Remember those days when you could eat anything and it didn’t matter? You could stuff anything closely resembling food in your face and never think about it again. For most of us, who are middle-aged, or for women fast approaching menopause, those days are gone forever.
Today, this kind of eating is likely to send a friendly “reminder” wafting into the air a few hours later. Occasional bloating, flatulence, gassiness, and indigestion can be uncomfortable – both for you and for others in the room – and if it is happening a lot, it may just be a sign from your body that something needs to change.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at digestion, and this poor digestion leads to an increase in bloating, gassiness and flatulence. For example, the slow down of the gastrointestinal tract’s processes as a woman ages can sometimes result in menopausal indigestion.
Aging Means More Bloating, Flatulence and Gassiness
There are many other reasons for becoming gassy and bloated such as eating foods that cause gassiness and bloating, not properly combining foods, or gulping air while you’re eating, but the vast majority of gas is produced by bacteria in your gut.1
The whole story of what’s going on is a combination of loss of digestive powers, the bacteria in your gut, and the types of foods you decide to put into your mouth. While it might feel that these changes have occurred quickly, in most people they have happened slowly over time as their body changes and ages.
Lactose Points the Way
|“Gas…I Could Not Control It!”
Most people have heard of lactose intolerance, but what is it, exactly?
Lactose is the sugar found in milk. People with lactose intolerance don’t have the ability to digest the sugar in milk.
All babies have the enzyme necessary to digest milk sugar (lactase). Humans can digest lactose when they’re young, but many lose this ability as they age. This makes sense: all mammals drink milk from their mother, but then stop as they grow older. Humans are the only ones who try to break this rule.
As an adult, if you don’t have the lactase enzyme and you drink milk or eat milk products, then the sugar from the milk passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested. While you wouldn’t normally think undigested sugar is a big deal, it is.
According to research, the number of people who have lactose intolerance varies by ethnicity. In general, about half the population of the United States are considered lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is highest among Asians (almost 100 percent) and Blacks (around 80 percent); at the other end of the spectrum are Scandinavians; as little as two percent are lactose intolerant2.
For suggestions on lactose substitutes, review our anti-flatulence diet article.
Undigested sugars are a boon for the bacteria that live in your gut.
Your gut is full of bacteria. The number of bacteria in your gut outnumbers the number of cells in your entire body. There are literally billions of both good and bad bacteria in your gut. In a healthy person, the good and the bad bacteria achieve a balance where there are not too many of the good guys or the bad guys.
For the peri-menopausal and menopausal woman, good bacteria are essential to feeling well. They metabolize and recycle hormones such as estrogen, phytoestrogens, and thyroid. This process fosters hormonal balance, and helps to minimize menopausal symptoms.
When undigested lactose sugar comes down the intestines, bacteria gobble up the sugars. To the bacteria, it is time to party. When food sources (mostly sugars) are plentiful for bacteria, they do what bacteria do best: grow and multiply. When bacteria start multiplying rapidly, they produce gas. Undigested lactose sugar equals gas production and more bloating.
Bacteria can also produce toxins as they grow and multiply, which can be harmful to the lining of the gut. This can cause diarrhea.
By now you have probably realized that not just lactose, but other sugars can cause the same problem. Any sugar that you don’t digest will become a meal for the bacteria in your gut, and any meal for bacteria means an increase in gas production and toxins.
The smell is another story. Not all bacteria that create gas produce a smelly gas. The main villains – as far as smell goes – are the bacteria that produce gases containing sulfur and methane. There is some evidence that it’s the harmful bacteria that produce odd smells, but this is not entirely understood.
Don’t get the wrong idea about the bacteria in your gut. They’re vital to your health and perform many functions such as breaking down complex carbohydrates (fibers), and providing us with vitamins and other nutrients. It’s just bad when you start overfeeding the bacteria with sugars and they produce excess gas.
Re-located Bacteria Diminishes Digestive Returns
There is a relationship between digestive ability and the bacteria in your gut. When we were younger, our digestive powers were at their height, but they decline as we age. With many more of the sugars that in our youth would normally be digested and absorbed now passing through the gut undigested, gas-producing bacteria have lots to feed on.
Poor digestion, along with food and drug choices, can change where the bacteria in the gut are located. Once again, this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but where bacteria are located in your gut can have long-lasting effects on your health and the amount of “room-clearing” gas that exits from your body.
Medical books would have you believe that the majority of bacteria in your gut are found in your colon. In healthy people, this is true. If you don’t remember your high school anatomy lessons, the colon makes up the last four to six feet or so of your intestines. In between the colon and the stomach are around twenty-four feet of small intestine. The small intestines are not supposed to have many bacteria in them, but in modern people, they do.
