What Are The Symptoms Of Gas
Gas symptoms vary from person to person. Common symptoms of gas in the digestive tract include belching, bloating and distention, and passing gas. Having some gas symptoms is normal, especially during or after meals.
Gas symptoms may be a problem if they occur often, bother you, or affect your daily activities.
Gas Bloating And Belching: Approach To Evaluation And Management
JOHN M. WILKINSON, MD ELIZABETH W. COZINE, MD and CONOR G. LOFTUS, MD, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Rochester, Minnesota
Am Fam Physician. 2019 Mar 1 99:301-309.
Patient information: See related handout on gas, bloating, and belching, written by the authors of this article.
Patients with symptoms of gas, bloating, and belching often consult family physicians, particularly when milder chronic symptoms of abdominal pain or altered bowel habits acutely flare up and become less tolerable. Most often, these symptoms are attributable to one or more of the functional gastrointestinal disorders , including functional dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome , and chronic idiopathic constipation.
Treatment For Gas Gas Pains And Bloating
If your gas and gas pains are caused by an underlying condition, treatment for that condition may provide relief. Usually, gas can be treated through lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and over-the-counter medications.
Not everyone has the same reaction to all foods. Keeping a food diary can help you determine which foods cause increases in gas and bloating. Eliminating or reducing certain foods may be necessary to reduce your symptoms.
Foods that can cause gas due to high fiber include whole wheat, bran, prunes, peaches, apples, pears, asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, onions, and beans. You may try avoiding high-fiber foods for a week or two and gradually start to eat them again. You should visit with a doctor or dietitian to make sure youâre getting enough fiber.
Some people do not easily digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. Reducing or eliminating dairy products could help you reduce symptoms of gas and bloating. There are often lactose-free options for some products like milk.
You may try eliminating sugar substitutes or trying a different type.
Fat in your digestive tract can slow-down digestion, allowing food to ferment longer and produce gas. Reducing fat in your diet may help lessen symptoms.
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Lifestyle Changes To Reduce Gas
Some lifestyle adjustments can help reduce gas, gas pains, and bloating.
- Eat smaller portions Many healthy foods can also cause gas. Eating smaller portions may help reduce excess gas.
- Chew completely and slow down If you eat too fast, it could cause gas. Tip: put down your fork between each bite.
- chewing gum
- sucking on hard candies
Excessive Gas And Belching
Why Do I Have Gas?Everyone has gas and eliminates it by burping or passing it through the rectum. However, many people think they have too much gas when they really have normal amounts. Most people produce about 1 to 3 pints a day and pass gas about 14 times a day.
Gas is made primarily of odorless vaporscarbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane. The unpleasant odor of flatulence comes from bacteria in the large intestine that release small amounts of gases that contain sulfur.
Although having gas is common, it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Understanding causes, ways to reduce symptoms, and treatment will help most people find relief.
What causes gas?Gas in the digestive tract comes from two sources:
- swallowed air
- normal breakdown of certain undigested foods by harmless bacteria naturally present in the large intestine
Swallowed airAir swallowing is a common cause of gas in the stomach. Everyone swallows small amounts of air when eating and drinking. However, eating or drinking rapidly, chewing gum, smoking, or wearing loose dentures can cause some people to take in more air.
Burping, or belching, is the way most swallowed airwhich contains nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxideleaves the stomach. The remaining gas moves into the small intestine, where it is partially absorbed. A small amount travels into the large intestine for release through the rectum.
Points to remember
Foods that may cause gas include:
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Diseases Causing Increased Gas
Most people with gas-related symptoms have increased sensitivity to gas or have one of the causes of increased gas production mentioned above. However, occasionally these symptoms can be caused by diseases of the bowel. Sometimes, the illness can be short-lived. For example, acute gastroenteritis , often caused by infection with a virus, can result in a short-term condition associated with increased gas.
Occasionally, gas-related symptoms can be features of long-term diseases. All of them can cause at least one gas-related symptom .
Coeliac diseaseCoeliac disease is caused by intolerance to a protein called gluten which is found in certain foods containing wheat, barley and rye. It principally affects the part of the gut called the small intestine. It can occur at any age. Symptoms are relieved by avoiding gluten-containing foods. See the separate leaflet called Coeliac Disease.
DiverticulitisDiverticulitis occurs when small pouches in the wall of the large bowel become infected. See the separate leaflet called Diverticula .
Short bowel syndromeShort bowel syndrome can be a complication of bowel surgery. If more than half the small bowel is removed during surgery this can cause difficulties in food absorption.
GiardiasisThis is caused by infection with a germ called giardia. One of the symptoms is belching up foul-smelling gas.
Symptoms Of Gas And Bloating
As the food is gradually broken down at different stages of digestion, gas is released as a by-product. This gaseous load then makes its way through the gastrointestinal tract to find an outlet for its release.
