People with liver disease are likely to have some digestion issues, often resulting in excessive gas. Nobody welcomes gas in their stomach and intestines, especially when it is expelled as flatulence. Easy for anyone to incorporate, these five suggestions can help a person reduce their quantity of gastrointestinal gas.
Intestinal gas is a fact of life. Despite being considered socially inappropriate, flatulence is a normal, physiological release of intestinal gas. However, excessive gas production in the abdomen can stem from liver disease and can be problematic. As long as other serious health contributors have been ruled out, there are some simple steps anyone can take to reduce gas accumulation in the abdomen and intestines.
The uncomfortable sensation of pressure inside the belly is commonly known as abdominal bloating. Abdominal distention occurs when the pressure is so extreme that the physical size of the belly protrudes.
In general, there are three reasons for distention: fluid, tissue or air accumulation in the abdomen.
- Fluid – A consequence of advanced liver disease, fluid accumulation in the abdomen is usually ascites. Although most commonly due to cirrhosis and severe liver disease, ascites may be indicative of other significant medical problems. In addition to progressive abdominal heaviness and pressure, those with ascites generally experience shortness of breath due to the fluid’s pressure upward on the diaphragm. To prevent worsening health problems, fluid-caused abdominal distention must be managed by a doctor.
- Tissue – Requiring medical intervention, continuous abdominal distention may be the result of an enlarged organ or tumor. Especially important for those at risk for developing cancer of the liver, these conditions must be ruled out by a qualified physician. Another cause for abdominal distention may be obesity, where fat tissue increases girth and puts pressure on the abdominal cavity.
- Air – Intermittent distention is often due to the accumulation of gas within the stomach, small intestine or colon. Common culprits of excessive air in the abdomen include swallowing lots of air, bacteria byproducts, malabsorption, maldigestion, medication side effect, or consuming gas-producing foods.
Although most people are unaware that they are doing so, the most common reasons for swallowing large amounts of air include:
- gulping food or drink too rapidly
- drinking carbonated beverages
When air is the cause of abdominal distention, it can be relieved in various ways. Unless the air is absorbed into the blood or transferred down the intestines for elimination by flatulence, belching is one of the body’s outlets for trapped abdominal air.
When excessive gas is in the intestines, there can be many possible reasons. Especially pertinent to those with liver disease, malabsorption and/or maldigestion of certain nutrients can cause gas. Common in those with alcoholic liver disease and cholestatic liver diseases, such as primary biliary cirrhosis, not being able to absorb or break down certain foods causes gas and limits the nutrition extracted from food. In theses instances, playing close attention to and then avoiding the foods responsible can reduce potentially flatulent situations.
When foods are not absorbed or broken down well by the stomach or small intestine, bacteria in the large intestine must go to work. The bacteria in the intestines produce gas (hydrogen and/or methane) when they digest foods that have not been digested during passage through the small intestine. The biggest culprits of intestinal gas are sugars and starches.
- Sugars – Sugars that are commonly poorly digested and absorbed are lactose (the sugar in milk products), sorbitol (a low calorie sweetener) and fructose (the most commonly used sugar in food).
- Starches – Produced by plants and composed of long chains of sugars, common starches include wheat, oats, potatoes, corn and rice. Because rice is the most easily digested starch, little of it reaches the colon and the colonic bacteria. Accordingly, the consumption of rice produces little gas. In contrast, the starches in wheat, oats, potatoes and, to a lesser extent, corn, all reach the colon and the bacteria in substantial amounts.
While flatulence is a common way to expel gas, there are two other ways in which gas can escape the intestine:
- Absorbed into blood – The gas can be absorbed across the lining of the intestine into the blood. It then travels in the blood and ultimately is excreted in the breath.
- Removed by friendly bacteria – Gas can be removed and used by certain types of bacteria within the intestine. Most of the gas that is formed by bacteria in the intestines is removed by other friendly bacteria in the intestines. We’ve talked about how you can improve your gastrointestinal health with probiotics and digestive enzymes in a previous article.
5 Ways to Reduce Liver-Related Gas
Although reducing the amount of abdominal and intestinal gas depends on why there is excessive gas in the first place – and one big reason we learned can be from having a compromised liver – there are five simple ways to reduce gaseous pressure:
- Conscious eating, chewing and swallowing – By deliberately eating slowly, chewing food thoroughly and avoiding gulping, you will introduce less air into your gastrointestinal system.
- Avoid gaseous food and beverages – Foods such as beans, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) and carbonated beverages increase gas in the abdomen.
- Be active – Do not lie down or sit in a slumped position immediately after eating. Instead, take a leisurely stroll after meals. This activity promotes digestion to avoid food needing to be broken down in the intestines.
- Limit sugars and starches – By reducing the quantity of sugars and starches consumed, the likelihood of intestinal bacteria being recruited for its digestion decreases.
- Enhance your body’s friendly bacteria – By supplementing with probiotics, such as in Ultra Probiotic Formula, friendly bacteria in the intestines are replenished. With more friendly bacteria, more of the gas in the intestines is removed.
Although small amounts of gas in the abdomen or intestines is completely normal, excessive quantities can cause discomfort and embarrassment. A person with liver disease is even more prone to these issues because of a higher likelihood of having digestive problems. As long as more serious causes of gas are ruled out by a physician, you can reduce your gas by choosing what you eat and drink, being deliberate in your consumption methods, getting some physical activity and taking probiotics.
Editor’s Note: In addition to probiotics, Digestive Enzymes can also offer digestive and gut support for those with liver concerns. Digestive Enzymes is a comprehensive enzyme formula that helps you completely digest your foods and absorb their nutrients. It is clinically proven to reduce the occurrences of bad bacteria, bloating and flatulence.
http://en.wikipedia.org, Ascites, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
www.liverdisease.com, Gas-Related Problems in Those with Hepatitis/Liver Disease, Melissa Palmer, MD.
www.medicinenet.com, Intestinal Gas (Belching, Bloating, Flatulence), Jay Marks, MD, MedicineNet Inc.
www.nutrition.org.uk, Probiotics for Gut Health, British Nutrition Foundation.