Diet rules to avoid flatulence

Help! I have an embarrassing problem _ it has to do with passing wind (with toxic odours) at regular intervals during the day. I am not spared at night either, since the urge to stop breaking wind cannot be restrained.

I am a single male, 39 years old, and I am sure I will die single if I don't cure myself of this malady. Medicines have not helped me much. I want to know the true cause of this ailment, so I can nail this thing head on!

_ Rather not reveal my name.

Let me explain about the chemistry of flatulence. It has a lot to do with diet and lifestyle. Certain food substances have a high ether content, most common ones being chickpeas, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, as well as certain vegetables and herbs like aubergine, potato, tomato, radish, onion, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli and okra.

When these are ingested, some amount of gas is inevitably formed in the intestine as a result of digestion, which must be eliminated. The urge to pass wind (along with 12 other natural urges, according to ayurveda) must never be suppressed, or it can weaken your digestive and immune systems.

Cold, sour and fermented food can also lead to gas formation, like stale cheese and pickles. Milk, dairy products and sweets are rich in complex sugars, which sometimes cannot be adequately broken down owing to lack of enzymes in our GI tract. These pass into the large intestine without being digested, where they could ferment leading to gas.

Eating inappropriate food combinations can also aggravate the problem. Incompatible food combinations are those which require different enzymes and acid levels for digestion. Ideally, they should be eaten separately so the stomach can release the necessary enzymes and hydrochloric acid to breakdown the food.

But since they are eaten together, they sit longer in the stomach, which is trying to adjust its secretions to digest the meal. This causes fermentation (of carb rich food) and putrefaction (of protein rich food) in the acid environment of the stomach, which then leads to gas formation.

Imagine your tummy to be a blending machine. If you put in hard nuts like almonds along with soft fruits like banana, oranges etc, there's little chance the almonds will be finely powdered and blended into the mixture. However, if you grind the almonds in a separate component, then blend it in with the fruit juice, you would get a neat smoothie.

Acid-concentrated food like fruits, lemons, eggs and meat products do not combine well with alkaline (starch) rich food like milk, yoghurt, melons (cucumber included) and heavy vegetables like potatoes. So if you consume milk and eggs daily, or consume fruits immediately after lunch or dinner, you are bound to suffer indigestion and flatulence.

According to ayurveda, humans are ultimately a result of the bioenergies making them up at the quantum level, which accounts for their personality, emotional/mental make up and disease tendencies.

These energies are vata (air+ether), pitta (fire) and kapha (water+earth). If the vata energy in someone is naturally higher than the other two doshas (bioenergies), it will make such individuals very sensitive to food stuff high in air and ether content (mentioned earlier), and it is generally the vata (air) types who suffer more from flatulence.

Your dosha-type can be identified during a personal consultation with an ayurvedic practitioner, using assessment and pulse diagnosis. A suitable diet can be prescribed, which will prevent the dominant bionenergy from going off balance _ the real key to disease prevention!

A little mindfulness and discipline could do wonders in this condition, so pay close attention.

A few solutions are suggested below:

HERBAL HEROES FROM YOUR KITCHEN:

Cardamom, asafoetida, ginger, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and carom seeds.

1. Chew on raw cardamom seeds (1-2 pcs) after every meal, along with fennel seeds (-1tsp).

2. Consume plenty of warm water during the day. Go on a khichdi (a South Asian dish of rice and lentils) fast or light soup diet for 3-4 days to clear your bowels. Remember to add herbs like ginger, asafoetida and carom seeds to the food.

3. Roast a tablespoon of cumin and carom seeds, add them to boiling water, steep for five minutes, pour into a thermos and consume during the day.

4. Prepare a herbal powder as follows: roast 5g of asafoetida with a little organic ghee (clarified butter) and remove from flame. To this, add 5g each of cardamom powder, black or rock salt and ginger powder. Store this herbal mixture in an air-tight jar. Consume this mixture before every meal ( teaspoon would do) along with warm water.

Do not drink cold water (and chilled fizzy drinks) before, with or after meals. Limit intake of vegetables like aubergine, potato, cauliflower, beans, tomato, etc. (refer to list mentioned earlier).

Yoga and pranayama can do wonders, as well. The pawanmukta asana (wind release posture) is especially recommended, along with other digestion-strengthening asanas like vajra asana, on a daily basis.

Eat mindfully and chew your food well.

Cigarettes and alcohol can also aggravate the problem, so cut these out.

Avoid the following food combinations as much as possible:

Hot and cold foods at the same time (eg ice-cream with coffee, warm noodles with iced colas, cold orange juice with warm toast).

Milk with sour fruits, fish, meat or yoghurt. Smoothies which involve blending in fruits with milk and yoghurt is not an ideal food combination.

Two or more different kinds of meat at a time (eg chicken with fish).

Potato and aubergine with milk, banana and melons.

Yoghurt consumed with sour fruits, milk and hot drinks, fish and meat. Note that yoghurt used while cooking meat is okay.

Ghee and honey in equal proportion should be avoided.

Lemon with cucumber, milk and yoghurt.

Fruits should not be eaten immediately after meals as it ferments in the stomach and leads to gas. An interim of at least 40 minutes between meals and consuming fruits is advisable.

Melons (cantaloupe, watermelon, etc) should not be eaten with any other food.

INTERESTING FACT

On an average, a human passes wind 2-4 times a day, and it's not supposed to be foul smelling.


Disclaimer: Dr Dimple Arora, Doctor of Natural Medicine, specialised in diet & nutrition (London) and advanced ayurveda (India). She runs the Golden Awareness Holistic Nutrition & Wellness clinic on Sukhumvit Soi 39. Email arora@goldenawareness.com.

About the author

Writer: Dr Dimple Arora