Gas, Digestion and Probiotics


In our last newsletter, we tackled the topic of gas. Remember that gas, or flatulence, is a normal part of the digestion process, and is experienced by everyone. Most of the gas we pass is produced in the colon by helpful bacteria breaking down complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber. These bacteria actually use the gas as an energy source to help them multiply.


Producing gas can simply be a sign that you're eating a healthy, high-fiber diet. The flatulence only becomes a problem when it is extreme, foul smelling, or uncomfortable.



If gas has a foul smell, that is often because of undigested food in the digestion system. Everything that is not digested can become food for undesirable bacteria in the digestive tract. Although often the subject of much juvenile humor, gas is not a joke. Foul-smelling gas is your body telling you that you need to improve your digestion. Ideally, the only gas we pass should be gas we swallowed while eating and drinking, and gas produced by good bacteria breaking down complex carbohydrates and fiber. This gas should have little aroma – unlike gas from undigested food putrefying in our intestinal tract.


Occasional stress and tension can increase the amount of gas in the large bowel. When you are stressed, food may pass more quickly through the small intestine, before it is fully digested. This leaves it to bacteria in the large intestine to complete digesting the food in a gas-producing process called fermentation. Occasional stress can also increase the amount of gas being held in the bowel.1


The importance of digesting your food properly can’t be stressed enough. Anything that disturbs the function of the digestive tract can impact the "second brain" found in our guts. If you have poor digestion, you could be unknowingly doing something negative rather than feeding yourself. Proper digestion of protein is especially important.



The "second brain" is the name given to a network of neurons, neurotransmitters (including dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin) and specialized proteins that scientists have discovered in the digestive tract. The second brain, also known as the enteric nervous system, is composed of the nerve endings found in the intestinal tract. It is believed to involve some 100 million nerve cells - more than in the spinal cord.


The term "second brain" was coined by Dr. Michael Gershorn,2 chairman of the department of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University, in 1996, and entered into common use after the release of his thought-provoking book, The Second Brain, in 1999.



The enteric nervous system works independently of the brain to control the movement of food through the intestines, and to manage every aspect of digestion. The gut assesses conditions, decides on a course of action and initiates a reflex. "The gut monitors pressure," Dr. Gershon said in a recent article3 in the New York Times. "It monitors the progress of digestion. It detects nutrients, and it measures acid and salts. It's a little chemical lab."4


“More and more health care professionals are recommending probiotic supplements to patients who are taking antibiotics to help support a steady supply of "good bacteria" for relief from minor occasional gas and irregularity.”


Researchers studying the brain-gut connection in the relatively new field of neurogastroenterology are increasingly convinced that the relationship between the brain in our head and the brain in our gut plays a role in many physical and psychiatric processes.




Good health begins in your gastrointestinal tract with the assistance of beneficial bacteria. Amazingly, our bodies are 90% bacterial cells, and only 10% percent human cells. In fact, the human gut contains about 1000 different bacterial species-including microorganisms like Lactobacillus acidophilus. Every individual has a subgroup of around 160 of these species in their gut.5 We call each person’s unique subgroup of species their microbial fingerprint.


Most of these gut bacteria perform valuable functions in our digestion system, including helping to manage undesirable microorganisms and to relieve occasional gas, indigestion and irregularity. The healthy bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus guard your small intestine, while Bifidobacteria protect your large intestine. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus has its own probiotic benefits as well as helping the other two as it passes through your body. These friendly bacteria are part of the strategy for promoting good health.


The type of food you eat impacts the bacteria that inhabit your body. A diet with a high intake of complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruit, nuts and grains encourages high levels of helpful bacteria in your intestines. Fermented foods and cultured dairy products such as yogurt also provide healthy probiotics for digestion.


As our diet shifts from the diet of just a few generations ago to include more meat, fatty foods, highly processed foods and refined carbohydrates that don't contain any of the healthy bacteria our bodies need and are used to, unwanted changes can occur in our gut flora. For example, a high intake of meat can foster a build up of putrefactive bacteria. Some substances in meat (indoles and skatoles) pass to the bowels and produce gas.


Fat especially can delay the emptying of the stomach and increase the occasionally unpleasant flatulence. Common fatty foods include meat (especially processed meat, bacon and sausage), fried foods, many fast foods, pastries, margarine, butter and cream, oil and mayonnaise.6



It's very important to have the right balance and number of healthy bacteria to assist in the digestion of food. Probiotics are a popular digestive aid. Natren's DIGESTA-LAC® probiotic supplement contains Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus LB-51 super strain, a transient beneficial bacteria that travels through the digestive tract with food to provide support throughout the digestion process.* Natren founder and probiotic expert Natasha Trenev based her effective DIGESTA-LAC formula on the groundbreaking work of renowned Bulgarian microbiologist and researcher Dr. Ivan Bogdanov, who researched a variety of Lactobacillus strains in the 1960’s, focusing on their applications in improving human health.


Each serving of DIGESTA-LAC provides a minimum of 2 billion colony forming units (cfu) of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus LB-51 super strain in their original medium, or supernatant.


DIGESTA-LAC probiotic supplement can help against occasional indigestion, and can support:*

  • Optimized digestion*
  • Digestion of carbohydrates and proteins*
  • Digestion of dairy products by assisting with lactose metabolism*
  • A slightly acidic environment necessary for intestinal health*
  • An environment for growth of the beneficial bacteria, L. acidophilus and B. bifidum*

Natren's DIGESTA-LAC probiotic for digestion is available in both dairy and vegetarian/vegan friendly dairy free formulas, suitable for adults and children over two years of age.


DIGESTA-LAC is only for ocassional indigestion. Please contact a health care professional if you are concerned that you produce much more gas than average, or if your gas is accompanied by pain, diarrhea or constipation, to rule out a food allergy, lactose intolerance, or other physical cause.


Natren has taken a strong stand against the use of prebiotics such as fructooligosaccharide or inulin in probiotic supplements since we introduced our line of high potency probiotic products in the early 1980's. Years of research have shown that species used in certain Natren probiotics may help support digestion, so food doesn't become fodder for the bacteria that cause fermentation and intestinal gas.*


1,6. Bolin, Terry and Stanton, Rosemary. Wind Breaks. Australia: Bantam Books, 1995. Print. 2. Gershorn, Michael. The Second Brain. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. Print.

3,4. Brown, Harriet. "The Other Brain Also Deals With Many Woes" 9 April 2013

5. Oin, J., "A human gut microbial gene catalogue established by metagenomic sequencing." Nature 464 (2010): 59-65.