You treated yourself to a mouthwatering three bean chili and a deliciously creamy milkshake. Now comes the dreaded gas and bloating to ruin your after-meal bliss. Has this ever happened to you? If it has, I can imagine that it has left you feeling extremely embarrassed. Occasional after-meal gas and bloating are signs of a digestive issue, and digestive problems can be caused by a variety of reasons. In this article we will explore common foods associated with causing digestive gas problems and highlight digestive enzymes that can help you beat that embarrassing gas issue.
What Causes Gas
Gas is a normal yet embarrassing bodily function. Two common sources of gas are swallowed air and undigested food 1. Here is how you can typically identify the source. If you are releasing excess gas in the form of burping or belching, swallowing excess air is most likely the cause. On the flip side, if you are experiencing excess gas in the form of flatulence, undigested food is likely the culprit.
Now that you know the problem, what is the solution to your gassy situation? Eating or drinking rapidly, chewing gum or smoking are a few common ways that excess air enters our stomach. So, simply eating and drinking more slowly may help you beat a burping problem. On the other hand, addressing the issue of undigested food is a bit more complicated.
When food enters the small intestine, digestive enzymes are released to help break down undigested food. If enough digestive enzymes are not released, food remains undigested and is moved from the small intestine into the large intestine. Once in the large intestine, undigested food is then broken down by harmless bacteria found in the body. These bacteria produce hydrogen, carbon and sometimes methane gases, which are released from the rectum. In this case, more digestive enzymes are needed in order to decrease flatulence.
How Digestive Enzymes Work
Enzymes play an important role in digestion. Our body naturally produces enzymes designed to help break down specific macronutrients. For example, lipase is produced by our pancreas to break down fats, and amylase to help break down starch. These enzymes help our body to fully break down and unlock the full energy potential of food. If you eat hard-to-digest foods or are deficient in certain enzymes, food may not be fully digested in your small intestine.
There are many reasons our body may be deficient in digestive enzymes, ranging from common to severe, such as lactose intolerance. Symptoms of digestive enzyme deficiency can range from occasional gas to loose bowel movements. If you believe your gas is because of a health condition, it is best to talk to your medical doctor in order to diagnose and help treat the problem. If you do not have a health problem, supplementing your diet with a high-quality enzyme formula may help ensure complete digestion of each meal to help you beat gas.
The Right Enzymes for Beating Gas
The key to finding the right digestive enzyme is to identify what foods are making you gassy. A simple way to identify which foods are giving you gas is to keep a food log. Using a journal, track your meals for one week, and note if any gas or bloating was experienced afterwards. Then identify common foods present in the meals that give you gas. Once you do this, you will be able identify the best digestive enzyme supplement for you.
Common gas causing foods are dairy and high-fiber foods. In dairy products, the milk sugar lactose is the gas-forming culprit. Over 3 million Americans are lactose intolerant, and in most human populations, production of the enzyme to break down lactose decreases around age five2. Supplementing your diet with lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, can help you enjoy your favorite dairy products without the gas.
In fibrous foods, especially beans, a complex sugar called an oligosaccharide is the gas causer. This is because humans do not produce the enzymes necessary to fully digest oligosaccharides. Despite this drawback, oligosaccharides function as a soluble fiber, which helps to promote regular bowel movements, among other benefits. You can continue to enjoy the benefits of a fiber rich diet without the gas by taking enzyme supplements that contain alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme that is able to assist your body in breaking down complex carbohydrates.
Gas is a natural occurrence that is typically caused by undigested food or excess air. If it’s the latter, eating meals more slowly and mindfully is the best solution. However, if you are experiencing gas due to undigested food, digestive enzymes may be what you need to beat gas. Food remains undigested when our body is not producing enough digestive enzymes to break it down, including dairy products or fiber rich foods.
Supplementing your diet with the right enzymes can help your body’s natural enzymes break down these foods. A high quality supplement, like Enzymedica’s Dairy Assist™ or Lacto™, will help you beat gas by helping your body digest lactose. For fiber rich foods, Enzymedica’s VegiesGest™ or Bean Assist™ has alpha-galactosidase to assist your body in the breaking down of oligosaccharides. Find the enzymes that work for you, and say bye-bye to embarrassing gas.
1.Hasler, William L. "Gas and bloating." Gastroenterology & hepatology 2.9 (2006): 654.
2. Grand, R. J., et al. "Changing genes; losing lactase." Gut 52.5 (2003): 617-619.