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Preventing Intestinal Gas

Carbohydrates are made of sugars either alone or in combinations (starches), and before they can be absorbed, they must be broken down into single sugars. Vegetables, beans, nuts, cereals and other foods contain starches and sugars that should be absorbed in the upper intestinal tract. However, some of the carbohydrates cannot be broken down. If they are not absorbed in the intestines, they pass to the colon where bacteria ferment the carbohydrates to release gas.

Half of the world's population develops gas and cramping after drinking milk because they lack the intestinal enzyme that is necessary to break down the double sugar in milk called lactose. If lactose is not absorbed in the upper intestinal tract, bacteria ferment it in the colon to release gas. If you are lactose intolerant, you can avoid dairy products, but no one should avoid vegetables, beans and whole grains.

If you are bothered by gas when you eat beans, whole grains or vegetables, you may not have an adequate colony of friendly bacteria in your colon to break down the resistant starches in plants. If you have recently changed your diet to include more of these foods, give yourself a few weeks or even months to build up the bacteria you need to digest them without excessive gas. Recent research shows that normal intestinal bacteria make up approximatly 95 percent of the total number of cells in the human body. The good bacteria help to prevent bad bacteria from infecting you, and may help to prevent intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and cancer. More on beneficial bacteria
probiotics and prebiotics .

If you have waited a reasonable time and are still bothered by excessive gas, check with your doctor. One study showed that Rifaximin, an antibiotic that cannot be absorbed from the intestines, can control many cases of excessive intestinal gas (1). However, this antibiotic is not available in North America; ask your doctor about using metronidazole instead.

How to De-Gas Beans

1) M DiStefano, A Strocchi, S Malservisi, G Veneto, A Ferrieri, GR Corazza. Non-absorbable antibiotics for managing intestinal gas production and gas-related symptoms. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 2000, Vol 14, Iss 8, pp 1001-1008.AddressCorazza GR, Univ Pavia, IRCCS S Matteo Hosp, Gastroenterol Unit, P Golgi 5, I-27100 Pavia, ITALY.

2) KN Jeejeebhoy. Using Beano (TM) in the treatment of flatulence caused by complex carbohydrate intolerance (CCI). Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 2000, Vol 14, Iss 4, pp U1-U4

3) TG Ganiats, WA Norcross, AL Halverson, PA Burford, LA Palinkas. Does Beano Prevent Gas - A Double-Blind Crossover Study of Oral alpha-Galactosidase to Treat Dietary Oligosaccharide Intolerance Journal of Family Practice 39: 5 (NOV 1994):441-445.

checked 7/3/17

May 30th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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