Although everyone experiences gas, some people are troubled by it more than others. At times,excessive gas can become uncomfortable or even painful. However, some simple changes to your diet can help provide gas relief and also aid digestion. In addition to over-the-counter gas relief remedies, some items commonly found in the kitchen may double as natural gas relievers.
Herbs for Gas Relief
A number of herbs in the carminative family may help ease gas and prevent bloating, according to Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, a Texas-based dietitian and nutritionist and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The very definition of carminative,” she says, “is a substance that aids in the expulsion of gas.”
One of the herbs shown to have carminative effects to help break up and expel gas is ginger, the subject of a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology in 2008. It found that ginger helps speed digestion, which is important because if your stomach empties faster, gases can move more quickly into your small intestine to relieve discomfort and bloating.
Other examples of herbs in the carminative family that could help provide gas relief, include:
Lemond suggests trying to gain the benefit of carminatives from the food you eat rather than by taking herbal supplements, which she says should be taken with caution. “Some people think of herbal supplements as natural or straight from the earth so they may be taken at will, but a lot of them have pharmaceutical effects and could interact with medications,” she says. “Always get approval from your doctor before taking a supplement.”
Probiotics for Gas and Bloating
Probiotics may also help aid in digestion and reduce excessive gas. Probiotics are live microorganisms, mostly “good” bacteria, similar to the bacteria found in the human gut. They’re available as dietary supplements, but Lemond says that a number of foods also have natural probiotics, including:
Research published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in 2011 found that the probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis eased bloating among the 60 participants with certain functional bowel disorders over the course of eight weeks.
A separate study, published in the journal BMC Gastroenterology in 2009, found that an over-the-counter probiotic was much more effective than a placebo in providing otherwise healthy adults with relief from intestinal gas.
The Link Between Gas, Stress, and Probiotics
Gas can be worsened by stress. “There are nerves up and down the GI tract,” Lemond says. “People who have a tendency to be nervous can develop gas, diarrhea, or constipation.” When dietary changes aren’t effective, other treatments, such as relaxation therapy, may help.
More specifically, UCLA researchers recently have drawn even more direct connections between the stomach, brain, and probioltics. The scientists found that bacteria in food can affect brain function in humans, according to a 2013 study published in the journal “Gastroenterology.”
Life stress can cause spasms in the colon and abdominal discomfort, according to the results of a 2008 review of research published in journalEvidenced-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The researchers also noted that progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, counseling, or changes to daily stressful situations can help reduce stress and have a positive effect on digestive health.
Over-the-Counter Gas Remedies That May Help
Products you can buy at your local pharmacy to reduce gas and bloatinggenerally contain simethicone, activated charcoal, or a natural food enzyme known as alpha-galactosidase to help break down hard-to-digest foods like beans and certain vegetables. Although some people find these drugs to be effective, others don’t.
Alpha-galactosidase contains the sugar-digesting enzyme that the body lacks to digest the sugar in beans and certain vegetables, but the enzyme has no effect on gas caused by fiber or lactose. Lactase tablets or drops, however, may provide gas relief for those with lactose intolerance. The tablets are taken right before consuming milk or milk products.
“Occasional excessive gas is normal,” Lemond says. But when gas continues to be a problem despite having made dietary adjustments and trying home or over-the-counter gas remedies, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.