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And All that Gas

People pass gas between 12 -25 times a day. Gas is produced in the intestine, while our overworked system tries to break down and process all the gunk we are wolfing down.

We need food to fuel our bodies. We need to eat. When the system is overloaded, it rebels, which is a positive sign that it is working for our good. We need to listen to it.

Often, we can hear it quite clearly!

Some foods are more prone to producing excessive gas than others.

Beans are well known flatulence producers and it is quite amusing that in the attempt to wean us all off meat, beans are suggested as an alternative source of protein.

However, there is a silence on the bi-product of excessive gas.

Excessive gas is no laughing matter. Severe stomach pain, sore throat, belching and farting become more frequent and can be smelly. Not so elegant.

We can of course, adapt our diet, but when we look at the list of foods that cause all this gas, it includes almost everything. Vegetables, fruit, cereals, sugars, carbohydrates, dairy, alcohol, chewing gum.....You get the ;picture.

Vegans are, mostly, silent on this side effect. Mostly.

When the food enters the mouth , it is broken down by the teeth, mixed with saliva which makes the food easier to process and proceeds down to the stomach where it is churned into the intestine, where it meanders along, releasing nutrients, gathers up dead cells from the sides of the gut and finally expels what is no longer needed. Keeping all this show on the road demands a lot of co-ordination between the various parts of the body and there is now increasing evidence that the brain, stomach, intestine and heart ,share information and work together.

It is the sugars that produce the gas as the food is fermenting. Vegetables are high in sugar. Onions, artichokes and fruit contain fructose, while the brassicas- brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and even asparagus contain raffinose. Even the little pea, which contains soluble fibre can cause excess gas. Looks bad, but the great Roman Cato, who was very interested in health, suggested cabbage as a fail safe remedy for (almost) everything.

Fruit, with the fructose and sorbitol can also cause problems-apples, pears, peaches and that great aid for constipation, prunes, are also adding to our gassiness.

Even the humble potato, which has served us well, is now coming in for a lot of criticism because of the starch. Carbohydrates are also suspect-pasta, bread and cereals. Wheat, especially refined white flour wheat, is difficult for the system to digest. But oats and oat bran, which are great for digestion, moving along the food, filling up the intestine and reducing cholesterol are culprits.

Because fructose is added to fizzy drinks, they can cause discomfort and even chewing gum is sweetened by sorbitol.

And then there is medication, which interferes with the flora of the gut, can wreck the system, especially ibuprofen and anti-biotics..

What to do?

1. Drink a glass of water before your meal. The continentals know a thing or two by having an aperitif ( from the Latin apero to open)with a few bits to nibble, This prepares the stomach to receive food. Eating with your fingers also send a signal to the stomach. Babies should always be encouraged to use their fingers rather than stuffing plastic spoons of goo down their little throats.

2. Eat slowly. It is even better to eat communally. Chat. Take your time.

3. Don't eat in front of the tv or computer

4.Avoid artificial sweeteners. If you want to control your sugar intake, reduce.

5. Take exercise 3/4 times a day. This can be a walk, dance around the kitchen, up and down the stairs, stroll around the garden, sweep the floor, vacuum the carpets

. When we move, we help our internal organs to move, too. By taking a little exercise, we are getting things moving-literally. Everything.

6. Have some over the counter digestive aids handy. Indigestion and stomach pain can strike during the night, while you are travelling or sitting at a concert.

7. Lightly cook cabbage, broccoli,sprouts in boiling water. It makes them easier to digest.

8. Drink peppermint/lemon balm/sage/camomile teas after your meal to allow your stomach to process the meal.

9. Keep a check on what causes YOU to have pain or excessive gas.

10. Restore the gut flora. Eat natural yoghurt, Drink water, ( in moderation) Eat lightly simmered food which is easy to digest.

11. Try and avoid foods that have antibiotics, pesticides or herbicides. Pork is high in antibiotics. Lamb has less.

12. Enjoy your food. Have a nice meal. Moderation in all things.

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