Dear Gayle,

I have been embarrassed lately by passing gas. I didn’t used to think about it at home, but now that it’s happening so much in public, I’ve realized that I do it a lot anymore. What can I do to keep it from making me stop leaving the house? Is there anything that controls it?

— Need to Know

Dear Need,

We do not know who the first person was to feel embarrassed by this natural process, but we know how we feel when it happens to us. Most of us feel the embarrassment you mentioned. I have both seen and heard of persons who used it as an opportunity to deliberately annoy others. I have also been present when it happened to persons who did not seem to be affected by it in any way; no quick apology, no leaving the area for a minute to privately rid oneself of any more of the offending gas. Because you are in the first group, and you want to do something about it, I suggest that you be thinking about why this has become a bigger problem for you than you believe it used to be. Did you recently start a new medicine? You could ask your pharmacist for printouts on any prescription meds you take to see if flatulence is a listed side effect of any. Have you deliberately changed your diet? Do you have any digestive health issues caused by having been on an antibiotic? Have you discussed this with your doctor? While I might not make a special appointment to do so, I would run it by him or her the next time you are in for a check-up. You may get referred to a gastroenterologist who may recommend a probiotic or other course of treatment. If you eat a lot of salads, you may want to switch the types of lettuce you use; some people react to iceberg, but not to other lettuces. Some of the other ingredients in your meals can also have the effect of producing excess gas.

As for treatment, the only one I know of is Beano. Years ago, its instructions were to chew one-to-three tablets right in with the first small bite of a food known to offend. I read the box yesterday and it now says it can be taken up to thirty minutes after eating that food. I would still do it the first way, if I thought I needed it. I forgot to check the price of it at the store yesterday, but I recall that it was notably more than nearby products, but I believe that it is the only one that works the way it does, so substituting might not be that effective. In spite of the embarrassing nature of this issue, work at not allowing it to keep you from being a part of what is going on out in your world. Good luck.

Dear Readers,

This time of year is noted for having opportunities for various entertainments such as the ACTS concerts I attended recently. (It was so enjoyable on Saturday that I attended again on Sunday.) I am amazed by the quality of work put out by talented volunteers whose only gain is knowing that they have shared their talents with others. Kudos on a great show. I also took in a good movie. In almost every movie I see, no matter how good it is, there is that one scene in which the characters do not react in a natural, realistic way. In this week-end’s comedy, that scene occurred when the main characters were portraying being very sad. In that situation in real life, they would surely have been bawling their eyes out.

I expect a suspension of realism when I am at a musical. People do not sing their way through life. I tried it out once in the entry to a large public building. My companions appeared to feel less as though they were part of a flash-mob-of-one event, and more as though they were suddenly being held prisoner by a mad woman. For the most part, they were sorry that I had accepted the challenge that one of them had just made. Only one of them keeps trying to get me to give a repeat performance. I digress…

The point is to embrace life. Don’t be a survivor of it, but an enjoyer of it. Take an active part in it rather than just sitting back waiting for it to happen to you. Especially at this time of year, there will be chances to participate in good things. Go. Do.

[Gayle Wright is a mental health counselor doing area agency and hospital social work. Write to Gayle at: LV MY TAKE ON IT, 435 Broad Street, New Bethlehem, PA 16242, or send email to gaylewright@mail.com.]

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