Tag Archives: Lactose Intolerance

Put a GAG on GAS!!!

A burp or a fart at wrong times can be a source of embarrassment and discomfort. Nonetheless it is a part and parcel of life because an average adult produces about 0.5-1.5 liters of gas every day which is either passed as flatus or as a burp. The amount of gas produced depends on the diet and other individual factors. Certain foods, eating habits and disease conditions can cause you to make excessive amounts of gas. This piece of writing reviews the sources of intestinal gas, conditions that increase sensitivity to gas and measures to reduce gas production.

As a student we study the three states of matter: solids, liquids and gases. The lightest state of the three can act quite heavy when inside the intestines. Intestinal gas comes from two primary sources of intestinal gas: gas that is swallowed and gas that is produced by bacteria in the large intestine.

Swallowed air is the major source of gas in the stomach. It is normal to swallow a small amount of air while eating and drinking and this is mostly eliminated by burping.

Bacterial production: The colon normally houses billions of bacteria which support intestinal health. Certain carbohydrates which are incompletely digested by our intestines are acted upon by these bacteria. In this process certain gases are produced like carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and very small amounts of sulfur.

Causes of Increased Gas Formation

  • Larger amounts of air can be swallowed when eating food rapidly, gulping liquids, while having carbonated beverages or chewing a gum, or smoking.
  • Foods that cause gas: Several foods contain a carbohydrate ‘raffinose’, which is poorly digested and can increase gas production. Foods like beans, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus (shatavari), etc.
  • Some laxatives contain soluble fiber and may cause gas, particularly during the first few weeks of use.
  • Certain Diseases: Lactose intolerance – Lactose intolerance occurs when your body has difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and most milk-based products. Gluten Sensitivity or celiac diseaseGluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. The people who are not able to digest gluten are said to be sensitive to gluten. Irritable bowel syndrome – Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are sensitive to normal amounts of gas and normal movement in the intestines feels painful or overactive.
  • Stress can also lead to increased gas formation because people under stress often swallow a lot of air.

Measures to reduce Gas

  • Avoid foods that appear to aggravate your symptoms. These may include milk and dairy products, certain fruits or vegetables, whole grains, artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages. Keep a record of foods to help to identify which foods are troublesome.
  • If you are lactose intolerant, do not consume products that contain lactose or use a lactose-digestive aid, such as pre-digested dairy products or lactase supplements (e.g., Lactaid® tablets or liquid).
  • Fructo-oligosaccharides present in certain foods promote the growth of friendly bacteria in the large intestine which help in keeping the growth of gas-producing bacteria in check.
  • Chew food thoroughly. Large particles cause gas when they pass into the large intestine without being completely digested.
  • Eat slowly. If you eat too quickly, you tend to swallow more air.

Though relatively harmless, excessive gas in the gastro-intestinal tract can be quite annoying. By checking our food habits we can put a gag on this gas.


Are you intolerant to lactose?

Do you suffer with a strange queasiness whenever you consume milk or other dairy products? Chances are high that you suffer with Lactose Intolerance.

Lactose is a sugar (carbohydrate) which is found in milk of humans, cows, buffaloes and other milk producing animals, thus deriving the name ‘milk sugar’. For its digestion Lactose needs an enzyme (lactase) which if absent or deficient creates symptoms collectively termed as lactose intolerance.

Most human beings are born with excellent lactase activity which slowly declines with age. Approximately 65% of human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy (0-1 year). Hence there are chances that a person might not be born with lactose intolerance but develop it with increasing age. Infants born prematurely are at a risk of having lactase deficiency because lactase levels do not increase till the late third trimester (6-9 months) of pregnancy.

The degree of intolerance varies from person to person. Most lactose intolerants can digest milk / milk products in varying amounts or in one form or another. The symptoms are seen 30 minutes to two hours after consuming milk or milk products which include: abdominal pain, gas, diarrhoea, bloating, nausea, etc. It is very difficult to diagnose lactose intolerance purely based on these symptoms. To diagnose and ascertain, it is first recommended to follow an elimination diet. A person is advised to completely abstain from dairy products to observe any improvement in the symptoms.  To further confirm the effects diagnostic tests can be administered.

Although the body’s ability to produce lactase cannot be changed, the symptoms of lactose intolerance can be managed with following dietary changes:

  • Avoid lactose initially; gradually introduce small amounts of milk / milk products. This may help people to adapt with fewer symptoms. Also lactose is better tolerated when taken with meals.
  • Lactose is also present in foods as additives so it becomes all the more necessary to read labels before consuming a processed food. Products which mention terms like ‘fat reduced’, ‘low fat’, ‘contains milk solids’ or ‘fat free’ have a higher lactose percentage. The foods which must be taken with caution include: pancakes, biscuits, cookies, doughnuts, processed breakfast cereals, instant soups, salad dressings, protein powders, powdered coffee creamers, etc.
  • Fermentation of milk decreases the lactose content thus making it better in terms of digestion; which means curd is better digested compared to milk.
  • Substitutes can be included in diet to maintain nutrient intake (especially proteins and calcium). Milk can be substituted with soy milk. Non-milk products which are rich source of calcium include: salmon, sardine, spinach, soy milk, sesame seeds, broccoli, etc. Nowadays dairy products containing predigested lactose are available in the market. These can be consumed without any symptoms.
  • Improve the health of the intestines by including probiotics in the diet.
  • Lactase enzyme tablets can be taken whenever dairy is consumed.

 By following these simple tips you can stomach your dairy without having a stomach upset.

Image Courtesy: Digitalart