Do you need some Gas-X???
I know you are probably thinking like why in the world is she promoting Gas-X? No worries, I’m not! I’m actually just here to talk about why you or someone you know may be experiencing bloating or gas. Now look for all my ladies out there, I am not talking about the bloating and gas we sometimes experience when it’s that time of the month, because we all know it kind of just comes with the territory! I’m referring to frequent gas.
While 12-year-old boys may revel in the sound of their own gas, those plagued by excess gas will find that it is nothing to laugh about. Excessive burping, bloating and gas bring distress and discomfort to more people than would like to admit it.
Part of the body’s makeup includes production of gases in the digestive tract. But how do you know when your gas is just gas, or when it’s something more? According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, about 5 million Canadians are suffering from some form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and that means they have some form of digestive discomfort that can’t otherwise be explained. There are some other things that can cause gas and bloating other than IBS, including certain intolerances and allergies. Let’s look at some of the most common causes of mild to medium GI discomfort. Anything higher than medium and you should be seeking medical attention ASAP.
FOODS THAT CAUSE GAS AND BLOATING
Beans, some people love them and some hate them. Me? I love them! Beans contain raffinose, which is a sugar that’s not digested in the small intestine, which then moves to the large intestine to be fermented. In other words, cause gas and bloating. Raffinose is also present in foods like cabbage, brussels sprouts cauliflower and broccoli. Eating these foods raw will provide the most lethal dose of gas, so for your sake (and the sake of those people around you), cook these veggies first to help breakdown some of the gas-causing culprits. For beans, it’s best to soak them in water for an hour (up to overnight) to reduce these gas-causing sugars, just make sure you discard the soaking water and start fresh when you cook them. I typically do not use fresh beans, but from doing my research I will start using them to help cut down on any gas or bloating it may cause.
HAVE YOU HEARD OF FODMAP?
FODMAPs, or Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides AND Polyols, (my goodness, that’s a mouthful), are a set of carbohydrates that some people may not digest well. It is more common than you think. Research has found some evidence that people who are experiencing symptoms of IBS like gas and bloating found relief in a low FODMAP diet (I want to point out: not all types of IBS have been successfully managed by this diet). Without getting into the many details of FODMAPs, here are some examples of these carbohydrates (warning: there are a lot of foods on this diet’s naughty list these are just some of them):
Veggies: asparagus, avocados, mushrooms, garlic and onion
Fruits: apples, cherries, peaches, pears, prunes and mangoes.
Dairy: virtually all cow’s milk products contain disaccharides
Grains: Barley, wheat, semolina, spelt and rye
Meats and Alternatives: Sausages, beans, split peas.
Other foods: corn syrup, honey, rum, beer, juice, tea, artificial sweeteners, certain nuts and some beans.
While it may sound like a lot of foods are off limits on this diet (and this is just a cross-section of high FODMAP foods –here’s a more detailed list), I promise you there is light at the end of the tunnel. With proper supervision from a registered dietitian, it may be possible to determine the trigger of a patient’s IBS symptoms using a low FODMAP diet. Similar to an elimination diet, a dietitian will monitor the low FODMAP diet and re-introduce foods slowly to find the likely culprit that is causing GI distress.
The good news is a low FODMAP has been shown to successfully reduce certain symptoms (cramping, gas and bloating). The bad news is that it may not keep you from full relief. You may take on this diet, painfully cut out a variety of otherwise nutritious (and delicious) foods and still come up empty, that’s where the mystery lies with GI distress.
LACTOSE INTOLERANCE CULPRIT
I’m sorry for all you ice cream lovers out there, but it’s true: lactose intolerance is the most common food intolerance. Lactose intolerance is different from an allergy (this is important for you to know). An allergy is caused by your immune reaction to a certain allergen: an allergy means symptoms worsen as you continue to expose yourself to the allergen in question, and this can sometimes lead to dangerous outcomes so be careful. An intolerance, on the other hand, is caused by the digestive system’s inability to digest a food or food component. See the difference there?
So many people lack an enzyme called lactase which is in your gut. Lactase is used to beak down lactose in dairy products. Without this enzyme, lactose enters the large intestine and causes typical GI distress symptoms (diarrhea, gas and bloating).
Unlike some of the other distress causing products, lactose intolerance can be diagnosed through a relatively simple elimination diet with the help of a Registered Dietitian. Also, in some cases it can be managed using enzyme pills (lactase) to help the body breakdown the lactose. I say just let go of the lactose, now a days they have so many alternatives that are just as delicious.
OTHER CAUSES OF GI DISCOMFORT
It may seem like the list of gas-causing foods never ends, but it does not necessarily mean something is going wrong in your body. Some foods just put more air better known as gas in our bodies than others.
For example, remember that kid in grade school who could burp the alphabet after a can of coke? Well, carbonated beverages can increase the amount of air that gets into the digestive tract so stick to the water fountain if gas is a concern.
Candies and gum work similarly to carbonated beverages by increasing the amount of air you swallow. They also tend to use some gas-causing sweeteners mentioned in the FOPMAP section.
Have you ever realized you had more gas after eating? Well maybe you were eating too fast or even too much! Take your time, sit your fork down after each bite if that helps. Also try listening to your body and really decide if you are still hungry or are you finishing your food because it is still on your plate. Many children over eat and I see this so much and it really makes me sad. Some parents tell their child not to waste food which is fine, but also watch your child’s portions at meal times and be sure that its not more than they can handle.
Look and for my ladies like I discussed in the beginning, that time of the month can also bring that discomfort of overwhelming gas and bloating. Sucks, but it is what it is!
Want to hear the good news? There are steps you can take to determine the likely cause of your increased gas. If you aren’t able to easily identify the culprit yourself, speak to a dietitian about going on a monitored elimination diet. Book an appointment with your doctor to get the proper testing and rule out any potentially more serious conditions (such as crohns, colitis or celiac disease which I will talk more on in a later blog post).
Have you noticed certain foods give you gas and bloating? What has helped you find relief of your tummy troubles? Leave me a comment below with some of your tips and tricks! They may help someone else!
Thanks you so much for stopping by!