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Embarrassing Conditions

Managing embarrassing symptoms -- burping, intestinal gas, and the growling stomach --- may be as simple as changing your diet.

How Can I Reduce my Gas? continued...

There are countless products sold in drugstores that may give you some relief, including antacids and digestive aids. But Wilcox and Edmundowicz caution that they may not help much.

"Antacids have very limited effects," says Edmundowicz. While simethicone, an ingredient in many antacids, seems to help some people with heartburn, it won't help with intestinal gas.

For people who are intolerant to lactose or the sugar in beans, enzymes are sold in over-the-counter products such as Lactaid and Beano, respectively, to help with digestion. However, their effectiveness varies from person to person, say Edmundowicz and Wilcox.

On the whole, Edmundowicz suggests that people use whatever over-the-counter or home remedies that help. "Because these symptoms aren't medically significant most of the time, we encourage people to use any safe remedy that works," he says.

When Should I See a Doctor?

Most of the time, gas symptoms aren't anything to worry about, but getting checked out is always a good idea. You should definitely see a doctor if:

  • You notice new symptoms
  • Your symptoms keep getting worse
  • Your symptoms are associated with pain, vomiting, or weight loss

Certain conditions, such as Crohn's disease or tumors, can cause blockage in the intestines and increase gas symptoms.

However, if you've always had gas and you're not having more serious symptoms as well, you probably don't have to worry, say Wilcox and Edmundowicz.

"People come in with complaints about gas and want to be diagnosed with something," says Wilcox. "I think that's how Americans tend to be. But for a lot of these symptoms, we just don't have an answer. It just depends on the individual."

So for most of us, coping with gas -- while noisy, embarrassing, and sometimes malodorous -- is just a normal part of life.

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Reviewed on December 10, 2007

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