Why does gas and bloating happen?
Some gas is normal. It’s a normal part of digestion
Gas normally enters your digestive tract when you swallow air during eating and when bacteria in your large intestine break down undigested foods.
You may have more gas in your digestive tract if you swallow too much air by eating too fast, talking while eating, using a straw, chewing gum, smoking, drinking carbonated beverages, or if you eat certain foods that produce excess gas like high fiber foods and artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can cause gas and bloating because they can’t be digested or broken down easily. This results in gas, bloating, and abdominal distension.
Burping and passing gas are normal. The average adult passes gas about 13 and 20 times a day. However, if gas gets trapped and builds up in your digestive tract and you’re unable to get rid of it, you may start to feel uncomfortable and burp, belch, or pass gas more frequently.
Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain, fullness, bloating, cramping, or knotting
- Pressure in your abdomen
- Abdominal distention or swelling
- Excess burping or belching
- Excess flatus
If you notice:
Persistent abdominal pain, bloody stools or black tarry looking stools, a change in the consistency or caliber of your stools, thin stools or narrow stools, very hard or watery stools, a change in the frequency of your bowel movements, unintentional weight loss, back pain, pain that keeps you up at night, constipation or diarrhea, persistent or recurrent nausea or vomiting, fever, chills, sweats these could all be alarm for concern and should be evaluated promptly and thoroughly by a trained medical professional to avoid missed diagnoses, delayed medical care, and poor outcomes.
What causes gas and bloating?
Swallowing air when you eat or drink is the main cause of gas in your stomach. Most stomach gas is released when you burp. Excess gas in your stomach can occur as a result of smoking, chewing gum, sucking on mints, eating too fast, talking while eating, drinking carbonated beverages, and drinking thru a straw.
Food is primarily digested in your small intestine. This is where most of your nutrients are absorbed. Your large intestine is responsible for absorbing water from food and forming your stool.
When undigested carbohydrates are passed into the large intestine, bacteria here ferment these undigested carbohydrates as a part of normal digestion. The process of fermentation produces methane and hydrogen gases. Bacteria in the large intestine consume some of these gases but the rest are expelled as flatus.
SIBO (or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is a condition that increases or changes the bacterial flora in your small intestine. Symptoms of SIBO include: excess gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation and sometimes even weight loss. We can do breath testing in our office to evaluate for SIBO. (Please cross link content with section on SIBO)
How can I minimize gas, bloating, and other uncomfortable symptoms?
For many people, lifestyle and dietary changes may be enough to diminish or even fully alleviate symptoms.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Avoid overeating
- Avoid swallowing air while you eat or drink,
- Eat slowly and mindfully
- Don’t use a straw
- Don’t talk excessively while eating
- Avoid chewing gum and mints
- Avoid carbonated beverages
- Stop smoking
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Modify your diet. Sometimes keeping a food diary can be helpful to identify food triggers.
- Probiotics may be helpful for some individuals to restore healthy gut flora.
Common triggers include:
- High Fiber foods like dried beans, peas and lentils, certain fruits, vegetables, especially those in the cabbage family, and whole grains
- Artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes (check your food labels because these are often snuck into many of the foods we think are good for us like yogurts)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Lactose (in the case of lactose deficiency)
- Carbonated beverages, such as soda and beer
- Chewing gum
- Fiber supplements
***Gas and Bloating can be an underlying symptom of many other disorders. Please be sure to schedule an appointment with our office for a comprehensive medical evaluation so that you can properly be diagnosed to avoid missed diagnosis, delayed care, and poor outcomes.
Underlying conditions contributing to gas and bloating may include:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease such as Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
- Celiac Disease
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO
- Food intolerances (such as dairy, wheat, gluten, and egg)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Intestinal parasites like Giardia and other GI infections
- Motility Disorders
- Pancreatic Insufficiency
- Pathologic fluid accumulation in the abdomen or ascites due to underlying malignancies, liver disease, pancreatic disease, kidney disease, congestive heart failure, or other more serious conditions
- Hormonal fluctuations (related to the menstrual cycle) sometimes seen in PCOS and other gynecological conditions
- GI perforation