Day 219-Wednesday's Medical Minute-What Causes Gas?

There are those who would say farts are funny. I would have to agree, depending on the circumstances. There are times though, when flatulence is a real problem, it may cause pain similar to a heart attack and it might be helpful to some of you to get to the root of your gas problems. Maybe you don’t realize that gas is a symptom sometimes of something more serious than eating Grandma’s cabbage, and there are ways to lessen your discomfort, if you just knew what to avoid.

Gas is caused by many factors including:

  1. Lactose Intolerance-The inability to fully digest sugar (lactose) in dairy products
  2. Food Intolerance- Digestive problems that occur after a certain food is eaten
  3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome- An intestinal disorder causing pain in the belly, gas, diarrhea, and constipation
  4. Celiac Disease- An immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye
  5. Gluten Sensitivity- Sensitivity to gluten

The symptoms of each factor are similar and can include; passing excessive amounts of gas, bloating, cramps, belching, discomfort, flatulence, fat in stool and urgent need to defecate.

Well some things just can’t be helped, like after eating some high fiber foods like fruits and veggies, or you may burp after accidentally swallowing gas while eating. But what if your symptoms are telling you there are more serious problems going on? Would you want to get to the bottom of it, maybe change your diet or check with a doctor?

If you experience excessive gas, it may also be a symptom of another health condition such as diverticulitis, IBS, Crohn’s disease, or a bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine from conditions such as diabetes. If you use artificial sweeteners, they may also be the culprit, many folks just can’t tolerate things like mannitol, and xylitol which are found in some sugar-free foods, gums and candies. I learned this the hard way, not knowing how mannitol affects you, I ate three pieces of a particular brand of sugar-free chocolate candy one time. Not pretty!

Ok, there are obvious ways to reduce the amount of gas your body produces, like stop eating the offending food, or drinking soda which has bubbles, but what if you aren’t sure the cause? If you experience persistent pain, you need to check with your doctor. He will schedule tests after an exam, like a blood or breath test and possibly specialized x-rays to determine the cause(s) of your excessive gas.

We all have and pass gas, and sometimes, it’s just funny. But when you can’t stop, or find yourself hurting no matter what you eat, or what otc medicine you try, please go get checked out and make sure something more serious isn’t going on.

Luckily, I have never been much of a milk drinker, when I started eating a more Paleo diet, I switched to almond and/or coconut milk. I notice if I slip or cheat, I get excessive gas. No ice cream for me I’m afraid, unless I make my own from coconut milk, bananas or cashews. If you check out my Pinterest board on Everything Paleo, you will find a delicious recipe for Coffee Cashew Ice Cream which I pinned from Do You Even Paleo. You might even find something else you like while you’re there, go check it out!

Plus, there are ways to minimize the gas your body creates on a normal basis;

  1. If you drink about 30 minutes before your meal, instead of with it, your body will digest the food better.
  2. If you ate and drank slowly, you would swallow less air, which means less gas.
  3. You could try taking a digestive enzyme like Beano to break down the sugar from beans and other vegetables.
  4. You could try activated charcoal, found in pill or liquid form, which helps reduce gas and creates firmer stools.
  5. You could try not drinking through a straw, and chewing gum (guilty on both counts) which may cause your stomach to fill with air. So does smoking. (not guilty, I vape)
  6. Avoid certain artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, and mannitol. Read the labels if you aren’t sure. I use Stevia which is natural.

I hope this has helped you identify some of the reasons you may have gas, simple or excessive, and that you go get yourself checked out if you are experiencing more serious symptoms like prolonged pain, bloating or frequent belching. Ask me any question on the subject and I’ll try to find you the answer. For me, eating natural healthy foods is going to produce it’s share but by not eating gluten-which I make it a point not to, I reduce my occurrence of stomach discomfort, diarrhea and constipation. If you want to know more about the Paleo lifestyle, check out Mark’s Daily Apple and  Dr Axe websites that explain the best ways to heal leaky gut and eat for optimal health. Enjoy your day and see ya tomorrow, on the patio!

Day 157-Wednesday's Medical Minute-Reader Feedback

Today’s post was originally going to be called What To Eat Wednesday, where I would talk about foods I eat while following a Paleo lifestyle. After conferring with Miss Stephanie, however, I decided there is enough info out there in the blogosphere about food and recipes in general, and that I could do the most good and help more folks by talking about the health issues we share, and what can be done about them.

For instance, I have PKD- so maybe sharing details about it could help someone else with it.

