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Do probiotics help with gas?

Posted 1 year ago by Clare

Do probiotics help with gas? Well the short answer to that is yes. But perhaps we should first ascertain that there is a difference between abdomen extension due to excess gas and a feeling of being bloated.

bloating

Gas is a very normal side effect of healthy digestion. The average person can expel about 3 pints of gas a day!! They however may not feel bloated! Surprised? So was I. However more gas than that and we can start to feel a real distension of our abdomen. This may also be combined with pain, discomfort, embarrassing noises...

However we can feel bloated without having lots of extra gas. We can feel bloated for other reasons such as just feeling full. This can happen when someone is suffering from gastric dyspepsia where they are not producing enough stomach acid and food is not broken down quickly in the stomach. We can also feel bloated due to water retention which is caused by hormonal fluctuation. I know it sounds silly but simply eating too much can make your feel bloated, stuffed! This is a common complaint around Christmas! Also eating fatty and rich foods that are hard to digest can also cause that feeling of fullness which is different to gas.

What are the causes of gas?

Well the causes of this vary from one person to the next. It can be as simple as eating too fast and gulping in air, drinking fizzy drinks where you actually swallow air within the drink! Chewing gum is another culprit. Certain foods also make nearly many people gassy. Examples of these are artichokes, beans, cabbages and lentils, the reason being that these are particularly hard to break down produce gas that then needs to be eliminated by farting!

 lentils

All these causes of gas are avoidable. However there are further causes of gas production which have an endogenous, have an internal cause and with these probiotics can help

Wind, bloating and gut bacteria

One of the main endogenous causes of gas is dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is a scientific term for imbalanced gut bacteria. We have trillions of bacteria and yeasts living in our digestive tract which have differing functions, including optimal digestion and absorption, eliminating waste, creating necessary nutrients, and optimising immune status. In an ideal world we have enough of these little bacteria to keep harmful bacteria away. However there are many things such as medications, infections, foods and chemicals amongst others which cause our bacteria to become imbalanced. When this happens there is more room for the pathogenic bacteria, ‘bad’ bacteria to take hold in the gut. These bacteria tend to feed off our sugars and starches we eat and in doing so ferment and cause gas and therefore farting.

Secondly, food intolerances can lead to certain foods, which normally wouldn’t cause us a problem, only being partially digested and fermenting, again causing a lot of excess gas.  Dairy is a common example of a food some people are intolerant to. This is because the lactose in the dairy is made up of two simple sugars which need the enzyme lactase to break it down so they can be absorbed. Many people start lacking in this enzyme as they get older resulting in these sugars reaching the large intestine undigested. The gut bacteria then feeds on this sugar and produces gas making that person feel very bloated with extra gas. The other issue with lactose reaching your gut undigested is that it encourages water to be drawn in rather than passed out of the gut so again adds to the feeling of distension.

The main role of probiotics is to promote the break down and absorption of foods. So they can help food intolerances by improving the digestibility of many nutrients including facilitating the breaking down of lactose into simple absorbable sugars. Probiotics also improve the proper digestion of food by stimulating the enzymatic activity of the epithelial cells (including lactase). There is research to suggest also that probiotics help modulate and stabilise a leaky gut as well which is also implicated in the production of gas.

One thing worth noting though is that some probiotics actually contain prebiotics. These prebiotics actually provide the probiotics with food. However, prebiotics is a form of starch so some people who struggle with digesting starch may find that they feel a little more ‘gassy’ on probiotics to start with. However, it is worth persevering, and the benefit of building up the healthy bacteria should start to outweigh the gas caused by the presence of starch.

So in answer to the question can probiotics help eliminate gas, the answer is that they certainly can. Although depending on the cause of the gas probiotics may be part of a multi-pronged approach to the issue.

For more information on how probiotics can help with gas and bloating, you may find the following blog post on bacteria interesting.

Picture sources: www.thekitchn.com

 

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