Friday, December 26, 2014

My stomach is driving me crazy, and it's getting embarrassing. What can I do about gas?

The first thing you have to realize is that the concept of gas is very vague, and is what led to the field of gastroenterology in the first place.

My stomach is driving me crazy, and it’s getting embarrassing. What can I do about gas?

James C. Reynolds, M.D., Drexel University College of Medicine

The first thing you have to realize is that the concept of gas is very vague, and is what led to the field of gastroenterology in the first place. Pain in the abdomen is often attributed to gas, but it may not truly be a gas problem.

However, if you are feeling the sensation of passing gas, or you are belching and feel bloated, a variety of problems may have developed here.

Gas occurs when food has not been processed properly. The most common cause is lactose intolerance, and certain types of diets can also lead to gas. Gas often also occurs when taking antibiotics and other medications that lead to bad bacteria in the intestines.

This is why we’ve had such a recent enthusiasm for probiotics as solutions to the problem. In terms of what you can take at home, probiotics are the safest.

I also recommend my patients keeping a lactose free diet and staying away from cream, ice cream, milk, and seeing if that’s what is causing the problem. You can still enjoy those products in your diet by getting things like lactose-free ice cream.

However, if the gas-type symptom is ever associated with persistent pain, weight loss, blood in the stools, anemia, or even severe pain that wakes you up in the night, you need to see a doctor at this point.

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Check Up covers regional health news and a wide array of healthcare topics from pharmaceutical happenings to patient safety. Read about some of our bloggers here.

Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

Michael R. Cohen, R.Ph. President, Institute for Safe Medication Practices
Daniel R. Hoffman, Ph.D. President, Pharmaceutical Business Research Associates
Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. Cardiothoracic surgeon in the Philadelphia area
Amy J. Reed, M.D., Ph.D. Anesthesiologist and Surgical Intensivist in the Philadelphia Area
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