Stephanie has a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy called Friedreich’s Ataxia- I could explain some things about what she goes through and how that might help others.

My husband has recently been diagnosed with stage 1 Prostate cancer- again, I could talk about how we arrived at this and how early detection might save another man’s life.

You get the picture, however, I want your feedback so I know how to help you as well. It seems we all have something or know someone who has something that affects us on a daily basis. How do we best deal with it? What are the best ways to treat it? What do you want to know more about or what can you share with me that readers might benefit from?

Say you have diabetes or know someone who does. I want your questions about that. I want to know how I can assist you, or someone you love. Maybe through my research, we will all learn something useful about conditions we didn’t even know existed. Before I met Miss Stephanie, I had never heard of FA. Now I’m learning all about it. In her case, diabetes is a side effect. It is a mystery she herself is still trying to figure out and deal with. Together, we work on her diet to find out what works to keep her numbers low. She also has heart problems because of her disease, eye problems that make her vision “snowy” and loss of balance and coordination. Are there others out there that may benefit from knowing these details? Probably.

That’s why I need your help. You tell me what you want me to cover on the blog. What do you want to know more about, or what questions may I help you get an answer to?

So, with all that being said, today I will discuss some aspects of FA in an effort to explain what someone else might be noticing in their child, or just to know what Miss Stephanie deals with every day.

Stephanie at home, showing off her new hair color
Stephanie at home, showing me that beautiful smile!

Friedreich’s Ataxia is named is named after the German physician that first discussed it in the 1800’s. It is an autosomal recessive inherited disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. It strikes approximately 1 in 50,000 and manifests in initial symptoms of poor coordination such as gait disturbance. It does not affect cognitive function but can lead to heart disease, scoliosis, and diabetes. Stephanie has all of these problems which require her to use a wheelchair, she also needs assistance with feeding, dressing and bathing, making her totally dependent on others to function.

The Ataxia of FA results from the degeneration of nervous tissue in the spinal cord, in particular sensory neurons essential (through connections with the cerebellum) for directing muscle movement through the arms and legs. The spinal cord becomes thinner and nerve cells lose some of their myelin sheath ( the insulating covering that helps conduct nerve impulses). In Stephanie’s case as well as others, symptoms began early in life, between 5-15, and began with muscle weakness in the arms and legs, loss of coordination, vision and hearing impairment, slurred speech, curvature of the spine, a deformity of the feet called pes cavus- or high plantar arches and carbohydrate intolerance (diabetes), though about 10% of those diagnosed develop type 2 diabetes). The heart disorders are atrial fibrillation and resultant tachycardia (fast heart rate) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

It presents before 22 years of age with progressive staggering and frequent falling. Lower extremities are more severely involved. The symptoms are slow and progressive and after 10-15 years with the disease, patients are usually wheelchair bound and require assistance with all activities of daily living.

So, if your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to get medical assistance. It is not their fault, they are born with this genetic problem. They cannot help it if they are stumbling or suddenly lose the ability to hold a spoon and feed themselves. You will require the assistance of many doctors, including but not limited to a pediatrician, cardiologist, nutritionist, neurologist, optometrist, ophthalmologist, and other specialists to deal with all of the conditions it causes. You will also need help from therapists, aides and caregivers, since managing all of these issues can be stressful on the family as a whole.

Since the cognitive function is still in tact however, patients can and do get involved in the treatment process, attend school, manage their social life, use the computer, watch television, read, and otherwise interact with caregivers and parents, doctors and aides, attend church and other places, go to the store, enjoy cultural events and even go on cruises! Stephanie is witty, funny and charming, loves almost everyone she meets and is loved in return. She deals with a lot of problems but remains strong in her faith and is thankful for what she can do and doesn’t focus on what she can’t.  She helps with running the blog set up by Camp Craig Allen, an organization who provides a place where children and adults with disabilities can go for fun, and therapeutic activities.

Stephanie put herself through college and managed for many years on her own, however, she had to move back in with her parents when the disease progressed to the point she could not function without 24/7 care. They reached out for assistance through a government agency called CLASS, who helped with issues like obtaining caregivers and medical equipment.

My hope is that the information I’ve shared here can help someone else who may be dealing with issues like Stephanie’s, and if you have questions, feel free to ask them. What I don’t know how to answer, Stephanie can fill in the blanks. She is extremely knowledgeable and wants to help others learn more about her disease.

For more information see MDA.org and NORD-National Organization for Rare Disorders