Managing embarrassing symptoms -- burping, intestinal gas, and the growling stomach --- may be as simple as changing your diet.
What Foods Cause Gas?
Obviously, some foods cause
more gas than others. As any schoolboy will tell you, the most notorious
offender is baked beans, but there are plenty of others, including grains (for
instance, the word pumpernickel is believed to stem from Middle German and
mean, roughly, "goblin that breaks wind").
Any food that is high in
soluble fiber, for instance, is only broken down by bacteria in the large
intestine, so that can mean more gas. Foods that may cause gas
Vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli,
cabbage, brussels sprouts, onions, artichokes, and asparagus
Fruits such as apples, pears, and
Whole grains, such as whole wheat and
Sodas and fruit drinks
Foods with sorbitol, often used as a
sweetener in sugar-free gums and candies
As you may have noticed, many
of those foods are the bedrock of healthy diets.
"People sometimes do get
confused when they find out that a healthy high-fiber diet with lots of fruits
and vegetables can cause excess gas symptoms," says Edmundowicz.
Fruits, vegetables, and grains
are important for digestion in other ways, so if you have gas, be cautious when
trying to eliminate healthy foods from your diet. You may just need to eat a
little less to ease your symptoms.
Cutting Out the Cheese
Some people may have extra gas
because they can't digest certain foods normally. For instance, people who are
lactose intolerant are missing the enzyme that processes lactose, the main
sugar in dairy products. Because they can't digest it in the small intestine,
the bacteria get a hold of the lactose in the large intestine, creating
Although lactose intolerance
is a common condition, especially among people of African, Native American, or
Asian descent, you shouldn't immediately decide to cut out dairy products if
you have excess gas.
"In my opinion, lactose
intolerance certainly exists," says Wilcox. "But I think it's rarer than people
think as a cause of symptoms."
Wilcox has seen many patients
who have heard about lactose intolerance and diagnosed themselves. But even
after eliminating dairy products, their symptoms linger. Cutting out dairy
without good reason can lead to other problems in the long run, such as
osteoporosis from the loss of calcium in the diet.
So if you're having excess
gas, you shouldn't abruptly cut all dairy from your diet. Instead, see your
doctor and talk about it. He or she might order some tests to find out.
Edmundowicz also suggests that you try a more measured approach to zero-in on
the particular foods that might be giving you trouble -- such as eliminating
one food at a time and re-evaluating your symptoms.