balance of protein right for you. It’s important that we include this food group as part of a balanced diet, and you might need more as you get older to protect against declining muscle mass. Walters has some advice for helping to reduce smelly gas. “If you usually have a three-egg omelette, for example, try reducing this by having a two- or one-egg omelette instead.” 

Read our article on ‘What is protein and are you getting enough?’ to find out how much you should be having.

5. Artificial sweeteners

While the jury is still out on whether artificial sweeteners can be harmful for our gut health, it’s clear that they can contribute to uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating and excess flatulence. Chewing gum is a particularly problematic food. 

Wilson says: “Most chewing gums are sugar-free and instead they contain the artificial sweeteners sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol [polyols, which are a FODMAP].”

Like other FODMAPs, we don’t absorb these artificial sweeteners well and this can lead to the gas production. “Eating too much sugar-free chewing gum can have a laxative effect,” adds Wilson. 

Swap for: It’s best to reduce or cut out the habit of chewing gum if possible as it is not needed in our diets. To help with this, you could eat a sprig of parsley. This herb even reduces bloating and can help to freshen your breath just as well. 

6. Dairy

A more commonly talked about FODMAP is lactose (a disaccharide), which is the main FODMAP found in dairy. Dairy foods that are high in lactose include soft cheeses, milk and yogurt.

Wilson says: “Some people don’t produce enough of the lactase enzyme within their gut,” which is needed to digest lactose. This means they are lactose intolerant.  

Walters says: “Lactose intolerance is particularly common in people who descend from Afro-Caribbean, Asian or East Asian backgrounds.” Eating lactose for those who are intolerant to it can result in farting as well as stomach pain, bloating and nausea, to name a few symptoms.  

Also, similarly to beans and pulses, you can take a lactase enzyme supplement to help combat this, says Wilson. “They’re undisputedly proven to help with symptoms.” 

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Tip for reducing flatulence: If you are able to digest small amounts of lactose, there are many dairy products that are naturally low in lactose, such as butter and hard cheeses as well as camembert and feta cheese.

Dairy is a great source of calcium, which is important for bone strength, especially as we age and after the menopause, when bone density starts to deteriorate. That’s why it shouldn’t be excluded, unless necessary. 

In this case, lactose-free milk is an option or there are plant-based alternatives, such as almond or soy milk. However, Wilson warns: “Always check that the plant-based alternative contains calcium and vitamin B12, because some don’t. Make sure that it gives you the same nutrition that dairy does.” 

Wilson’s top tip for managing foods that cause flatulence

A way to limit removing vital foods but still relieve flatulence is by mixing things up. She says: “Try and vary the types of carbohydrates that you’re eating. Instead of always having wheat, for example, sometimes have potatoes or sweet potatoes, or rice or quinoa. This will help to ensure that your diet isn’t too full of one type of fibre.”

She continues: “Relatively new research shows that increasing soluble fibres, such as oats, chia seeds or the supplement psyllium husk, alongside gas-producing fibres like onion, garlic or beans, can help to slow the rate of gas production.” 

7. Grains and cereals

Ever experienced flatulence after eating a bowl of cereals or grain-based salad? Again, their FODMAP content could be the cause. According to Monash University – leader in FODMAP research – fructans are the main FODMAPs that grains and cereals contain. They also contain a smaller amount of galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).

Grains and cereals rich in fructans include wholemeal bread, rye bread and crispbread, muesli containing wheat, and wheat pasta. Once again, we don’t want to remove these from our diet (processed cereals are an exception that we should limit) as wholegrains provide important dietary fibre. 

Alternatives: Low-FODMAP options such as oats, quinoa, quinoa/rice/corn pasta, plain rice cakes, sourdough spelt bread and wheat/rye/barley-free breads. 

8. Processed or marinated meat, poultry and fish

While most animal protein sources aren’t foods that cause flatulence themselves, as they are naturally FODMAP-free, processed and marinated products might contain FODMAPs, according to Monash University. This is because high-FODMAP ingredients, such as garlic and onion or gravy/sauces, might have been added to them. Processed meats, such as sausages and salami, are also high in FODMAPs. 

Alternatives: Plain cooked meats, poultry or seafood. You can always use low-FODMAP herbs, such as rosemary, parsley or oregano, to add some flavour. 

9. Nuts

A few nuts make for a healthy snack because most contain healthy fats and nutrients such as vitamin E, potassium and magnesium.

Having said that, nuts can cause unwanted flatulence in some people. This is down to the main FODMAPs GOS and fructans (oligosaccharides) that are found in nuts. High-FODMAP nuts include cashews and pistachios. 

Alternatives: Macadamias, peanuts, walnuts and pine nuts, which are among the nuts classed as low-FODMAP. As all nuts have a high fat content, you should still be aware of portion sizes and stick to 30g (a small handful).

What drinks cause the most gas?

Many of us associate fizzy drinks with increased gas, but this might not actually be the case.

Wilson says: “The evidence around carbonated drinks and flatulence is not that clear. Drinking these is linked to increasing air in your stomach, which may come back out through burping.

“However, it’s not necessarily linked to excess flatulence [in your intestines that will make you pass wind].”

Drinking peppermint tea or taking peppermint capsules can help to relieve flatulence and bloating. 

Expert bios

Dr Bridgette Wilson
Gut specialist clinical and research dietitian at CityDietitians 

Wilson has an award-winning PhD on the low-FODMAP diet and prebiotics in IBS and ulcerative colitis. She also has a wealth of clinical dietetic experience both in the NHS and private healthcare. She is currently writing dietary guidelines for IBS management and is continuing her research into IBS treatment at King’s College London. 

Professor Julian Walters
Professor of gastroenterology at Imperial College London 

Walters’ research interests are the molecular and cellular function of the small intestine, which includes examining the effects of inflammatory diseases of the intestine causing malabsorption, such as coeliac disease and Crohn’s disease. He also researches bile acid diarrhoea, and aims to increase the awareness of this condition and to develop new treatments that are well tolerated. He has published various research papers on these topics. 

Gemma Harris

Written by Gemma Harris she/her


Gemma Harris has been a journalist for over seven years and is a self-confessed health and wellbeing enthusiast, which led her to specialise in health journalism. During her career, she has worked with top editors in the industry and taken on multiple high-discipline fitness challenges for certain outlets. She is particularly passionate about nutrition; after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in 2016, she discovered her fascination for gut health and founded thegutchoice.com – a dedicated space for providing a hopeful outcome for people with gut issues. Gemma’s core aim is to help others through her writing.

Previously a freelance journalist, Gemma has written about topics including combatting the spread of health misinformation on social media, how to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet with a stoma and probiotics for gut health. Her work has been published within leading health journals such as Gastrointestinal Nursing and the British Journal of Healthcare Management, as well as multimedia health and lifestyle platforms, including calmmoment.com, StomaTips, Fit&Well, LiveScience and metro.co.uk.

She is the proud owner of two adorable guinea pigs who are far too spoilt and have become her writing companions. When she is not writing, Gemma can be found making a colourful and nutritious meal in the kitchen, walking in nature, at a yoga or spin class, swimming, doing an at-home YouTube workout, snuggling up with a self-help book or meditating. These experiences help to influence and shape the content she creates. And because life is all about balance, Gemma also enjoys having cocktails with friends.

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