Dr. Donald Henderson, M.D., M.P.H.
Health Problems you often have but are Ashamed to Discuss:
Gas, Bloating, and Constipation…How Supplements and Diet may Help
All of us have problems with gas, bloating, and sometimes constipation. Why is it happening and what can be done about it?
From a medical perspective, these conditions can be seen as one condition or as three separate problems. Some of us have hyper-sensitive nerves in our intestinal tract, while others have food allergies or suffer from extremely poor dietary habits which lead to gas, bloating and constipation. Certain medications can also be the cause of these gastrointestinal system problems and symptoms can include nausea and vomiting. To find out which category you fit into, I suggest you consult your private physician. But, statically, most of us suffer symptoms of gas, bloating, and constipation as a consequence of poor nutrition.
Remember that gradual bowel changes can be caused by occult cancer so always follow health screening guidelines. If there is bleeding, unexplained weight loss and abdominal pain, I suggest you consult your physician as soon as possible for a physical exam and blood test.
Gas and bloating can be caused by foods high in sugar (carbohydrates). A good example is the carbohydrate raffinose. Raffinose in high concentrations can be found in beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus. The sugars (starch) found in potatoes, corn and wheat products can also be gas producing. Foods rich in fructose corn syrup and sorbitol, like sugar-free gum, candy and soft drinks can also be the source of gas and bloating. Another sugar to be aware of is lactose. Lactose is found in milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt and butter. As we age, we often develop decreased concentrations of the enzyme lactase. And since lactase is needed for the digestion of the sugar lactose, our bodies have more difficulty tolerating these foods over time.
With the exception of ice cream, butter and cheese, most foods that cause gas are actually good for you. So, the key is to find a way to neutralize gas formation. I always tell my patients that gas is better out than in. So, when possible, pass gas as often and as freely as possible!
Relief is Right Around the Corner
Gas, bloating, and constipation are brother and sister. At the first sign of excess gas and bloating, think about constipation. All of us have a unique body rhythm. Your body is run by electrical impulses that set how fast your heart beats as well as how fast you digest food. Some of us have bowel movements three times per day, while others may have them three times per week. Both cycles of bowel movement can be considered a variation of normal.
There are many other patterns of normal bowel movements as well. Constipation is defined by how we feel with our current rhythm of bowel evacuation. So, if you have gas, bloating, and constipation, consider laxative therapy followed by a change in your diet. If constipation lasts for more than three weeks, is an acute change in your rhythm, is associated with blood or is severe, consult your physician as soon as possible.
Too often your body tells you that it’s time to go but you ignore the signal. The signal may come when you’re out in public and some of us just can’t use a public restroom. The body will then recycle itself. You can try to train your bowel by taking time to evacuate after meals, after hot caffeine beverages and after exercise.
Proper bowel health is essential to living longer, being happier and feeling healthy. What is the prescription?
1.Drink water to eliminate and to reduce gas and constipation; eight glasses of water per day, instead of sweet drinks, will hydrate your body, facilitate bowel movements and reduce the gas effect of some foods. Your skin will look better and you’ll feel better.
2.Drink water when you eat fiber. Fiber without water may cause gas and bloating. Experiment to find the correct amount of fiber and water that allows you to have soft bowel movements.
3.Satisfy you sweet tooth with dried fruit (prunes, apricots) and water. Dried fruits can be caloric dense, so watch the calories.
3. Take flax seed and water to reduce gas and bloating.
4. Use natural unsweetened yogurt to help your intestinal bacteria remain balanced.
5. Sprinkle wheat germ on your fruit and other foods to assist with intestinal metabolism.
In future issues, we’ll give you additional tips on the use of supplements and alternative medications that can support your health and well-being.
Dr. Donald Henderson is Medical Director of Encore Wellness & Weight Loss and has a private practice specializing in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine in Los Angeles.
I’d like to hear from you and answer any questions you have regarding your personal health and wellness program. Please update me on your progress by forwarding your questions or comments to AskDrH@encoreweightloss.com or visit www.encoreweightloss.com for more information on our weight loss and nutrition programs.