DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have an unmentionable problem of passing gas. It’s embarrassing for me to socialize. Are there particular foods I could avoid to reduce the amount of my gas? What else can be done? – F.A.

ANSWER: It’s a mentionable problem. All of us pass gas 10 to 20 times a day. Blame the bacteria that live in the colon for its production. They dine on undigested foods – carbohydrates in particular – and they emit gases as products of their digestion. The offensive odor of gas comes from minute quantities of sulfur in the bacterial gases.

Notorious gas producers include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, beans, asparagus, broccoli, potatoes and wheat-based products like bagels and pretzels. All of these foods are healthy foods, and you don’t need to completely stop eating them. On the day before and the day of any social engagement, don’t eat them. Sorbitol, a sugar substitute found in many commercial foods, including sugarless chewing gum, is another gas producer.

If you love beans, you can diminish their propensity to cause gas by first boiling them in water (one cup beans to 8 cups water). Remove them from the heat and let them stand for a full hour. Drain and then add 3 cups of fresh water and cook until tender.

Dairy products are another source of gas for some people. If they are troublesome for you, you can use the enzyme Lactase or Dairy Ease before eating them. Beano also lessens gas production – for just about all foods, not just beans. Some find that products with activated charcoal solve the gas problem. They’re readily available in all drug stores. Pepto-Bismol binds sulfur and takes the odor out of gas.

Taking a walk after eating moves food through the digestive tract more quickly and gives bacteria less time to convert undigested food into gas.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I hope you can give me answers to a couple of questions. I am a 54-year-old woman.

The first is: I am going to have rectocele surgery in a little over one week. When the technician did an EKG, I overheard her say that it was “borderline.” What does that mean?

I have low blood pressure, sometimes 95 over 60. Is that normal? It doesn’t happen when I go from a sitting or lying position to a standing position. It happens when I’m upright. – K.T.

ANSWER: Although the EKG technician is an expert in taking EKGs, she is not expert in interpreting them. The official interpretation will give you a definite statement about the significance of your EKG. To me, “borderline” signifies that the EKG could be normal or could be slightly abnormal. Wait until a doctor reads it before you worry about it.

Your blood pressure is actually a predictor of a life longer than most people could hope for. So long as a blood pressure reading similar to yours produces no symptoms, like dizziness, faintness or weakness, it is excellent.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My heart skips a lot. It doesn’t bother me other than my thinking about it. Is there any vitamin, mineral or exercise that would help? – L.P.

ANSWER: Stop thinking about it. Those skips are most likely premature ventricular contractions, PVCs.

Everyone has PVCs. They are beats that arise in the heart’s lower chamber, the ventricle. They come before the regularly scheduled beat. The beat after a PVC is delayed, and the heart fills with more blood than it usually has. That subsequent beat, therefore, because it’s pumping more blood, is felt as a thud in the chest, and the person who feels it thinks it’s a skipped beat.

Unless PVCs are numerous, they aren’t dangerous.

I can’t give you 100 percent assurance without seeing your EKG. Tell your family doctor about it. He or she will probably want you to have an EKG, and then you’ll have a sure answer.

Neither exercise, nor vitamins nor minerals will stop skipped beats.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My doctor wants me to take Evista for osteoporosis. My niece, who happens to be in nursing school, says it’s a hormone and can lead to breast cancer. My sister died of breast cancer, and I am quite frightened of it. I won’t take anything that puts me in danger of it. What’s your opinion of Evista? – M.P.

ANSWER: Evista is not a female hormone. It’s a SERM, a selective estrogen receptor modulator. It has two different actions. On breast tissue, it blocks the attachment of estrogen to breast cells and actually acts to protect the breast against cancer. In bone, it has an estrogenlike effect. It stops bone loss.

It gives you a double benefit – protection against breast cancer and protection against bone loss. You can take this medicine without fear.

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. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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