Gas in your digestive tract can cause discomfort and even embarrassment if it triggers recurring belching and flatulence, but it's not life-threatening. If you're experiencing ongoing and bothersome gas, talk to your doctor so that he can work with you to determine the cause and the best course of action for your situation. Gas can be treated by limiting or avoiding foods that trigger gas, or by taking a digestive enzyme to reduce gas in the digestive tract.
The Lowdown on Gas
First know that everyone has gas to some extent. Most foods that contain carbohydrates have the ability to cause gas. This is because some carbohydrates are poorly digested in the small intestine and pass into the large intestine where colonies of bacteria break them down. The fermentation process of bacteria creates various gases, such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane as a side effect. The most common symptoms of gas are bloating, abdominal pain, burping and flatulence.
Beans; vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts; and fiber-rich or starchy foods, such as whole wheat and bran, can cause gas. Rice is the only starchy food that does not cause gas, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Milk is another common culprit. Milk contains a sugar called lactose that your body breaks down using the enzyme lactase. Lactose is poorly digested if you don't have enough lactase, which can result in gas. In addition, certain fruits, such as pears, apples and peaches, as well as sugar-free candy, which contains sugar alcohols, can cause gas.
Dietary Changes and Supplements
Making dietary changes may help control symptoms of gas. For example, if you find that you get gas from dairy foods, you can limit your intake, switch to lactose-free dairy, or take lactase tablets before dairy-containing meals to reduce gas. Many nutritious foods, such as vegetables can cause gas, and you wouldn't want to restrict these healthy foods, so taking an over-the-counter digestive aid may be a good option. Alpha-galactosidase is found at drug stores and helps digest the sugar in beans and many vegetables.
Keep a Food Diary
The first step is to determine the cause of your gas. Keeping track of what you eat using a food diary can help. Write down what you eat and how much after each meal and then keep track of when your symptoms arise. You should be able to spot a pattern to help determine the trigger. Once you find the trigger, you can try avoiding or cutting back your intake of the offending food to see if your symptoms improve.