Getting Over Gas, Bloat, and Embarrassment

Excerpts from a presentation by Ron Hunninghake, M.D.

Gas:  A fluid such as air that has neither independent shape nor volume, but tends to expand indefinitely.

Bloat: A flatulent digestive disturbance of domestic animals, especially cattle.

It is thought that three-fourths of the adult population in the world are lactose intolerant.

Embarrassment: To cause to feel confused and ill at ease; disconcerted; flustered; to cause one to experience a state of self-conscious distress.

Flatulence: The presence of an excessive amount of gas in the stomach and intestine.

Five gases are involved in intestinal gas. Nitrogen and oxygen are the least problematic of the five because they are swallowed. The other three, methane(CH4), carbon dioxide (C02), and hydrogen (H2), constitute the bulk of intestinal gasses. Gas in the intestine comes from hydrogen producing bacteria.

For many years it was not known what was normal vs. abnormal gas. An Australian study evaluated 160 days of flatis emissions and they found that males pass gas about 12.7 times per day and females about 7.1 times per day.  They did an aroma quotient which discerned that male gases were worse than female gases.

Why do people develop gas? Genetic factors is one reason. One of the more common genetic factors is lactose intolerance when drinking milk or consuming dairy products.  Lactose is the water phase of  milk. Milk, ice cream, or cottage cheeses include the water phase, or whey, which tends to cause problems if you are lactose intolerant. The fat phase in milk, as in cheese or yogurt, tends to be better tolerated. It is thought that three-fourths of the adult population in the world is lactose intolerant. Stomachs and intestines are not breaking down the milk sugar and it goes into the colon where bacteria ferment it into H2 and C02 and in some cases CH4.

What do you do about lactose intolerance? Using lactate tablets, lactate milk, and other forms of enzyme treated milk works fine for some people. But if you have sensitivities to casein and some of the proteins within milk, these may not be enough. If you want to use dairy products without developing intestinal discomfort, you should try yogurt.

Use pasteurized yogurt or frozen yogurt containing live organisms. These particular organisms contain lactase, so when you consume yogurt you’re getting lactase, mentioned above. If these organisms are missing” there is nothing in the yogurt to help you.

Some carbohydrates are not absorbed by anyone. If you eat beans, you have gas. Beans contain a nonabsorbable trisaccharide that needs a special enzyme to break it down, which none of us have. An entrepreneurial company vented “Beano,” which is an enzyme that can reduce H2 excretions b 70% to help you digest beans.

One of the things I do with patients who are having gas problems is to use extra digestive enzymes, pancreatic enzymes.

You’ll find resistant starches in various fruits and flours. Often people find that fruits, such as raisins, cause gas. If you cook and cool potatoes, bread, or certain fibrous foods, a process called retrogradation occurs, meaning at crystals which render 40% of the starch indigestible will form. Some dietitians think this is a good way to lose weight. “If people would cook their foods and then cool and reheat them this is a way of curbing obesity.” However, there is a down side to this: you’re going to be producing more gas.

We encourage our patients to eat good foods and use acidolphilus and various other friendly bacteria to replenish the good bacteria in the gut. One problem today is the use of a lot of antibiotics. These alter the intestinal flora and that may cause excessive gas.

There are two types of bacteria in the gut that consume H2: the methane producers and the sulfate reducing type of bacteria. The most important is the methane producer in terms of your flatis. Methane gas is composed of 4H and 1C and you’re using five molecules of gas to make it down into one molecule. People who make a lot of methane have a built-in way of controlling it. So, if you’re having a lot of gas it would behoove you to try some of these suggestions to improve the health of your intestinal flora.