10 Intestinal Gas Remedies

Passing gas is perfectly normal and everyone does it. But for some of us, flatulence can be a major embarrassment. Some simple strategies can help control the problem.

Not only is passing gas normal, Hippocrates was right when he said it is “necessary to well-being.” Everyone does it—and probably more often than realized. While some people may hardly notice it, for others, flatulence can be a major embarrassment. These hints and recommendations might be helpful.

Intestinal Gas Remedies

1. What is Normal?

The average person experiences flatulence (from the Latin for “blowing” or “blast”) 15 to 20 times a day, expelling a daily average of one to three pints. While some people may hardly notice it, for others, flatulence can be a major embarrassment. How gassy you are depends on what you eat, the balance of bacteria in your intestines and whether you have any underlying gastrointestinal conditions. In some people gas can cause discomfort and pain, with or without bloating. People with irritable bowel syndrome may be especially sensitive to gas.

2. Why is Gas Smelly?

Flatulence consists mainly of five odorless gases: nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane, plus, trace sulfur gases, which are responsible for the telltale odor. A small amount of flatulence comes from air you swallow when you eat and drink, especially if you eat and drink quickly. Most is produced by harmless bacteria that ferment undigested food in the large intestine.

3. Know the Triggers

Carbohydrates (sugars and starches) tend to trigger the most gas. We name the most common culprits in the following slides. To identify what makes you gassy, keep a food diary, noting when the problem occurs. Bear in mind that everyone reacts differently to foods.

4. De-Gas Beans

Beans are notorious gas producers due to their oligosaccharides, poorly absorbed complex sugars also found in broccoli and other vegetables and whole grains. Try Beano or a similar alpha-galactosidase enzyme supplement, which breaks down the gas-producing sugars. If you cook beans, the quick-soak method removes the most offending sugars: Boil them for two minutes, then let them soak, covered, for one hour. Cook with new water, discarding the soaking water. Alternatively, you can soak beans overnight in cold water before rinsing and cooking.

5. Nibble on Dairy

Some people have difficulty digesting the milk sugar in dairy products, called lactose. If you’re lactose-intolerant, you may be able to handle small amounts of dairy at a sitting, together with other foods. Lactase supplements, which digest milk sugar, and lactose-reduced products are worth trying.

6. Go Slow With Fiber

Soluble fiber (as in oats, beans, peas and fruits) can be a culprit. In contrast, insoluble fiber (as in wheat bran) produces little gas. If high-fiber foods give you trouble, try introducing them slowly into your diet to help your body adapt. Fiber is important for preventing constipation, which slows the passage of food, thereby increasing fermentation and thus gas. Be sure to stay hydrated to keep things flowing.

7. Mind the Sugars

In addition to the lactose in dairy and the oligosaccharides in beans, other potentially problematic sugars are fructose (in onions, pears and artichokes, for instance), high-fructose corn syrup (common in soft drinks), sorbitol (in apples, peaches and prunes, for example, and also in many “sugar-free” foods such as gum and candy). Reduce or eliminate foods with high-fructose corn syrup and sorbitol. Check food labels.

8. Be Active

Exercise may help expel gas from the body faster. So instead of lying down after eating a meal, do something active—such as taking a walk—instead. Your gastrointestinal system will thank you.

9. Try OTC Remedies

Simethicone, found in some antacid/anti-gas products, might help you burp out excess air, but it won’t reduce intestinal gas. Bismuth subsalicylate (such as Pepto-Bismol) helps reduce gas odor, but don’t use it for more than a few days. And though activated charcoal tablets are widely taken for flatulence, controlled studies have failed to find them effective, plus they interfere with absorption of some drugs. You can try probiotic supplements and peppermint oil capsules, though they won’t work for everyone (don’t take peppermint if you also have heartburn). Chewing fennel seeds may help. Talk to your doctor.

10. Combat Odor

Garments and devices containing activated carbon filters are sold on the Internet to combat odor. A study of 11 such products (including those from Under-Tec, GasMedic and Flat-D) found briefs made from activated carbon fabric trapped virtually all the sulfide gases. Pads worn inside the underwear were also quite effective; seat cushions less so. And, yes, some products also claim to reduce offending noises.

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