Digestive complaints such as bloating and painful gas may be the result of medical conditions, as well as a poor diet and inactive lifestyle. Although everybody reacts differently to different foods, sugar is a frequent trigger for stomach bloat and flatulence. Consult with a health care professional to determine what dietary changes can be made to relieve digestive discomforts that may affect overall health.
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Gas and Bloating
Gas and bloating are normal occurrences experienced by many healthy people. However, in addition to being embarrassing, having frequent episodes of bloating and gas that causes stomach pains should be addressed. Gas in the digestive tract typically comes from swallowing air or as the by-product of breaking down undigested foods from naturally present bacteria in the colon. Bloating commonly results in swelling of the stomach, which may be the result of an intestinal disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease. Stomach pain that occurs with bloating and gas may mimic that of gallstones or appendicitis. Seek medical guidance immediately if pain is frequent and worsening.
Carbohydrates are common triggers of gas and bloating in the digestive tract. Carbohydrates include starches such as rice, potatoes and pasta; fiber, including whole-grains, oatmeal, beans and peas; and sugars. The body may have difficulty breaking down carbs in the body due to lack of digestive enzymes that assist digestion. Undigested foods pass into the large intestine where they are broken down by bacteria that produce gases including carbon dioxide, hydrogen and potentially methane.
Fructose, raffinose and lactose may contribute to bloating and gas. Fructose is a sugar naturally present in most fruits, fruit juices and honey as well as in products containing high fructose corn syrup, table sugar and sports drinks. Raffinose is a sugar present in many beans and vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as well as whole grains. Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products such as milk and yogurt and processed foods including cookies and salad dressings.
You may need to reduce or possibly eliminate foods that are a source of sugar to relieve painful and uncomfortable digestive problems. Although this process involves removing some healthier foods from the diet, such as vegetables and beans, you may be able gradually to reintroduce some of these foods in small amounts as part of a healthy diet. Drinking water also aids digestion by assisting with the transit and removal of waste products through the body. Stick to a diet with lean proteins, moderate healthy fats and less-gas-producing carbs such as water-rich celery, cucumber and lettuce. You should avoid sugary treats such as candy, cakes and bars.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC): Gas in the Digestive Tract
- "Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition, Fourth Edition"; Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., C.D.N; 2005
- MedlinePlus: Hereditary Fructose Intolerance