Gas or flatulence and acidity are two of the common problems faced by the people today. Gas in the gastrointestinal tract is found either due to swallowing excessive air while eating or is produced by the bacteria normally present in the intestines mainly the colon. Excessive gas or flatulence is primarily caused by intestinal bacteria. The gases mainly hydrogen and methane are produced when the colon bacteria digest foods, primarily sugars and complex polysachharides or starches that remain undigested during their passage through the small intestine. Sugars such as lactose or milk sugar, sorbitol used as sweetener in low calorie foods and fructose used as a sweetener in desserts and also present naturally in some fruits and vegetables cause gas. Polysaccharides or starches that cause gas are wheat, oats, potatoes and to some extent corn. Whole grain food items due to the presence of fiber in them which is similar to complex starch cause more flatulence than refined grains like maida. Certain fruits and vegetables like beans and cabbage also contain complex starches that cause the menace of gas.
Another common gastrointestinal problem is hyperacidity. It mainly includes symptoms such as heartburn, a burning pain that arises from stomach and moves up to the chest or even up to the throat and regurgitation, a sour or bitter tasting acid coming back into throat or even mouth. Other symptoms of hyperacidity are bloating, black /bloody stools, bloody vomiting, burping, sensation of food stuck in throat, weight loss for no known cause, sore throat, hoarseness or dry cough and wheezing. However as these common symptoms of gas and acidity may due to some deeper pathology like gastro-esophageal reflux disease, gastric or peptic ulcer, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, gall stones or liver disease therefore it is advisable to visit a physician when such symptoms persist for long. Investigations such as ultrasound abdomen, liver function tests and endoscopy can be advised to locate pathology.
Risk factors for hyperacidity include eating large meals or going off to sleep immediately after a meal, being overweight or being pregnant that pushes the gastric contents upwards, eating heavy food items like fried and seasoned food and lying on back or bending forward at the waist, eating snacks close to sleep hours, eating certain food items such as citrus, spicy, onion, garlic, mint, fatty food tomato and chocolates in excess amount, drinking beverages like alcohol, tea, coffee or carbonated drinks, smoking and taking certain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, muscle relaxants or blood pressure medications.
To avoid the distressing symptoms of gas and acidity one can make some changes in lifestyle and eating habits such as
- Reduce foods such as beans, peas, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, whole grain foods beer and other carbonated drinks one at a time to identify the real culprit.
- Read labels and eat low lactose or lactose free food if one is lactose intolerant. Similarly certain indigestible carbohydrates found in sugar free foods like sorbitol, mannitol may result in increased gas.
- Eat less of fatty food as it takes longer to digest hence giving more time for food to ferment.
- Temporarily cut back on fiber intake as it causes gas.
- Eat slowly.
- Eat small meals.
- Avoid foods high on citric content such as tomatoes and citric fruits
- Limit spicy food intake
- Eliminate or reduce caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee
- Eliminate smoking or at least don?t smoke just before or after the meals
- Eliminate or avoid alcohol
- Avoid wearing tight fitting clothes that can push the stomach contents upwards
- Don?t exercise for at least one hour after you eat
- Don?t lie down or go off to sleep immediately after eating meals
- Wait for at least three hours after dinner before you go off to sleep
- One can sleep with head and chest raised higher than feet by raising the top of the bed
- If stress is the trigger practice relaxation techniques and learn new ways to manage stress.
Homeopathy provides the best and most effective treatment for acidity and flatulence. It not only gives symptomatic relief to the patient but also removes the tendency to have such symptoms. For this the homeopathic physician takes a detailed case history of the patient and enquires him at both mental and physical sphere to identify the root cause. The best homeopathic medicine for gas and bloating is the one most similar to the disease manifestation in each case.
The basis of the prescription can be found in the trigger factor of the symptom e.g complaint due to overeating (Antimonium crudum), fatty food (Pulsatilla), after removal of gall bladder (Lycopodium clavatum, Cinchona officinalis) or even indigestion from stress or after some emotional upset. In other cases the area affected with gas and bloating e.g upper abdomen (Carbo vegetablis), lower abdomen (Lycopodium) and whole abdomen (China), or any symptom found to be associated with gas and acidity e.g hyperacidity and headache with blurred vision (Iris versicolor), with ineffectual urge for stools (Nux vomica) or any factor that increases or ameliorates the symptoms of the patient e.g burning pain of acidity better by warm drinks (Arsenic album) provides the basis for prescription of best homeopathic medicine for a given case. Hence with homeopathic treatment along with right lifestyle practices one doesn?t require to depend on medications such as antacids for extended and indefinite period.