It’s early January and we’re already talking bowels twice in the new year! Sorry, it is in my nature and part of my family’s tradition to bring up potty talk on a regular basis. I simply can’t help it.
Recently we had another theme night – a dinner of some traditional foods of Peru, and recipe links will follow. During a fabulous dinner of tacu tacu and loma saltado, the topic of gas came up. We were laughing hysterically as we shared a few embarrassing experiences, which certainly seem to happen in greater numbers as we grow older. So the question I posed to Dinner Table Doctor was WHY is this a problem with aging? For goodness sake, aging is difficult enough without worrying whether a toot might slip in the middle of a dinner party or teacher conference! (Not that I personally have ever had these experiences.)
DTD went into a characteristically lengthy explanation of exactly what makes us gassy and why it can actually be a good thing. The two main reasons for gas are that is ingested largely from swallowing air as you eat and drink, and it is produced by the bacteria in your colon. Most of the air you swallow passes back up through a burp. The gas produced by bacteria in your colon, which is far more embarrassing, is basically a normal part of digestion. Your colon has billions of harmless bacteria which actually help keep your bowel healthy. When you eat, your stomach and intestines take out nutrients and energy from the food. Your colon’s main job is storage and taking water, but very few nutrients. The bacteria in the colon helps digest things your stomach and intestines have a harder time with. The by-products of the bacteria digesting in the colon include gases, such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane.
The average adult can produce up to three pints of gas a day, and farts around 20 times a day, plus burps occasionally. Of course, the amount you do these things largely depends on your diet as well as other factors. As we grow older, we’re not necessarily producing more gas, but our bodies are weaker and we can’t hold it in as well. Just like our eyesight and hearing and muscle mass begin to deteriorate, so does our ability to control all of our bodily functions.
Don’t despair! Just like many other conditions, DTD says there is hope and we can do something about that gas. Not surprisingly, the key is keeping in shape by exercising and eating right. Fiber magically helps as well. (I swear, according to DTD fiber is the answer to everything!) When you fail to exercise regularly, it slows the colon down and food sits and basically ferments while gas builds up. Caution – with both exercise and fiber, it is essential to build up slowly. You can’t go from being a couch potato to running five miles in one day and you can’t go from eating zero fiber to 50g in a day. If you slowly incorporate both into your daily routine, your bowels will be gassy, but in a good way. Also, there are some over-the-counter medications which might help, like Beano and certain antacids such as Mylanta Gas or Gas-X.
Keep in mind that there are some reasons that gas can be a problem and you need to see a doctor. Uncontrollable pain and bloating is not normal. Definitely make an appointment with your doctor if gas becomes an issue. Lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia are just some of the conditions that cause gas and require an appointment with your doctor.
The reason we got on the subject of gas during our Peruvian-themed dinner was the tacu tacu, a yummy dish of Peruvian rice and beans. It was very easy to make, especially since we used canned beans. We also made loma saltado, which is basically a Peruvian beef stir-fry with french fries in the mix, so what’s not to love? It was also easy and both dishes paired very well with a Malbec wine. Both recipes can be found on eatperu.com. If you’re someone who likes to try new foods, but you’re afraid of the unfamiliar or strange spices, these recipes are worth trying. The ingredients are common and found in many American dishes, but they’re put together in a deliciously different and fun combination. We had some plantains on the side, which I love and highly recommend. Back when DTD was in the Navy and we lived in Florida, a good friend from Puerto Rico showed me how to make plantains and now I know they’re popular in Peru as well. Yum…
We thoroughly enjoyed planning the menu and creating the meal while listening to some traditional Peruvian music. The resulting gas from the tacu tacu was well worth it. I guess it’s a good thing that our hearing and sense of smell aren’t what they used to be! Please, use the links to check out the recipes and let me know it you try them. As my dear friend recommended in the recipe from my last post, “have the Pepto nearby!” Enjoy!