Bursting the Bubble of Gas Pain

Health Professional

What do humans have in common with bike tires and those cartoon-character balloons that are hauled down parade routes on holidays? All three contain gas.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), it's common for people to produce one-half to two quarts of gas a day, expelling it in up to 14 daily bursts. Some gas gets into people's digestive tracts after they swallow it from the surrounding air. But some gas is there because bacteria in the colon produce it after munching on undigested material.

Some people may find gas in their digestive tract to be particularly uncomfortable. This is called bloating. Gas discomfort is a common symptom that in most cases doesn't point to a serious problem. But if gas is causing you serious pain or it's been uncomfortable for more than two weeks, bring it to your doctor's attention. Also make an appointment with your doctor if you also have other symptoms that could be related, such as weight loss.

Whether or not you seek medical attention for your symptoms, be sure to also take steps to treat and prevent gas pain on your own. It seems that many people these days look to their health care providers for solutions, but overlook the many steps they can take on their own. By striving to do all that you can to reduce your symptoms, you may find that your doctor's recommendations work even better. (I go into many ways you can stay healthy with less need for health care services in my new book - The New Prescription ¬- which is available in late spring.)

Here are some strategies that may help reduce gas and bloating:

  • Keep a food diary. Certain foods may contribute to your body's gas production, including beans, broccoli, dairy foods, and whole-grain foods. Consider keeping a food diary and track what goes into your body and when you have gas attacks. You may find that you can reduce your symptoms by cutting out or limiting a particular food. Keep in mind that many "gassy" foods, like the ones mentioned above, are good sources of nutrition, so be sure that your changes don't push you into an unhealthy diet.

  • Cut out the carbonated drinks. Those little bubbles in sodas can tickle your nose ... and lead to more unpleasant sensations deeper in your body. Reduce or cut out these gas-containing drinks and see if you get some relief from your gas pain.

  • Eat small meals...s-l-o-w-l-y. Your body may be able to digest smaller amounts of food more comfortably. Avoid super-sized portions. Also be sure to avoid gulping your food quickly during meals, since this may be putting more air into your stomach.

  • Get help with your digestion. According to the NIH, several products can help you enjoy certain foods with less gas. The product Beano contains enzymes that help you better digest certain vegetables. The products Lactaid and Lactrase contain the enzyme lactase, which helps you digest lactose, a sugar in dairy foods that can boost your body's gas supply.