Q: Why do I have excess gas?
A: Gas can be a problem if it is excessive or with foul odor. Passing gas comes either from swallowing air or production of gas by your bacteria. Excessive air swallowing usually results in belching unless the patient has had a hiatal hernia operation. In that case, the patient suffers from what is called gas bloat syndrome. Normal patients also can have difficulty digesting certain foods such as beans, legumes and other high-fiber foods. The end result is increased rectal gas. Most rectal gas is produced by bacteria in the bowel. Poorly digested carbohydrates or sugar reach the colon and are consumed or metabolized by bacteria and then produce gas. The type of bacteria will determine whether or not it is odorous. Thirty percent of adults have an enzyme deficiency that causes poor digestion of dairy products (called lactose intolerance). Some patients have trouble absorbing the sugar in fruits (fructose intolerance). Patients with a diagnosis of sprue or celiac disease develop a malabsorption of sugar or carbohydrates resulting in excess gas production. Treatment of gas usually includes alteration of the diet to reduce sugar reaching the colon. Antibiotics and probiotics can sometimes be tried. Treating constipation also may reduce gas production. Pepto-Bismol reduces the odor in some patients. Did you know it is normal to pass gas 10 to 20 times a day? Stop worrying and adjust your diet.
-- Dr. Richard A.Krause, medical director, ClinSearch; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society
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