(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)
Whether it’s physical discomfort — like sharp, jabbing pains and a swelling or tightness in the stomach — or the embarrassment of belching or flatulating uncontrollably, we’ve all experienced that distressing moment (or series of moments) when your body is overrun with gas.
The good news is that we’re all in this together. I have yet to meet someone who has not burped, farted or clutched their bloated stomach and cursed their respective gastrointestinal gods for undue discomfort. The great news is that there are foods that can actually help your body combat gas, and we’ve rounded up six of them for you:
(MORE: 6 Food Cures That Really Work)
1. Dandelion Greens
A bitter herb like dandelion seems like it would churn your stomach into a gassy knot, but this backyard nuisance is actually a bloat- and gas-fighting all-star.
Dandelion greens pack a bloat-free punch by acting as a diuretic and ridding the body of excess water, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dandelion greens also prevent gas by increasing stomach acid production and stimulating digestion, says naturopathic doctor Ivy Branin, of Simplicity Health Associates in New York City. “Stomach acid is crucial in proper digestion,” Branin says. “If foods are properly digested, gas and bloating are prevented.”
Whole Foods Market says the greens also offer a trio of vitamins — A, C and K — and recommends adding them to salads and stir fries.
2. Pineapple and Papaya
Their ability to break down proteins in meat not only make pineapple and papaya natural meat tenderizers (try Taste of Home's Marinated Pork Medallions recipe), but these enzyme-rich foods can also ease digestion by helping break down proteins during digestion, according to Branin. The longer it takes to break down these proteins, the more likely it is that you will experience the feeling of fullness and bloating, Branin says.
What’s more, if the undigested proteins enter the small intestine, they’ll begin to putrefy and cause gas.
Considered a staple in any Korean kitchen, kimchi is a spicy mix of fermented vegetables that includes cabbage as its main ingredient.
Cabbage has gotten a bad rap over the years as one of the top culprits for gas and bloating, but this fiber-rich food actually aids in digestion by populating the GI tract with beneficial bacteria. The more good bacteria you have in your gut, the better equipped your body will be at breaking down foods properly so gas doesn’t build up, Branin says.
Although it has only recently become popular in America, fermented cow, goat or sheep milk — also known as kefir — has been keeping bellies happy and bloat-free in Eastern Europe for centuries. Like its cousin yogurt, kefir is chock full of good bacteria — it actually has up to three times more beneficial bacteria than yogurt — which helps the body break down food and prevent buildup of gas, according to research from The Ohio State University.
Even better, this probiotic powerhouse doesn’t require a spoon. As long as you don’t mind its carbonation and slightly sour taste, you can drink it from a glass, with a straw or even straight from the container.
The best way to prevent gas, according to Branin, is to add spices to your diet.
(MORE: 8 Herbs and Spices That Fight Disease)
In particular, she recommends black pepper, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, anise, rosemary, cardamom, coriander, basil and cloves. Considered carminative, which literally means an herb that prevents gas, these spices can go a long way in keeping the tummy taut and gas-free.
Another carminative herb known to prevent and eliminate gas is chamomile, according to research published in Molecular Medicine Reports.
Branin recommends drinking chamomile as a strong tea (two bags steeped for 15 to 20 minutes) or a liquid extract taken before meals. “I recommend this to many of my patients who suffer from gas, with great results,” she says.
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