When the air travels upward, it is let out as a burp. A fart occurs when the air travels downward through the intestines and colon and is eventually passed out of the anus.
It is normal for a healthy individual to relieve gas at least 1418 times a day, or else it will accumulate inside the digestive tract and cause abdominal bloating, among other distressing symptoms. Thus, flatulence is a necessary inconvenience that you must bear for the sake of overall digestive comfort and health.
The following symptoms are indicative of increased buildup of gas inside the digestive tract and abdominal bloating:
- Tightness in and across the abdomen or abdominal distension
- A feeling of fullness whether you have eaten or not
- Aggravated belching and flatulence
- Pain that radiates from the stomach to the lower back
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Behaviors Food Choices And Activity
Eating behaviors and other habits such as gum chewing, gulping foods and drinking with eating can cause us to swallow air. Bulky foods such as lettuce, cabbage, and dense breads not chewed into small enough pieces increase swallowed air.
Typically, swallowed air contains oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It tends to not have a foul smell, but it does contribute to the discomfort associated with gas.
People vary widely in how sensitive they are to gas production. Keeping a food record to document incidences of gas in relation to foods eaten can shed light on whether food or behavior may be aggravating the situation.
Swallowing Too Much Air
This is called aerophagia. You may not be aware of it but you may be swallowing air frequently or in large amounts. This often happens in people who are under stress. It can be aggravated by chewing gum and smoking. Usually, air swallowed in this way passes into the gullet and down into the stomach.
However, sometimes air is sucked into the back of the throat and is burped out before it reaches the oesophagus. This is known as supragastric belching.
Some people swallow air deliberately to cause belching, as they find this helps to relieve symptoms of indigestion.
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Dyspepsia Or Upset Stomach
Dyspepsia is also called upset stomach or indigestion. It is a condition characterized by a painful or burning feeling in the upper abdominal region or stomach.
The most common dyspepsia symptoms include abdominal pain and bloating, cramping in the stomach, a growling stomach, nausea and vomiting, gas and belching, constipation, diarrhea, and a burning sensation in the stomach or upper abdomen.
Final Thoughts On Bloating And Abdominal Pain
The main cause of abdominal pain and bloating is thought to be gas, especially when you eat a meal or drink too quickly. The cause of bloated stomach abdominal pain is mostly related to digestion problems, which will include digestive disorders, food sensitivities or intolerances, bowel obstruction, and parasitic infection.
Other causes of abdominal bloating can include pregnancy and other hormonal changes, and cancers like ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, or non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Now that you know the potential causes of abdominal bloating, you can do something about your painful problem. The natural treatment of abdominal pain and bloating is very much related to a proper diet and lifestyle adjustments like getting exercise and reducing stress.
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Who Might Get Intestinal Gas
Excess gas can make your stomach feel swollen or bloated. You may pass flatulence . Though uncomfortable, excess gas is rarely a concern. Things that make you produce too much gas include:
- Behavioral factors, such as swallowing air while chewing, drinking and talking.
- Dietary choices, such as consuming too many gas-producing foods .
- Digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome , lactose intolerance and celiac disease.
- Intestinal infections, such as giardiasis, that cause an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria.
- Medications or motility disorders that slow the bowels, such as IBS, diabetes and scleroderma.
What Causes Wind Gas And Bloating
Everybody has gas-related symptoms from time to time. In most cases, this is part of the natural working of the body and the symptoms soon pass. Some people complain they are feeling bloated all the time. As mentioned above, people are occasionally sensitive to normal amounts of gas in the tummy. The reasons for this are not entirely clear.
There are some conditions associated with larger than normal amounts of gas in the tummy:
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You Feel A Really Sharp Pain In Your Ribs
Hiatal herniasa condition where your stomach bulges into your esophaguscan cause recurrent burping, says Kavanagh. On its own, a hiatal hernia isnt an emergency, but it can be very uncomfortable.
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Theres also risk the hernia will become strangulatedwhen the hernia cuts off blood supply to the rest of the abdomen, according to Harvard Health Publishing. A strangulated hiatal hernia requires emergency surgery, and can be fatal if left untreated.
Excessive Belching And Symptoms Of Cancer
Most of the time, belching is not a sign of cancer. However, excessive burping that occurs with other symptoms can be signs of certain cancers, including gastric cancer, esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
If you’re belching a lot, there are other symptoms to watch for that could be a sign of a more serious health condition, including:
- Poor appetite
- Discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
- Feeling full after eating only a small meal
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen
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What Causes Intestinal Gas
Causes of intestinal gas include:
- Food digestion: Your small intestines lack certain enzymes needed to digest and absorb carbohydrates in sweet, starchy and fibrous foods. This undigested food passes into the large intestine, where harmless bacteria break down the food, forming hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases. In some people, intestinal bacteria produce methane gas, too. This process is responsible for most gas passed in flatulence.
