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DIET MODIFICATION IS KEY TO ELIMINATING GAS

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Question: I'm a 37-year-old woman. I have few complaints, but I do want to know about my gas problems. It happens after I eat. I stay away from fried foods, pork, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other gas-producing foods. I would really love to get rid of this problem.

I have heard people blame their gallbladder for this. Should I have it taken out? Please help.- K.W.

Answer: The colon produces gas because its bacteria are fermenting some incompletely digested carbohydrates. So diet is a key to relief.

Your no-no food list is a good start, but it is too short. Add Brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, onions, beans, peas, peanuts, potatoes, corn, apples, bananas, grapes, prunes and apricots.

Foods made from wheat and oat flours, such as pretzels, also can cause gas. You also might need to avoid milk, since people such as yourself can lack the enzyme necessary to digest milk sugar. Colon bacteria also love undigested milk sugar.

You can begin eliminating one thing at a time from your diet. You might begin with the brief list you mentioned, then eliminate others to find foods that do or do not give you trouble.

Check at the drugstore. There are new products that alleviate trouble from certain food culprits. I am thinking of one product you add to milk to supply the missing milk sugar enzyme (lactase). Another, called Beano, removes the problem from various foods.

You don't need gallbladder removal.

Question: I had a polyp removed from my colon. What causes a polyp in the colon? Can you tell if polyps are present there without having a colonoscope? Are there complications from the tests for it in older patients, as I've read?

- G.R.

Answer: No one knows for sure what causes colon polyp development. But some say that what causes them might also cause colon cancer. Some blame a low-fiber diet with too much fat. And you also should consider the role heredity might play.

Colon polyps show up on X-rays using a barium-enema procedure. But a more direct look with colonoscope is always best.

I would not be concerned about complications. Consider the testing a plus, not a minus.

I don't know what medical literature you've been reading, but colon tests are safe. Bleeding and perforation of the colon wall are possible complications at any age, but they are rare.

Question: What is the difference between a general practitioner, a family physician and a doctor of internal medicine?

- D.E.G.

Answer: It would be hard to find a doctor calling himself a "general practitioner" anymore. That specialty practice has evolved into what's now called family practice. Such family physicians take care of infants, children and adults of all ages. Many deliver babies.

Internists limit practice to adults. They don't do surgery or deliver babies.

Further, there are general internists and specialized internists. Specialized internists are called "cardiologists" (heart), "pulmonologists" (lungs), "nephrologists" (kidneys), "endocrinologists" (glands) or "gastroenterologists" (digestive tract).