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Got Gas? NIH Suggests Digestive Enzymes
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Suppressing something as natural as gas won’t lead to a life-threatening condition. However, this needless practice can cause stomach cramps, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, belching, and even more gas. In some cases, the cramps, bloating, and pain can become so uncomfortable that it can interfere with normal daily activities. Letting it fly when it’s supposed to is the best way to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering, but you can also do a number of other things to minimize the frequency of farts—starting with finding the right combination of foods. The foods we eat and how we eat them (eating rapidly results in too much swallowed air) contribute greatly to gas buildup in the digestive tract. Common culprits include fiber, starches, and sugars (fructose, lactose, raffinose, and sorbitol). Fiber Starches Sugars Beans Corn Apples, Peaches, PearsMost Fruits Pasta Asparagus, OnionsOat Bran Potatoes Milk ProductsPeas Wheat Soda, Sugar-Free Candy Fatty foods—the stuff you pick up at the drive-thru, cause gas as well. Fast-food burgers and fries, deep-fried mushrooms, fish, onion rings, and mozzarella sticks are just a few examples. Because high-fat foods are unhealthy and because they cause the stomach to empty slower (which leads to a build-up of gas in the large intestine) they should be avoided at all costs. Avoiding many of the other foods that cause gas, however, may be challenging and even unhealthy simply because most of them (vegetables, fruit, and many starches) are good for you. What you can do is limit the number of and/or portion sizes of gas-producing foods at each meal. You can also choose gas-producing foods that cause less intestinal aggravation than others. Instead of beans (produces the most gas), try cabbage. Instead of pasta choose rice. Surprisingly, rice is the only starch that does not cause the body to produce gas. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has another suggestion if food restrictions might make you a little batty. Many people lack certain enzymes needed to digest certain foods such as lactose—the natural sugar found in milk. Asians, African-Americans, and Native Americans lack lactase, which is the enzyme needed to properly digest lactose. Older individuals may also experience a decrease in lactase or other enzymes that are necessary to digest certain foods. In these cases, and many others, the NIH recommends digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes, particularly one that aids it the digestion of carbohydrates, fats, protein, and sugars, may be the best option for folks that feel just about anything makes them gassy. However, digestive enzymes are safe for use by most individuals, but consult with your doctor first to make sure an underlying (serious) condition is not the cause. If you notice that you only have gas after eating beans or vegetables, the NIH suggest trying Beano. According to the NIH, Beano contains the sugar-digesting enzyme that the body lacks to digest the sugar in beans and many vegetables. If lactose is the problem, the NIH suggests taking Lactaid or Lactrase. The NIH states that enzymes such as these aid with lactose digestion and is effective in caplet or chewable form. All you have to do is take the supplement just before eating foods that contain lactose. This should minimize or possibly eliminate the gas lactose may cause. For milk lovers, lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk is also an option. Two common brands are Lactaid and Dairy Ease. Both products are readily available at grocery stores across the U.S. Digestive enzymes (Beano, multi, and more) are available without a prescription and can be found at your local vitamin store, drugstore, or supermarket. Here's
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