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Don’t Let Gas Ruin Your Marriage

Some people experience embarrassing amounts of intestinal gas. Others may not make much gas but the smell can be deadly. Find out what to do for flatulence.

Everyone produces gas, but not everyone experiences it the same. Some people make excessive quantities, while others find the smell extremely embarrassing. We have heard from a few readers who say this can cause trouble between spouses. What can they do to address the problem?

Looking for Good Remedies for Intestinal Gas:

Q. Can you give me at least three good remedies for gas? My marriage is in jeopardy. I’ve tried GAS-X during each meal and two or three tablets between meals, to no effect.

A. First, you might want to keep a “fart chart.” By creating a diary of what you have eaten and how many times you pass gas, you may be able to determine which foods are causing your distress. Then you can try eliminating them to see if that helps.

Next, consider an over-the-counter product such as Beano. It contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase which helps break down oligosaccharides in foods such as beans and broccoli.

Third, you may wish to consult a gastroenterologist to find out if you could have lactose intolerance or celiac disease. (Keep reading for a bit more information on this.) If you are unable to digest milk sugar or gluten, you will have to modify your diet. Pills that contain the enzyme lactase may help with gas-induced lactose intolerance. To learn more about what causes flatulence and lots of other strategies to get rid of gas, you may want to consult our eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders.

Another Reader Struggling with Gas:

Q. I have a very embarrassing problem that I hope you can help with. I am 29 years old, healthy, and do aerobics regularly. I drink little alcohol and with meals usually have water or occasionally diet soda. It seems, however, that everything I eat gives me bad gas.

As recently as two years ago I had very little gas and could eat anything. Then cooked cabbage and onions started giving me gas.

Now just about everything (whether it is high fiber or highly processed) gives me gas. It comes on about an hour to an hour and a half after I’ve eaten. It actually forces my husband into sleeping on the couch in the living room rather than in the bedroom with me. I’m desperate for advice.

A. There are many causes of intestinal gas. If your diet has not changed substantially, the dramatic worsening you describe requires a medical workup to rule out a serious problem.

Malabsorption Syndrome:

Malabsorption syndrome is one place to start. Some people can’t digest certain carbohydrates. Gluten is a potential culprit. For reasons that remain mysterious, there are people who do not have celiac disease but appear to be sensitive to gluten or just wheat. They can develop this later in life. Avoiding wheat, barley and rye, the grains that provide gluten, are the only options.

Lactose Intolerance:

Lactose intolerance is another potential problem. Some people can consume dairy products containing milk sugar (lactose) as long as they take lactase at the same time. This enzyme can help break down the milk sugar and reduce the discomfort of gas, bloating and diarrhea. There are a number of products on the market including Lactaid.

Farty Foods:

Assuming you have neither gluten sensitivity nor lactose intolerance, you may just be extremely sensitive to certain foods. The obvious culprits are beans, onions and cabbage, but lots of other foods can cause some people distress. A food diary that includes a “fart chart” may help you identify any foods that are particularly problematic for you.

You may also want to consider probiotics. One thing that may have changed over the last few years is your intestinal flora and fauna. This “microbiome” can be affected by antibiotics or other medications. Reestablishing a healthy balance of good microbes may help ease your flatulence problem.

Do You Have Celiac Disease?

Q. All my adult life, I had problems with foul-smelling gas. This was embarrassing. I also hated that it bothered my wife.

Then I was diagnosed with celiac disease and had to change my diet. Completely eliminating gluten has also gotten rid of the smells. Others may want to consider this possibility if they have troublesome flatulence.

A. Celiac disease is a serious condition in which gluten triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the digestive tract. The consequence is poor absorption of nutrients from your diet, and the only effective treatment is to follow a gluten-free diet. That means avoiding any foods made of wheat, barley or rye, because all of them contain gluten.

Symptoms of celiac disease include digestive problems such as diarrhea, cramps, gas or floating poop. Other problems common with celiac disease are anemia, fatigue, osteoporosis, joint pain, headaches and nerve pain.

Blood tests can help screen for celiac disease, so others having symptoms like yours should see their doctors.

Learn More:

We have written about celiac disease (as well as flatulence) in our eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders. In it, we list many other foods that cause gas and offer some folk remedies for overcoming the problem. We hope it helps.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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