Q What can I do to help alleviate gas, bloating, and diarrhea?
A The first thing I would do is get a full case history and find out if you are currently on an antibiotic or have a history of antibiotic use. Antibiotic therapy can alter your gut flora/good bacteria, which may cause a lot of gastrointestinal (GI) issues. I would also ask you if you are taking any prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs. For example, many individuals use overthe- counter acid-blocking drugs, for heartburn symptoms, which can disrupt the good bacteria/microflora in your intestines and alter essential digestive hydrochloric acid levels leading to a host of gastrointestinal symptoms.
In the course of asking you more questions, I’d also find out if you had any surgeries, how much exercise you get on a regular basis, and whether you are drinking enough water per day. We would also discuss your family history concerning gastrointestinal disease, and the amount of stress you have. While it may be unlikely for you to have more serious health issues, we would also need to rule out different illnesses, including but not limited to, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO.
Then we would talk about foods you should avoid. The first on the list is processed sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Next are wheat, barley, and rye. Now, I know that gluten-free is a big trend right now, but many people do not really know why. More often it is the fructans, oligo and polysaccharides/ fructose and glucose, found in those foods that can lead to increased fermentation in the gut and thus symptoms of gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Dairy is another culprit. Dairy contains the sugar lactose, which also produces gastrointestinal symptoms for a number of people.
One of the many aspects of health to consider is symptoms are more often the last thing to show up and usually the first component of a health issue to go away. People often think being asymptomatic (without symptoms) is indicative of health; however, just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy.
We live in a time when most individuals want the “quick fix,” the “I don’t have time for that” consciousness, however, to obtain true health and wellness, you need to heal your body. That will take time and under most circumstances is not a quick fix. I’d recommend giving this protocol at least 8-12 weeks. Unfortunately, you can’t do it for a week and say it doesn’t work.
Incorporating the above recommendations into your dietary lifestyle, you will begin to feel symptoms lessen in a short period of time.
If the idea of removing so many foods from your diet is too daunting, just remember you can remove them one at a time
If you want to work toward healing your gut further, then the next step is to do a low FODMAP diet (go to xymo.co/PMT/FODMAP). FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. In everyday language, that means reducing the intake of short-chain carbohydrates/sugars that some people can not digest well. A low FODMAP diet involves eliminating a lot of different problematic foods such as gluten, sugar, dairy, fried foods, onions, alcohol, caffeine, cabbage, simple carbohydrates (sweets, packaged foods, etc.), and sugar alcohols (xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, others).
If the idea of removing so many foods from your diet is too daunting, just remember you can remove them one at a time and you may be able to re-introduce them later. You may want to keep a food diary to see what symptoms may occur during the removal and re-introduction of different foods.
Next, you will want to help reduce inflammation and re-inoculate your gut with good bacteria. Using supplements may be helpful, but this is not the only answer. Continuing to eat healthy foods that have a low FODMAP profile, as well as foods that are not inflammatory will be essential to healing. The supplements I recommend to aid in healing circumstances of this nature include L-glutamine, a good acid-resistant probiotic, an anti-fungal to help with possible Candida overgrowth, and a good digestive enzyme formula that includes proteases, amylases, and lipases. For inflammation, I recommend curcumin. If you are using a curcumin supplement, then you will want to make sure it also includes black pepper or piperine so that you can absorb the beneficial health benefits of curcumin. There are many more supplements I would recommend however this is a very good starting point.
One last item to consider, your relationship with food. We often relate food with comfort. If we start to look at the functional aspects of food in our body rather than being an emotional solution, then maybe we will have an easier time making better dietary choices and can heal more than just our bodies.
I often tell my patients before they eat something to ask themselves, “How am I going to function when I put this food in my body?” If your goal is to optimize function, then by asking this simple question you may increase function in your body and possibly obtain health at the same time.