Friday, June 21, 2013

Tired of the Gas and Bloating? Is it Gluten?

One of the most common symptoms that patients complain of is gas and bloating. Sometimes it’s associated with acid reflux or heartburn, and other times it comes along with constipation or diarrhea, but gas and bloating are very, very common.

Is it normal? Absolutely not. I don’t care how long you've had it, there is nothing normal about gas or bloating. There is a treatment that works and it’s completely natural.

For some people the symptom has been with them since childhood. As a child you may have complained of ‘tummy aches’ when the gas got too bad. Perhaps you remember these tummy aches, I know I do. Or perhaps you have a child who complains. This is not a symptom to ignore and personally I get a little peeved when parents casually mention the symptom but quickly add that the child’s teacher or their spouse believes the symptom is ‘made up’. No one enjoys pain and I rarely find that children are fabricating their symptoms.
So, regardless of your age, let’s discuss why gas and bloating occur.

Your digestive tract is a closed system with an opening at either end. Considering its length is almost 30 feet, that leaves a lot of potential room for trapped gas. When food is ingested it goes to the stomach where it is broken down somewhat and then it move on to the small intestine where full digestion occurs. Once a food is fully broken down, it leaves the small intestine via the bloodstream, where it is delivered as fuel to all the cells of the body.

If a food is not considered a good fuel by your body, it won’t be able to digest it properly. This is what occurs with the protein gluten. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten is seen as a toxin that therefore becomes a burden to the small intestine. (It is interesting to note that the protein gluten is unable to be fully digested by any human, regardless of whether they have celiac or gluten sensitivity. It starts to make you wonder if we should really consider it a food...)

When a food is improperly digested it starts to putrefy within the small intestine. This creates gas, and built-up gas creates bloating. It’s a little like what occurs when something gets pushed to the back of your refrigerator and goes bad. If it’s in a plastic container, it will start to bulge and it’s definitely built up gas.
Do you feel overly full, uncomfortable or gassy after eating? This is not normal and it indicates that something that you’re eating is not being perceived as a good fuel. Is it a gluten sensitivity? Possibly. It could also be a dairy sensitivity or another food that’s bothering you.

An interesting catch-22 occurs when you don’t digest food properly. Over time you then don’t produce enough stomach acid and enzymes that are required to digest your food. You need enzymes and stomach acid to digest, but you make those things from the foods you eat – it can get quite circular.

In addition to discovering any food sensitivities, it is therefore important to discover if you do require any extra stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) or enzymes to assist you in regaining the proper balance within your intestine.

Another factor is your probiotic balance. These good bacteria help strengthen the immune system of the gut and destroy any pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms.
Lastly, those above mentioned infectious organisms can be in residence in the small intestine, and due to their less than hospitable intentions, can be creating inflammation that causes bloating and improper food digestion.
In summary:
1.       Gas and bloating is not normal
2.       Food sensitivities such as gluten and dairy can cause the problem
3.       Insufficient stomach acid and/or enzymes can also cause the symptoms
4.       Probiotic levels should be evaluated to ensure proper functioning of the intestine
5.       Intestinal infections can be present that prevent healing and perpetuate the symptoms
Treatment would look like this:
1.       Determine if you have any food sensitivities. Blood testing is a great place to start to rule out celiac disease but even if that test is negative, a 30 day gluten elimination diet will help you to determine if you have a problem. Sadly, our available tests are not perfect.
2.       For a dairy, corn or soy sensitivity – eliminate the foods for at least 2 weeks and then challenge one at a time allowing three days between challenges. Notice if you feel better off the foods and then what occurs when you reintroduce them. Remember that a reaction after reintroduction can occur anywhere from immediately up to 3 days later.
3.       Once you have determined any food sensitivities, if the gas and bloating is continuing and it tends to be something you feel shortly after eating, try some hydrochloric acid. Get a good one from a reputable health food store or your doctor. You may need to titrate it up a bit to find the proper dosage, but if it’s what you need you’ll be able to tell relatively quickly.
4.       If your symptoms tend to occur about an hour or so after meals, try pancreatic enzymes first. Much like the stomach acid, you may need to titrate the dose up to find what works for you.
5.       Probiotics are always a safe bet, just use human strains of different organisms at a high strength. Once again, your doctor or reputable health food store is your best source.
6.       Determining the presence of any infectious organisms requires a lab test. We use a lab that looks for an abundance of different bacteria, parasites, amoeba, etc. Often a traditional medical stool test only looks for a couple of parasites. This is not what I’m referring to. You want a comprehensive test. The good news about this test is that it also evaluates your probiotic and enzyme levels.

What’s interesting is how all the above points are inter-related. The food sensitivity often starts the problem and the rest of them follow as a result.

Please realize that gas and bloating go beyond discomfort or embarrassment when gas passes. These symptoms are an indicator of poor digestive function. If you cannot turn your food into proper fuel, there truly is no way the rest of your body can be healthy.

If you have any of these symptoms and are having difficulty remedying them, you are welcome to contact us for a free health analysis. Just call 408-733-0400.

We are a destination clinic, meaning that we treat patients from across the country and internationally. You don’t need to live locally to receive assistance.

Please share this information with those you know. It’s certainly not ‘dinner table’ discussion, but it’s extremely important for overall health and many who are suffering either don’t know it’s abnormal, or they don’t know that it’s correctable without dangerous drugs.
I look forward to hearing your questions.


To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN

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