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Alternative Medicine for Gas and Bloating

by |
author image Russell Havranek, M.D.
Dr. Havranek completed his undergraduate studies and medical school at the University of Nebraska. He then completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in gastroenterology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. He is board certified in gastroenterology and is the current President and CEO of Gastroenterology Clinic of San Antonio.
Alternative Medicine for Gas and Bloating
Probiotics are one of the most common remedies people try for gas and bloating. Photo Credit Getty Images

As common as gas and bloating is in our society, we haven’t done a very good job at coming up with medications to treat it. Most of the problem is that a large component of gas production is related to diet and lifestyle, and there is no pill to change that. Gas and bloating has been a problem since the beginning of time, much longer than we have had medications. Because of that, there are a lot of alternative ways to help with gas and bloating that have been handed down from one generation to the next, and even some new ones that show real promise.

Herbs and Spices

One of the main categories we look at with alternative treatments for gas and bloating are the herbs and spices. Many of these have been used for centuries even though we have very limited data on how or why they work. This is also one of the areas where Eastern medicine is ahead of Western medicine, and a lot of our understanding of which remedy to use for certain ailments comes from the Far East. Most herbs and spices for gas and bloating claim to speed up digestion and allow you to move and expel gas quicker and with less discomfort, or they act as bowel relaxants to reduce bloating. Whether they are actually able to do this or not we don’t know. I always tell my patients to take herbs and spices with a hint of caution. Although most of them are harmless, don’t just think of them as “all natural.” Some herbs and spices have pharmaceutical effects and can interfere with other medications or cause side effects of their own. This is a list of some of the most common herbs and spices used for gas and bloating:

  • peppermint
  • wintergreen
  • oregano
  • nutmeg
  • cumin
  • cinnamon
  • fennel
  • chamomile
  • coriander
  • caraway
  • turmeric
  • ginger
  • parsley

Probiotics

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain billions of bacteria that are potentially helpful to our bowels. Probiotics are one of the most common remedies people try for gas and bloating, yet we have very limited data that they do much good at all. The idea behind probiotics is that when they are ingested they help maintain the normal healthy bacterial flora that live in our bowels to help with our digestion. This is especially important after being sick or taking antibiotics. The only time I caution using probiotics is in immunocompromised people (like those on chemotherapy). Probiotics are found in multiple sources. These are some of the more common ones:

  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • sauerkraut
  • buttermilk
  • capsule form

Digestive Enzymes

As we have talked about earlier in this article, there are many reasons why people become gassier than others. Another reason for this problem is when your body has a deficiency in a certain enzyme. We all make enzymes to help us break down and digest foods. One of the most common digestive enzymes is lactase, and its deficiency leads to problems breaking down dairy products. Similar problems can happen if any of our enzyme pathways are compromised, leading to poorly digested food and gas production. Pancreas problems, autoimmune diseases, advancing age and many medications can lead to this problem. There are all kinds of over-the-counter digestive-enzyme supplements that contain some of the enzymes that we may lack, and if taken before meals they can help us break down and digest our foods better.

Atrantil

This is one of my favorite products for gas and bloating and is in a unique class of its own. As we have talked about earlier in this article, one of the main causes of gas production is fermentation of foods by the bacteria in our small bowel. This problem is called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). There are many reasons people develop SIBO and its subsequent gas production. The problem with all of our other treatments for gas and bloating is that they don’t address the causes of the gas production, they just try to treat the symptoms.

Atrantil actually gets at and treats the cause of the gas production. It was developed by a leading gastroenterologist in Dallas, and the components in it are backed by years of research. Atrantil actually works to eliminate the gas-producing bacteria from your small bowel and ends gas and bloating. It’s also an over-the-counter medication. I have used this product on a lot of my patients and have had more success with it than anything I have tried.

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