Substantial steps have been made to promote healthy lifestyle and eating habits in the U.S.
We see fast food chains offering leafy greens, commercials pushing the power of antioxidants and whole grains making a guest appearance in nearly every cereal box.
If you have yet to jump on the healthy bandwagon, and are contemplating doing so, this article will be of particular interest to you.
When incorporating vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and grains to your diet you increase your fiber intake.
Our small intestine lacks the enzyme needed to properly digest fiber, allowing the undigested foods to enter the large intestine.
Normal bacteria in the colon break down the undigested food producing nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and odor causing sulfur. The buildup of gas in the colon is expelled by the rectum, through a process called flatulence.
If you don’t normally eat much fiber and decide to increase your fiber intake in one day, the bacteria in your large intestine will wreak havoc on you. Some symptoms you may experience after a sudden increase of fiber are abdominal bloating, abdominal pain and excessive gas.
However, this does not have to be your fate. Start by slowly increasing fiber in your meals every two weeks and drink plenty of water to reduce symptoms.
Due to differences in an individual’s bacterial ability to digest fiber, the amount of gas produced varies from person to person. Therefore, identifying fiber rich foods that keep bowel movements regular and do not cause excessive gas is an individual issue.
Food intolerances, such as lactose and gluten intolerances, produce similar symptoms that fiber cause.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the sugar in milk due to a deficiency of the enzyme lactase. The undigested milk sugar sits in the gut and is broken down by bacteria, producing gas.
Fortunately, by consuming a lactase supplement, milk containing lactase, cultured yogurt, lactose-free or reduced milk and identifying dairy by-products in food labels you can eliminate symptoms.
Celiac disease affects the mucous lining of the intestines after consuming gluten. This decreases absorption of nutrients, resulting in diarrhea and malnutrition. Gluten is found in most cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley, but not in corn and rice.
Do not assume you have a food intolerance and avoid a food group, doing so may lead to a nutrient deficiency.
Some hidden laxative effect sources are ingredients found in sugar free and low calorie gum, candy and beverages. The names of the most common sugar alcohols used commercially are sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol.
Although people vary, side effects are more common when one consumes a large amount of the sugar alcohols but rarely if consumed in moderation.
Foods are not the only components that cause gas. Lifestyle habits such as chewing gum, drinking with a straw, smoking and eating too quickly cause gas to enter the body. Usually, belching is our body’s response to this form of gas intake.
Tips to fight the evils of healthy foods:
Keep a food diary and track foods that produce significant increases in gas.
Introduce lower fiber foods to your diet first and then move onto those higher in fiber.
Drink plenty of water alongside fiber foods because if there is not enough water available, fiber will not easily move through the system causing constipation.
Don’t let a day of gas turn you off to all fiber foods. The American Dietetic Association recommends women to consume 25g of fiber and men 38g daily.
Fiber keeps your bowel movements regular, reduces risk of chronic diseases, and has been linked to lower body weights. No synthetic form of fiber added to products like Benefiber and FiberOne bars can provide the same nutrient packed punch as vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
This doesn’t mean fiber-marketed processed foods need to be avoided. Just follow these tips to make your transition to healthy eating a bit easier.
Friday’s Flavor is written by dietetics students and edited for accuracy by Assistant Professor Amanda Newell