Treatment of Gas
The most common ways to reduce the discomfort of gas are changing diet, taking medicines, and reducing the amount of air swallowed.
Diet Changes That May Help Gas
Avoiding fermentable vegetables/carbohydrates like beans, broccoli, cabbage, and some artificial sweeteners like sorbitol (which is found in gum, candies, and some soft drinks) can lessen the amount of gas produced. Those who are truly lactose intolerant may improve if they avoid milk products.
Alcohol may impair intestinal digestion so that more food is available for gas production. Certain proteins may enhance the odor of gas. If gas is a problem for you, try monitoring your diet (time of day and description of foods eaten and drinks ingested, and times of each episode of gas) for a week or so to identify what may cause increased gas production or what may effect odor.
Doctors may tell people to eat fewer foods that cause gas. However, for some people this may mean cutting out healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and milk products. Doctors may also suggest limiting high-fat foods to reduce bloating and discomfort. This helps the stomach empty faster, allowing gases to move into the small intestine.
The amount of gas caused by certain foods varies from person to person. Effective dietary changes depend on learning through trial and error how much of the offending foods one can handle.
Medications to Help Gas
Many nonprescription, over-the-counter medicines are available to help reduce symptoms. Products containing chlorophyllin copper (e.g., Nullo, Derifil) can help minimize offending odor. Digestive enzymes, such as lactase supplements, actually help digest carbohydrates and may allow people to eat foods that normally cause gas.
Simethicone (e.g., Gas-X, Mylanta Gas, Phazyme) is a foaming agent that joins gas bubbles in the stomach so that gas is more easily belched away. However, these medicines have no effect on intestinal gas.
The enzyme lactase, which aids with lactose digestion, is available in liquid and tablet form without a prescription (e.g., Dairy Ease, Lactaid). Adding a few drops of liquid lactase to milk before drinking it or chewing lactase tablets just before eating helps digest foods that contain lactose. Also, lactose-reduced milk and other products are available at many grocery stores.
Beano, an over-the-counter digestive aid, contains the sugar-digesting enzyme that the body lacks to digest the sugar in beans and many vegetables. The enzyme comes in liquid or tablet form. Beano has no effect on gas caused by lactose or fiber. Heat degrades the enzyme in Beano so it cannot be added to food while it is being cooked.
Beano is made from an enzyme (alpha-galactosidase) extracted from a food-grade mold; if you are allergic to molds you may react to Beano. Those with galactosemia (an inherited disorder characterized by the inability to metabolize galactose) should not use Beano without first consulting their physician.
Reduce Air Swallowing
For those who have chronic belching, doctors may suggest ways to reduce the amount of air swallowed. Recommendations are to avoid chewing gum and to avoid eating hard candy. Eating at a slow pace and checking with a dentist to make sure dentures fit properly should also help.