DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 40-year-old married woman with two children. My problem is gas. I fast all day and only eat bland food at night. This problem keeps me a prisoner in my own home. Is there anything you recommend? – P.O.

ANSWER:
Everyone produces 500 to 1,500 ml (18-53 ounces) of gas daily and expels gas (flatus) 15 to 20 times a day. Most of the gas comes from fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates by bacteria living in the colon. The gases produced are mainly hydrogen, methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. They are odorless.

The disagreeable odor of flatus comes from sulfur-containing foods or from sulfur-containing preservatives. Such foods include garlic, cabbage, some breads, beer, potato chips, brussels sprouts, many fruits and caffeine-containing beverages.

Foods that generate the odorless gases are beans, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, bananas, prunes, bran cereals and muffins, peas, radishes, cucumbers, cabbage, apricots, raisins and whole-grain breads.

Fatty and fried foods slow the passage of stool through the colon and give colon bacteria a greater opportunity to produce large amounts of gas.

Limit the above foods. Chew food carefully and thoroughly to reduce the amount of undigested food that reaches the colon. Take a walk after eating. That too hastens passage of food through the tract.

Beano, simethicone and activated charcoal might prove helpful. Pepto-Bismol absorbs sulfur compounds and thereby reduces the odor of flatus.

Your situation is extreme. You might have a digestive tract problem. Infection with the giardia parasite, a somewhat common parasite, increases gas production. Milk-sugar intolerance (lactase deficiency) is another potential troublemaker. See a gastroenterologist — soon.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have osteoporosis. I am 87. I have been taking Fosamax for two years. I take 500 mg of calcium, 200 IU of vitamin D and drink three glasses of skim milk a day. Am I taking enough calcium for my condition? – G.S.

ANSWER:
Recommendations for calcium call for 1,200 to 1,500 mg a day for a postmenopausal woman. One 8-ounce glass of skim milk has 302 mg of calcium, so your milk drinking provides 906 mg. Add that to the 500 mg of calcium in your calcium tablet, and your daily calcium intake meets the requirements.

The recommendations for vitamin D are: 400 IU for people age 51 to 70, and 600 IU for those older than 70. Some say 800 mg of vitamin D would be a better target. Check how much vitamin D is in your milk and other foods. You might have to up your vitamin D dose if fortified foods are not providing enough extra vitamin D to meet the daily allowance.

Fosamax is a good drug for people with osteoporosis. It stops bone breakdown.

Add a little exercise, such as walking, and you are doing all the things you should do to minimize or reverse osteoporosis.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: A friend of mine, who’s 83, told me she swallows a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar every day to prevent artery clogging. If this really works, I would like to start doing it too, but I want to hear your opinion. Is this fact or fiction? – M.C.

ANSWER:
There are plenty of people who take apple cider vinegar to keep their arteries clean. However, I have never found a study that corroborates the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar in stopping the buildup of cholesterol and fat on the walls of arteries.

I don’t know the answer. I can’t imagine that one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar would do you any harm if you want to try it.

Your friend is 83. That, in itself, is limited proof that her vinegar-taking might be the reason for her longevity.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.


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