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Do you have gas?

Prilosec, Nexium, Rolaids, Tums, Gas-X, Mylanta, Di-Gel, Pepto-Bismol – these are just a few of the medications people take for gas, reflux, heartburn and stomach aches. Ads for these drugs are plastered all over magazines and TV, making these common problems seem normal. “Burning stomach again? Take one of these!” One website I found claims that it is normal to pass gas up to 20 times a day!

In my opinion, people should not be led to believe that digestive problems are normal. I believe that they can be resolved with a change in diet and that the above medications may not be necessary at all for many people. I feel quite confident in saying this because of my and my family’s experiences, which I am about to share with you… (thanks mom and dad!)

I used to have gas. As embarrassing as that is for me to say, it is not as embarrassing as sitting in a shared office at work every day hoping my bloated belly wouldn’t give way. I can talk about this now because I used to have gas. Once on a gluten-free diet, no more bloating, no more stomach aches, no more gas. Seriously – almost none, unless I accidentally ingest gluten.

My dad the pediatrician used to have gas. Throughout his life he was the not-so-proud recipient of numerous gag gifts related to flatulence – we thought that he was just a gassy person (like it was part of his personality or something!) Then he went gluten-free. No more gas. Think of all the gifts he could have received instead…

My mom used to have heartburn and gas. She had a big container of Di-Gel and munched on it after dinner like it was candy. Same story… no more gluten, no more gas.

My sister-in-law’s baby had gas. She stopped eating gluten while breastfeeding. Her baby stopped having gas.

Enough examples? I could go on and on with just people I know, but I will spare you any more details. My point in sharing this personal information is to raise the question: why are we popping pills to treat the symptoms, instead of identifying the cause of the symptoms?

Here are a few reasons that I can see why people take medication instead of change their diet:

  1. It is easier to take a pill than to change a diet.
  2. Pharmaceutical companies make money from selling drugs. These companies educate (and wine and dine) doctors and give them samples. No one is calling on the doctor’s office to teach them about the effects of gluten on the body – there’s no money in that.
  3. Doctors are generally not trained in diet management and don’t have the time to spend on it. Their job is to make their patients feel better, which these medications can do.
  4. There is a lack of awareness, and often a disbelief by everyone, doctors included, that a change in diet can have such a drastic effect.
  5. People don’t know how to identify the offending food. Confusing advice doesn’t help – differing sources will say it’s certain vegetables, beans, sugar, or fiber. Maybe these can cause gas, but if it’s frequent, painful, or odorous, look at gluten and dairy first.

If you suspect something in your diet is causing you distress, see your doctor and make it clear that you want to identify the cause, not just take medication. If you suspect gluten, ask about getting tested for celiac disease. It should be noted that of the people mentioned above, I am the only one who tested positive for celiac disease. Either their tests were inaccurate or they have some form of gluten intolerance. If you suspect other foods, ask about food allergy testing, or see a nutritionist to help you try an elimination diet. Good luck!

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