Q: Sometimes I get excruciating gas pains. They usually go away after a little flatulence or going to the bathroom. What can I do to stop the agony? It always happens at the most inconvenient times! — Scott S., Dallas
A: Ouch! Those gut-wrenching gastro-grumbles caused by trapped gas can knock you off your feet. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to relieve the discomfort — if it's just a temporary inconvenience. Often, severe gastrointestinal pain is associated with afflictions such as lactose intolerance, a reaction to artificial sweeteners (sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol) or gulping in air when you swallow, chew gum or talk. If you have Type 2 diabetes, your pains may result from overgrowth of certain types of gut bacteria. Controlling your glucose levels may help ease the problem.
Constipation can cause gas pains, and it's best relieved by drinking lots of water, getting fiber from whole foods and fiber supplements and regular physical activity. However, if you have chronic abdominal pain, the smart first move is to see your doc. Also, get checked out pronto if you have a fever, persistent diarrhea, or black or ribbon-like stools.
Gas forms in the gut when bacteria in your colon or large intestine ferment carbs (sugars, grains, beans, veggies) that weren't fully digested as they passed through your small intestine. Many of these carbs, like Brussels sprouts or 100 percent whole grains, are very good for you. So you want to find a way to improve your digestion instead of permanently eliminating those foods from your diet.
We recommend that you try eliminating milk and milk products for at least 30 days to see if your gas pains go away. And try taking a probiotic daily (we recommend a spore form of bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 or lactobacillus GG K) and avoiding red meats and all added sugars and syrups. That should help recondition your gut. If that doesn't completely solve the problem, there are always over-the-counter anti-gas meds. That's using the old bean-o!
Q: We recently moved, and both my daughter (14) and son (12) have been having a hard time getting used to their new school's 7 a.m. start time. I read that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that starting classes before 8:30 a.m. is harmful to middle- and high-school students. How can I make sure my kids are OK? — Beth Z., Wichita, Kansas
A: For now, your best bet is to try to get the kids in bed no later than 10 p.m. Then explore your particular school's options with the PTA or school board. They may be pretty receptive: After the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that the chronic sleepiness of our nation's teenagers is a public health issue and that delaying school start times would be an effective remedy, some Wichita schools pushed back their start times. But keeping start times of 7 a.m. (for some charter schools), 8 a.m. (for middle and high schools) and 9 a.m. (for grade schools) means the school district can use the same buses for three trips — a big cost savings. Later start times have worked in some places, and the results are impressive: For example, the Minneapolis Public School District pushed back seven high-school start times from 7:15 to 8:40 a.m. and immediately saw improvements in attendance and alertness, and a decrease in rates of student depression. But you still have to get up early tomorrow and deal with this situation, so here are our recommendations:
–Start by making a “no TV, no phones after 9:30” rule and stick with it.
–Make sure your kids are physically active every day; it's a great way to make sure they sleep!
–Schedule homework sessions before and after dinner so they can finish everything and still hit the hay by 10.
–And make sure they get a healthy breakfast — no grab-a-bar-and-go meals, please! It will fuel them for the day and help them stay attentive and focused.