- Swallowing air: You swallow air without even noticing while eating, drinking, chewing gum or smoking. You can also swallow too much air if you have loose-fitting dentures. Most people expel swallowed air through the mouth by belching . But your intestines partially absorb some air, which you pass when you fart.
What Causes Abdominal Pain And Burping
You can swallow air when you eat or drink too quickly or consume carbonated drinks. Rapid breathing or hyperventilating caused by laughter or anxiety can also cause you to swallow air.
Some foods and drinks can also cause stomachache and burping, including foods high in starch, sugar, or fiber. Indigestion or heartburn may also lead to temporary abdominal pain and burping.
Babies and young children may swallow large amounts of air without realizing it, causing discomfort and burping. This is why babies are burped shortly after drinking breast milk or formula.
Frequent abdominal pain and burping may also be caused by conditions including:
- fever over 101F
- pain or burning sensations in the throat or mouth
- chest pain
You can book an appointment with a primary care doctor in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.
Treatments for abdominal pain and burping will address the underlying condition.
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Bloating: Common But Incompletely Understood
Bloating is a sensation of having a full stomach. Distension is a visible or measurable increase in abdominal size. People often describe abdominal symptoms as bloating, especially if those symptoms don’t seem to be relieved by belching, passing gas or having a bowel movement.
The exact connection between intestinal gas and bloating is not fully understood. Many people with bloating symptoms don’t have any more gas in the intestine than do other people. Many people, particularly those with irritable bowel syndrome or anxiety, may have a greater sensitivity to abdominal symptoms and intestinal gas, rather than an excess amount.
Nonetheless, bloating may be relieved by the behavioral changes that reduce belching, or the dietary changes that reduce flatus.
How Is Bloating Diagnosed
Your doctor can generally diagnose the cause of your bloating through a physical exam in the office. They will ask you questions about your symptoms. They will want to know if your bloating is occasional or if it occurs all the time.
Temporary bloating is usually not serious. If it happens all the time, your doctor may order other tests. These could include an imaging test to look inside your abdomen. This could be an X-ray or CT scan.
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How Is Intestinal Gas Managed Or Treated
- Alpha-galactosidase , an enzyme to break down hard-to-digest foods.
- Bismuth subsalicylate for adults with upset stomach and diarrhea.
- Lactase enzymes for lactose intolerance .
- Probiotics to get rid of bad gut bacteria.
- Simethicone to reduce intestinal gas buildup that causes bloating.
Prescription medications may help if you have a motility problem like IBS. Antibiotics can treat bacterial overgrowth in the intestines that cause excess gas and bloating.
Causes Of Excessive Gas And Flatulence In Elderly
Passing gas is a normal body reaction, but some people can experience excessive gas and flatulence as they age. While most excess gas and flatulence can be easily dealt with, there are situations where it can be a sign of an underlying health issue.
We all know that excessive gas or flatulence is not a medical emergency. Most of the gas we pass is due to the breakdown of foods in our bodies. Food consumption leads to hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane generation. Meanwhile, the odor is from other waste gases, including skatole and sulfur-containing substances. Excessive gas becomes a concern if a person develops other unusual symptoms along with the gas, such as cramping, diarrhea, constipation, bloody stools, or nausea and vomiting. These could be the sign of an inflammatory bowel disease, an intestinal bacterial overgrowth, an infection, or irritable bowel syndrome.
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Things To Tell Your Doctor:
- Is the symptom located in the upper or lower abdomen?Is it in a concentrated area?
- Is your bloating or distension associated with burping?
- Do you experience nausea or vomiting?
- Is the symptom associated with pain in your abdomen?Upper or lower?
- Does the bloating or distension relate to passing gas or a change in your bowel habits ?
- Are your symptoms related to food? Which ones?
- Do they occur right after eating?
- Do your symptoms increase during the day or improve during night hours?
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When To Seek Relief
Most minor fluctuations in gas and bowel habits are normal, but if you experience excessive or persistent gas or bloating, its time to seek medical attention, cautions van der Linden. A little gas is probably healthy, but a lot of gas, that could be a problem, he says.
Talk to your doctor if gas symptoms change suddenly, become severe, begin to interfere with your normal activities or are accompanied by other symptoms. A physical exam, stool tests, blood tests and imaging tests, which may include an endoscopy or colonoscopy, might be performed to help rule out or diagnose an underlying health issue. Your physician will also review your symptoms and family history and may recommend keeping a food journal or eliminating certain foods from your diet.
Dietary changes, such as eating more slowly, not gulping food or drinks and avoiding or limiting certain foods or beverages, can help relieve some uncomfortable symptoms. Adding even small bouts of exercise to your day can help push gas through your system and ease bloating. Stress management techniques, like yoga or meditation, can help keep you from unintentionally swallow air when youre talking, which can happen when youre upset or nervous.
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