There are few normal body functions that generate more jokes and embarrassment than gas. In fact, the F word that is the common term for this act is frequently banned from newspapers and airwaves.
Flatulence is a fact of life. We all pass gas, whether we admit it or not. When undigested sugars reach the large intestine, billions of bacteria are waiting to feast. Their output is gas.
Some people are so troubled that they become reclusive: “I am a 44-year-old female battling a daily, uncontrollable gas problem. This is so embarrassing I have quit going to social events or anywhere quiet, like church services. I've tried watching what I eat, but it seems that everything causes trouble. Maybe I should just stop eating!”
Certain foods are notorious for causing gas. Beans, bran, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, prunes and radishes are well known for this problem. Less recognized are apples, bagels, dried apricots or raisins. Many people cannot digest milk sugar and get into trouble with dairy products. Others have trouble with sugar substitutes like sorbitol.
Sometimes the cause is sudden and mysterious:
“I had a huge problem with gas after returning from a trip to Turkey where I caught some type of intestinal bug. After nine months of horrible gas, I finally tried your remedy of fennel, which ended the problem.
“Having gas like this can ruin a person's life. The stress and worry that accompany the problem actually changes who you are as a person. It affects friendships and sleep patterns, and gives you a feeling of loss of hope or even serious depression.
“I couldn't explain to people why I could not eat at a luncheon, or why I had to leave quickly after eating lunch with them, or why I could not attend meetings. This was too embarrassing for me.
“I could not talk about it with other people as I might have with another health problem. When I tried, all I heard from my doctor, my best friend and my daughter was that gas is ‘normal.’ I felt toward the end that no one understood how bad the gas was. Thank you so much for writing about fennel!”
Anyone who would like to know more about how to use fennel seeds and many other natural approaches to alleviate gas will be interested in our chapter on Gas in Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy. It is available in libraries and at bookstores or online (www.peoplespharmacy.com).
Besides fennel, other spices that have traditionally been used to combat gas include asafetida, ginger, turmeric and caraway. One reader reported: “I have had a chronic problem with flatulence and had given up hope that I would ever find anything to help. I’ve lived on a very simple diet for many years, making my own sourdough bread with white organic flour because my body can’t handle whole grains.
“In an experiment, I put some caraway seeds into my bread before I baked it. Lo and behold, the flatulence disappeared. It hasn’t troubled me for two years now, and my acne rosacea has also cleared up. What relief!”
Other strategies include sipping a dash of bitters in club soda or donning a pair of carbonized undies. Activated charcoal is used in gas masks and also works well to trap odors as they emerge.