If you frequently experience the discomfort and embarrassment of excessive intestinal gas, you may have tried to eliminate problem foods from your diet. That’s a great start, but you should also take a second look at your favorite beverages.
The typical American drinks about 41 gallons of soft drinks (carbonated water, still or sparkling juices, or soda) each year. If your diet routinely includes the fizzy stuff, here’s how to sip wisely.
How soda water affects gas sufferers
Carbonation can cause problems for gas sufferers, no matter whether the beverage in question is water, fruit juice, or soda. “As the carbonated water fizzes and bubbles in the stomach, it can cause a buildup of air, and this can lead to loud belching.” The carbonation can cause bloating and belching.
“Carbonated water can cause a buildup of air that can move down the digestive tract and into the colon, causing flatulence.”
Drink chilled sparkling water to limit the amount of gas that reaches your stomach: “More gas will be immediately released at warmer temperatures and more will be retained in solution at cooler temperatures.”
Note: the citrus flavors that bottlers often add to carbonated water can damage your tooth enamel. Either brush your teeth or rinse with plain water after drinking citrus-flavored beverages.
Deciphering the label
Your local supermarket probably carries a few alternatives to conventional, sugary sodas (or those that contain high-fructose corn syrup). Major brands such as Coke and Pepsi market a reduced-calorie beverage that contains “approximately half the sugar of the regular versions.” [Wikipedia] “Light” and “diet” soft drinks substitute artificial sweeteners for either sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
The diet soda difference
The artificial sweeteners that replace sugar in diet soft drinks pose a unique set of challenges for gas sufferers. StomachBloat.com reports: “When the body works overtime to digest sweeteners like aspartame, cyclamate and sucralose, enormous amounts of bloat producing gas can form, leading to uncomfortable symptoms.”
How your body metabolizes the ingredients
Your body can’t digest artificial sweeteners, “which is why they have no calories. However, they still must pass through our gastrointestinal tract, where they encounter the vast ecosystem of bacteria that thrive in our guts.”
Research published in the September 2014 journal Nature determined that “High doses of artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose and aspartame can change the population of healthy gut bacteria in mice and in some humans. And those changes can affect how well their bodies metabolize sugar …” ‘Many healthy people develop gas and diarrhea when they consume these sweeteners.”
Does the word ‘diet’ encourage over-consumption?
If you don’t read and understand the nutrition information on the product label, you can be tempted to over-indulge. One solution is to do your research before you buy and drink that soda. Talk to your doctor about your health and how much – if any – diet soda you should drink each day. If you’re frequently tempted to drink more than you should, keep only your daily ‘ration’ in the fridge and the rest at room temperature. You’ll be less likely to reach for seconds or thirds if it’s been sitting in a closet.
Note: studies have found that certain diet soda additives, such as artificial coloring and emulsifiers, are carcinogenic.
High fructose corn syrup
As we mentioned in the comparison between diet and regular carbonated beverages, HFC usually tops the ingredients list. It’s a cheap alternative to sugar and is commonly found in store brands.
CeliacMD reports: fructose malabsorption, the inability to “completely absorb fructose in their small intestine the beginning part of the digestive tract,” is why many people experience excessive intestinal gas after consuming HFC products. “The undigested fructose is then carried to the colon where our normal bacteria rapidly devour it. In the process, the bacteria produce gases which cause the intestine to swell. This is experienced by the person as bloating, cramping, gas and distention. Diarrhea may also occur due to the undigested particles of fructose.”
This simple carbohydrate sits in your digestive tract longer than complex carbohydrates. The longer your body takes to digest carbohydrates, the easier it is for these nutrients to ferment and produce gas.
Acid and intestinal gas
Contrary to what you may think, “a lack of the proper types and amounts of naturally occurring stomach acids may contribute to cases of indigestion, heartburn, acid stomach, gas and bloating, according to the University of Michigan Health System.” If your gut doesn’t contain a balance of good and bad bacteria, “stomach acidity is affected. If there is not enough stomach acid present for proper digestion, the food remains in the stomach for too long a period, essentially rotting, causing gas and indigestion.”
Alternative beverage choices
What’s the difference between ‘natural,’ organic, and regular sodas?
We’ve said it before, but consumers need to do their homework before heading to the grocery store or ordering from a menu. The FDA advises that it “has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
You shouldn’t find high fructose corn syrup in your natural soda, but expect to see cane sugar or just plain fructose (fruit sugar) on the label. Labeling guidelines allow manufacturers who “wish to voluntarily label their plant-derived food products or ingredients (for humans or for animals) as having been made with or without bioengineering. FDA’s main concern within the context of this guidance is that such voluntary labeling be truthful and not misleading.” A properly labeled organic soda cannot contain bioengineered colors, sweeteners, or other additives. They can, however, contain artificial colors, sweeteners, or other additives.
Top beverage choices for gas sufferers
Herbal teas (iced or hot) made with ginger, mint, or chamomile can be very soothing. Digestifs, more commonly consumed outside the US, usually contain alcohol and are slightly to very bitter-tasting. Benefits include:
- Curb sugar cravings
- Soothe gas and bloating
- Encourage digestive enzymes, bile & HCL production
Radiant Life encourages those searching for a non-alcoholic alternative to look for a beverage that features “gentian, cascarilla, cassia, orange peel or cinchona bark.”
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.