Pretty much all of us have blamed some symptom we’ve had on gas, from a headache to a pain in the knee. In these two cases, it is impossible for gas to be responsible, but if you don’t know, you don’t know. And that’s why people like me are here.
The fact is that gas is confined to your gastro-intestinal tract, anywhere from your mouth to your anus, that is your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine which includes your rectum and sigmoid areas. For it to get outside these areas (this tube), means that a perforation, a hole, has occurred, leaking the gas into your abdominal or chest cavity. So it can conceivably be felt in the back under some circumstances. But let’s get to the heart of the matter, which is:
SECRETS TO GAS CONTROL
Gas – as in excess gas, the kind that escapes without warning from your gastro-intestinal tract – is a fact of life. But it’s often an uncomfortable, downright humiliating one.
Excess gas by itself is unpredictable, annoying, and can ruin a good dinner party, first date, graduation, wedding or any celebration. When it accompanies diarrhea, you may also feel bloated, and embarrassed.
We all pass gas, even those of us who don’t admit to it. Whether you’re an emperor, queen, prime minister or ordinary Joe Plumber, you pass gas.
Some people are really disturbed by gas. They feel bloated and gassy. Women especially feel uncomfortable, not pretty. But however it makes you feel, gas is usually not dangerous, and its passage is nothing one has to see the doctor for. The truth is, you can take a number of measures to get gas relief. Of course, anyone who’s extremely bothered by chronic gas should see his doctor, who can prescribe lifestyle measures or perhaps medication and rule our any serious reasons for the problem.
For mildly annoying cases of gas, what should you know and what can you do? Let’s find out how much gas is too much, and how to make simple changes to keep it in check. There may be some surprises about what’s really at the bottom of all that gas, what we call flatulence.
HOW MUCH GAS IS TOO MUCH?
Everyone has different levels of sensitivity to gas. And while there’s no “normal” amount, the average adult passes about a pint a day. Experts estimate that means passing gas about 14 times a day, on average.
GAS CONTROL: ANALYSIS
Before you get control of your gas problem, you first have to decide whether it’s an “inside” problem or an “outside” problem.
Is it coming from outside, because you’re swallowing too much air? Or do you have a nervous habit of continual swallowing, maybe due to loose dentures? Overly stressed people sometimes swallow too much air. And that air makes its way down the entire gastrointestinal tract, gassing up your lower half. Many of you would remember me telling you this. Smokers tend to swallow more air, too.
Or is your painful gas mainly an inside job, because of what you eat, or chew, including gum?
Either way, you can get control.
GAS CONTROL: DIETARY CHANGES
Beans, especially red beans, have the reputation for causing you the most gas, and farting. But some say that dairy is No.1, especially as you age. Of course, for some people, dairy also can cause diarrhea.
As we get older, the majority of us will lose the ability to absorb the sugar that is in milk called lactose, and it will cause people to have gas and bloating, and sometimes loose stools.
If you’ve got this problem, the remedies are simple. Go for lactose-reduced milk, or lactose-free milk. Yogurt may not cause any problem if it has active cultures.
Some research finds that probiotics – active bacteria cultures found in yogurt – improve flatulence in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), of which gas is a common feature.
If you can’t resist milk, or cheeses that are full of lactose, take lactase, the enzyme which helps digest lactose. It can be bought in tablet or liquid form without a prescription. Lactaid is an example. It will help your body break down the sugar.
Beans actually do produce a fair amount of gas, due to other sugars that aren’t digested well. Solutions: cooking vegetables longer may reduce the gas later, as may taking an over-the-counter pill, like Beano, available more in places like the U.S., I think. It contains an enzyme to break down the sugars.
Beer, soda and other carbonated beverages produce gas too. If they give you gas and bloating, consider alternative drinks. You know I will tell you to drop the beer, and drink our natural juices.
Got IBS? Then you must have gas too. If you’re bothered by chronic gas, pick your fiber wisely. You may have an easier time with rice, say, than with wheat.
In general, healthy people don’t produce excessive gas from fiber. But it you increase your fiber intake, gas may increase for a while but you can expect it to level off in about three weeks as your body adjusts.
In extreme cases, doc may advise you to switch from grains to green vegetables to get your fiber. You will still take in enough fiber, but lose some of the excessive flatulence. Or, you can go with a fiber supplement. Some vegetables will cause more gas production than others. These include beans, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Non-sugar sweeteners can cause excessive gas. While passing through the intestinal tract, they interact with bacteria in the colon (large intestine) and produce gas.
GAS CONTROL: BAD HABITS BE GONE
Swallowing air is another big area of gas production. We all do it, but if we chew gum, or even talk too much, we do it more.
Other gas-producing habits:
• Eating quickly.
• Eating while talking
In both cases, you take in more air.
To stop gas, toss the gum or cut down, slow down when you talk, and don’t multitask when you eat.
If you’re stressed out, you may also produce more gas. This may happen especially in women with IBS.
GAS CONTROL: LIFESTYLE IMPROVEMENTS
There are a few other things you can do to reduce your gas production, like quitting smoking.
And we know exercise should be part of our daily routine for various reasons. Well exercise – walking, jogging – can help stimulate the passage of gas through your GI tract.
See you next week.
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