Let’s face it – having gas is never convenient. Sure, it’s more socially awkward when you are out in public and can’t relieve yourself, but what about when you’re in the comfort of your own home and still can’t manage to do so? The resulting cramps and bloating will leave you restless and perhaps more frustrated because you should be free to let it out.
So when you’re trying to relax and let it happen naturally, which side should you lay on to pass gas and finally feel some relief? The general consensus from both science and experience is that you should lay on your left side when trying to rid gas from your body. And who are we to disagree with gas passing science?
Even though most of us tend to deny the existence of our intestinal gas, the average person emits gas between 12-25 times per day, either by burping or flatulence. On a regular day, you may not even notice that you’re letting it out (or maybe you do), especially since much of our farting happens at night when we are asleep. But on a day when there seems to be more air in your body than blood, you begin to understand what it might feel like to be a weighed down helium balloon. (Source)
Once your stomach starts to bloat, you’re likely willing to try almost anything to help the process along. The best solution is usually prevention, but if it’s too late to take back that bean burrito, laying down after you eat might be your best bet.
How to Passively Pass Gas By Laying On Your Side
The reality is that if the gas build-up is causing discomfort, laying down may be the most comfortable position you can be in anyway. Whether you’re getting ready to head to bed, or you have a few minutes to spare and somewhere where you can curl up, here’s how you can wind down to let the wind out.
- Lay on your left side – Stomach and back sleeping are not recommended to let out air as they do not encourage the organs to move the gas around.
- Bring both knees together in toward your chest – Raising your knees will help minimize pressure on your bowels. You want to almost be in a fetal position.
- Relax your stomach – When we’re in pain, we often tense our muscles. For the best flow of air through the body, try to relax.
- Pump your legs – If it has been a few minutes and no relief is in sight, try straightening your legs and bringing them back in a few times.
But Why the Left Side?
Overall the left side is said to be the best sleep position for our health. This is partially due to the location of the organs within the abdomen and the direction of waste travel.
When discussing intestinal gas, it’s important to note that the body processes gas in the digestive system along with food. The organs that are mainly responsible for the movement of gas (and the food that we eat) are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and anus. Gas comes from two sources: taking in too much air and from the food that you eat. It leaves the body in two ways: through the mouth and out through the anus.
When your intestines cannot absorb certain nutrients, they continue along the path to the colon, where they meet up with bacteria to form even more gas and eventually escape. Because your large intestine travels from your right side to the left, it is said that the gravity from sleeping on your left side allows for a better flow of waste, taking food from the stomach to the small and large intestines through to the rectum. Both types of intestinal gas will travel along the same digestive tract path. (Source)
When you were younger, you may have had a parent who would rub your stomach in a clockwise direction if you had stomach pains, following the natural flow of the digestive system. Ingested food works its way up the right side of your body and down on the left side, creating a complex but smooth system. It has been proven that sleeping through the night on the right side can delay or hinder the process, leading to issues such as acid reflux. (Source)
If the problem isn’t so much your bottom half but gas seems to be escaping in the form of burps, sleeping on your left side is especially important for those who do have issues with acid reflux. Left side sleeping can help to prevent acid from coming back up from your stomach when you burp.
Of course, even if you do sleep on your right side, the whole process will still take place; however, the natural position of the organs when sleeping on the left side allows each step to occur more efficiently.
If for health reasons, such as injury, health conditions, or your doctor has advised against it, you cannot sleep on your left side, sleeping on your right side may be your only option. For the purpose of relieving gas, sleeping on your right side is better than sleeping on your back or stomach because you can still use your legs to massage and encourage the gas out. Remember to bring them into your chest and “pump” them if necessary.
If you normally sleep on your back or stomach and want to sleep on your side I suggest you pick up The snuggL Pillow (link to Amazon) – a specifically designed side-sleeper pillow. I bought one a couple of months ago and I absolutely love how it conforms to my body, provides support, and still remains comfortable.
When Side Sleeping Doesn’t Help
So you have tried sleeping on your left side, but you still can’t manage to relieve the gas itself or the pain that comes along with it. Sometimes you may need to use a few more resources to help fart it out.
- Over the counter medication – Your local pharmacy should have simple medications that help break down the foods that make you gassy, making digestion more comfortable and preventing gas. I buy mine on Amazon – Gas X Chewable Extra Strength Tablets.
- Light exercise – Walking, stretching, or yoga poses that include forward bending are excellent options to help you get some of the air out of your body. You can even try standing and sitting into a squat a few times to encourage the gas to come out.
- See your doctor – If pain is accompanied by other symptoms and other gas relieving methods don’t work, you should consult a healthcare professional to determine if there are additional medical concerns.
- If you can’t beat it, join it – While it may not seem like the most ideal option, if you are really struggling, you may need to add to the gas. Try eating additional foods that will increase the gas or need for a bowel movement. Going to the restroom may also help speed it along to help release itself.
Be sure to include the above on top of sleeping on your left side for the fastest effects.
Life Hacks to Prevent Gas
After you have managed to let all the wind out of your sails, you may be wondering how to avoid getting yourself into this predicament again. Skip the cramps and awkward social situations by making these life changes:
- Avoid gassy foods – Pay attention to which foods have the tendency to make you gassy and cut them out, especially if you know that you need a restful night of sleep or don’t have a place to hide if a fart escapes.
- Avoid carbonated drinks – Fizzy beverages and caffeinated drinks such as coffee can lead to some serious wind sessions.
- Don’t drink or talk while you eat – Because much of our intestinal gas comes from breathing in air, talking and drinking while you eat will increase the amount of air that you swallow along with your food.
- Eat slowly and chew thoroughly – Rushed eating and taking big mouthfuls of food will also increase your air intake, making burping more likely.
- Include fiber in your diet – Fiber will help the digestive process along and moves waste through the intestines easier. Here is the fiber supplements that I personally use – Metamucil Fiber (link to Amazon).
- Eat at least 2-3 hours before bed – This will give your digestive system time to work the waste through your body and will make for a more relaxed sleep at night.
- Include light exercise in your routine – Getting 30 minutes of exercise will help to keep the digestive process flowing and will help to massage your organs. (Source)
A Gassy Exit
Processing gas through the body is a natural part of digestion, but it doesn’t have to be a constant source of pain, discomfort, or embarrassment. If you are eating particularly gassy foods, be sure to lay on your left side for about 20 minutes after your meal. The flow of the digestive tract will work with gravity to help ease the gas along and out of your body in a timely manner.
Regardless of how long it takes for you to pass that gas, you may be happy to know that most often you won’t kill your bed partner or anyone in the near vicinity with the fumes. Most gas is made up of exogenous air (the kind you inhale), and less than 1% is actually odorous, so if your comfort is on the line, feel free to let it rip.