There is a medically recognized syndrome called small bowel bacterial overgrowth syndrome, where the small intestines become overgrown with large amounts of bacteria. This syndrome is much more common than many doctors realize. Bacteria are not dumb – they are going to go and grow where the food is. If there are large amounts of sugars to be found high in the digestive tract, that is where the bacteria are going to go.
Stress, a carbohydrate-rich (sugar) diet, and poor digestion – in addition to the use of antibiotics that can kill off many of the good bacteria – can all contribute to bacteria relocating to the small intestine.
Most of the absorption of nutrients and vitamins occurs high in the gut. Having bacteria high in the guts means that bacteria are now in competition for our nutrients. If bacteria are creating toxins and irritating the gut lining, then there is the potential for malabsorption syndromes such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
What About Foods That Create Gassiness, Bloating, and Flatulence?
Yes, there are foods that tend to create bloating and flatulence; some of these are famous for doing so such as beans, cabbage, and others. These foods typically contain a difficult to digest fiber that is perfect food for bacteria. Other foods that create bloating and flatulence are those that contain a large amount of sugar.
Traditional Gas-producing Foods:
- Vegetables: peas, cabbage, onions, broccoli, radishes, and cauliflower
- Fruits: apples, prunes, bananas, and dried fruit
- Fiber: oatmeal and other grains
- Sugar: any large amount of sugar, especially those contained in soda
Read the full article on Foods That Cause Gas
The 4-Step Anti-Gas Action Plan
You can try to avoid the foods that cause gas, but these foods are some of the best foods you can put in your body. Broccoli alone is the subject of over two hundred studies, and is prized for its ability to prevent a wide number of cancers, to act as an antioxidant, and numerous other health benefits. Likewise, cabbage, onions, and oatmeal are full of great nutrients that your body needs.
The best way to avoid bloating and flatulence is to take an integrated approach…
Step 1 – Drop the Fork and Nix the Soda
First, realize that digestion begins in the mouth. There are digestive enzymes that are released in your mouth as you chew. One of the easiest tricks to chewing your food well is to take your fork and put food in your mouth – then set the fork down on the table until you are done chewing. Most people are picking up their next bite as they are chewing; this creates urgency where you are trying to get the food out of your mouth because the next bite is waiting on the fork. Stop, put your fork down, finish the bite in your mouth, and pick up the fork again.
If you haven’t heard the news about how bad soda is yet, then let us tell you: stop drinking soda. According to the 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, soda is THE major source of calories in the United States. Soda creates many problems for people who want to be healthy and overwhelms even the best digestive capacities. Drinking soda feeds gas-producing bacteria. Other simple sugars should be eaten in moderation, or if you are really brave, not at all!
Step 2 – Complete a Quick Total Body Cleanse
You should periodically undergo a Total Body Cleanse. Our program provides valuable nutrients such like:
- Probiotics – 1 Billion CFU
- Sebiotic – 1 Billion CFU
- Milk Thistle – 33 mg
- Aloe Leaf – 500 mg
- Ginger Root – 150 mg
- Cascara Sagrada tempered with l-glutamine – 300 mg
- Choline – 470 mg
- Pur-Gar Garlic Bulb – 125 mg
These nutrients plus several others rebalance the good and bad bacteria in your body, and also helps to push the bacteria back into the colon where it belongs. A simple Total Body Cleanse does wonders for reducing bloating and flatulence; returning the colon and liver to a healthier state means that it no longer takes days for food to pass through your body. A shorter transit time means that there is less time for bacteria to produce gas.
Step 3 – Take Digestive Enzymes With Meals
Next, if you’re still consuming even small amounts of sugar from the foods you eat, help your body digest them with a digestive enzyme supplement. Taken with meals, digestive enzymes help support your digestive system and relieve bloating, flatulence and discomfort. The enzymes break down the sugars and other food components that you’re eating, leaving little left over for “bad bacteria” in your gut.
Step 4 – Make Vitamins, and Nutrients Part of Your Regimen
Lastly, you should give your gut and entire body a hand by taking a daily multivitamin. There is no other single thing you can do to improve your digestive and overall health than support your digestive system on a daily basis. Vitamin dosages are critical in today’s world since it’s literally impossible to get the daily nutrients we need from the over-processed food we eat every day. Many people find supplementing with a multivitamin provides them with the extra energy and mental clarity they need to achieve personal and professional goals.
Digestive Relief Is Easy
It’s no fun being the negative center of attention, especially when it’s people’s noses that point you out. The great news about gassiness, bloating, and flatulence is that it’s easy to make it go away. It takes a little effort on your part, but most people who implement a healthy digestive program are amazed at how good they feel, and are delighted by the loss of bloating and flatulence.