Q: My problem is so embarrassing I'm almost afraid to admit it. I have uncontrollable
flatulence. I've tried everything I can think of to make it go away, including
OTC and herbal remedies and cutting gassy foods like beans out of my diet. Other
than that, my diet and daily routine haven't changed a bit. What's going on
and how can I stop it?
Dr. Donnica: Flatulence, or passing gas, is normal but uncontrollable flatulence
isn't. Embarrassing as this may be, the first thing that you need to do is discuss
this condition with your healthcare provider. Uncontrollable flatulence can be
caused by numerous medical conditions including colitis; celiac disease; Crohn's
disease; diabetes; Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); inflammatory bowel disease;
AIDS/HIV; malabsorptive syndromes; pancreatitis; lactose intolerance; and numerous
medications including some antiviral medications, antibiotics, and cholesterol
lowering medications; and even protein supplements. The good news is that most
of these conditions are treatable.
The unpleasant odor of flatulence comes from bacteria in the large intestine
that release small amounts of gases that contain hydrogen sulfide and methane.
Contrary to popular belief, women pass gas as frequently as men, and older people
have no more gas than younger adults. Most gas is produced when bacteria in
your colon (large intestine) ferment carbohydrates that weren't digested completely
in your small intestine. Your body does not digest and absorb some carbohydrates
(the sugar, starches, and fiber found in many foods) in the small intestine
because of a shortage or absence of certain enzymes. Certain foods produce more
gas than others because they contain more indigestible carbohydrates than others.
Beans are a classic example of gas producers. Other high fiber foods such as
fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes may also increase flatulence. Sugars
are known to create gas. Fructose is naturally present in onions, artichokes,
pears, and wheat. It is also used as a sweetener in some soft drinks and fruit
drinks. Sorbitol is a sugar found naturally in fruits, including apples, pears,
peaches, and prunes. It is also used as an artificial sweetener in many dietetic
foods and sugar free candies and gums.
By contrast, fats and proteins cause very little gas. As long as you don't
have one of the medical problems listed above, trying a low-carbohydrate, high-protein
diet such as the Atkins Diet may help reduce your flatulence. If this doesn't
work, a product called the Flatulence Deodorizer (www.flatd.com)
may help you reduce any related odor problems.
Created: 12/27/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.