Digestive Woes: Eek! What’s Causing All This Gas?
It’s a common story. You’re having lunch with friends, and you mention that you’ve been experiencing a health problem. And with that remark, your friend goes into “problem solving mode” by recommending a specific diet or ingredient that they think may help you. Your friend means well, but it’s better to get medical advice from a reputable source to help solve your struggle.
Misinformation affects many of my clients, but there is a way to spot your problem and seek reliable facts to solve it. I’m going to walk you through an example of a three-step problem-solving approach that was developed for Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign Take the Fight out of Food, which works quite well for nutritional concerns.
Let’s call this client Celeste. She’s fighting with an embarrassing problem – excess gas. Her friend recommended a gluten-free diet, but her friend is not a doctor or dietitian, so Celeste was curious about this recommendation. Was it the right one for her? Let’s use the three-step approach to solve her struggle with gas and bloating.
Spot the problem: Celeste’s problem was that everything she ate seemed to give her gas. Her friend said to stop eating wheat and gluten, but she wasn’t sure if that was the right advice.
Get the facts: After reading a medical website, Celeste was relieved to learn that gas, bloating and burping are all common and can be normal. She found helpful advice by searching the term “gas” on these trusted websites:
She learned that gas, bloating and burping may be caused by swallowed air, medicines, supplements and certain food or drinks. So, maybe she was not properly digesting her daily chickpea salad or one of her supplements is causing the problem?
But she also noted that gas and bloating could be the sign of a condition, such as lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease. Celeste was unsure of the reason for her symptoms, and read that it’s important not to self-diagnose. She needed the help of her doctor.
Celeste wants to learn more about her friend’s suggestion to give up gluten in case she has celiac disease, so she visited the Canadian Celiac Association website. She learned that if she needs to be tested for celiac disease, she needs to be eating gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains) before the test to get accurate results. If she had taken her friend’s advice to remove gluten from her diet, she could get a “false negative” result. Phew! She’s happy that she looked into it before making any changes to her diet. If she does need to go that route, she now knows to work with a dietitian before eliminating foods, since they can help her plan a balanced diet and ensure she meets nutrient needs.
Seek support: Now Celeste knows not to self-diagnose or rely solely on advice from websites or well-meaning friends. She will talk to her doctor about her symptoms. If necessary she will see a gastroenterologist (digestive health doctor). She can also see a dietitian (like me!) to help her figure out which foods may be causing her discomfort.