What are treatments for excessive gas?

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Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
Gastroenterology
The first step in treating flatulence is to stop eating the foods that cause gas: beans, fruits, and other complex carbohydrates, as well as the artificial sweetener sorbitol. But don't eliminate all fruits and vegetables, because these foods are the basis of a healthy diet. A product called Beano, which contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, might help metabolize difficult-to-digest complex carbohydrates when taken before meals. And preparations containing the pancreatic enzymes lipase, trypsin, and amylase may reduce gassy emissions by helping to digest proteins, starches, and fats when taken with meals. These enzymes are sold over the counter in capsule form (a product called Super Digestive Enzymes is one example), at stores that sell nutritional supplements.

For some people, a drastic reduction in dietary sugars and some cutback in refined starches and wheat flour may help. Activated charcoal, a tasteless black powder, absorbs gas and for some people cuts down on gassiness, particularly after a high-carbohydrate meal. Occasional use is not harmful. Additionally, Pepto-Bismol may reduce the odor of flatus.

Some people have had success with anticholinergic drugs such as dicyclomine (Bentyl) and hyoscyamine (Levsin). These agents block nerves that stimulate the digestive tract. A course of the broad-spectrum antibiotic rifaximin (Xifaxan) may also help reduce flatulence, without side effects.

A variety of probiotics have been tried for treating flatulence, with some success. But the size and quality of studies has not been sufficient to make specific recommendations.

When all else fails, wearing a deodorizing and absorbing pad containing activated charcoal beneath one's undergarments doesn't stop flatulence, but it can prevent others from noticing it. A study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that such devices are moderately effective.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.