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Mel Walsh: This gas is free

I’m full of hot air. So are you. Specifically, we’re full of nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen and the bracing air of cow pastures everywhere, methane. Experts say it’s normal to emit gases up to 20 times a day from a body outlet of your choice, so what you are doing in secret (or in public if you are outgassing freely) is probably normal.

Still, you may want to know what to do to reduce gas ” there are surprising causes of gas ” and what to do if you find yourself so full of it, you fear taking off into the air like a helium balloon.

Also in today’s lesson, we’ll learn when to see a doc about our gassy selves. But if you just want to know a little more about the mysteries of your digestive system, the government offers a handy online piece called: What I Need To Know About Gas.



This is true ” just Google it. The pamphlet will give you the basics about gas, which is not always a joke, but really a problem for some people, the ones whose gas imitates the pain of appendicitis or whose gas lodges in their chest imitating a heart attack ” all of which the poor souls find out only after a trip to the ER.

Gas lessons




Here’s the info that the feds and other sources like the Mayo Clinic think you should know about burping and what they all delicately call rear end emissions, flatus. (Many articles are written about passing gas, but the other F word is not mentioned. So, never one to break new ground when it comes to irritating delicate readers, I will continue to write nicey-nicey and call these emissions flatus. You translate.)

What causes gas?

Yes, beans, but different people have different triggers. Some triggers are broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, onions, artichokes and asparagus. Other people react to pears, applies and peaches. Still others react to whole wheat and bran. And then some who are lactose intolerant may become gassy after ingesting dairy products or packaged goods that contain milk such as bread, cereal and salad dressings.

Carbonated drinks ” think of them as pre-gassed liquids ” are another culprit. So beer and sodas may be the engines of your gas factory.

Antibiotics can also turn on the gut gas machine. (Many docs recommend yogurt with live cultures as a fix to the problem.)

The surprise trigger

As I was skipping through the jazzy information in the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House and the American College of Gastroenterology, I found that some experts believe these common sweeteners are triggers: sorbitol ” often used in products for diabetics ” and fructose ” a corn sweetener used in too many commercial products today ” soft drinks, baked goods, even cottage cheese, yogurts and salad dressings. So look to these stealth triggers if your mate is complaining about your constant burping.

Other triggers

Swallowing air gets air into your system, which is a duh kind of fact ” air in, air out. Eating slowly helps cut down air intake. Chewing gum is supposed to be avoided, as is smoking and false teeth that don’t fit, though I don’t get the logic of that last one. Drinking through a straw also puts air into the gut. So drinking beer through a straw while chewing gum and wearing bad dentures is probably a no-no. You heard it here first.

Seriously, the bottom line to all this: cut down on the foods and drinks that you are sensitive to and reduce the amount of air you swallow.

The National Institutes of Health also suggest relaxing while you eat and walking for 10 or 15 minutes after a meal. People from Europe get this ” walking in the town square after a slow food meal.

Uncomfortable bloating

Gas lodged in the gut can be uncomfortable or even painful. Some products may help. The Mayo Clinic advises products with simethicone such as Gas-X or Mylanta. They also recommend trying Beano, or peppermint tea or activated charcoal like CharcoCaps. Sometimes these products are effective … sometimes not.

When to see a doctor

Gas releases from the human body are normal, but if they are accompanied by any of these symptoms, see a health professional:

Vomiting, persistent abdominal pains, diarrhea, weight loss, bleeding and sometimes, heartburn.

So there you have it ” The Little Story of Gas and if you’ve been worried about releases a dozen times a day, don’t. It’s just your gut bacteria having a party. And the next time your friends chide you for F & B ” Flatus and Burps ” tell them that if we weren’t meant to do it, we wouldn’t have been born with two handy dandy release valves.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezer. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Gras Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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