Gas Problem - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention & Treatment

Take the Bloat Out of Your Tummy - Eliminate Gas Problem

Dr.Dilip Todi profile Authored by Dr.Dilip Todi on 17 Sep 2014 - 10:33.

Intestinal gas is something that is continually present in our digestive system as a regular digestive functioning or food breakdown, but it can be significant and noticeable if excessively produced. Usually, gas is produced as a reaction of gut bacteria towards unbroken food. Intestinal gas produced by this process is a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2), Hydrogen (H) and rarely methane. Often many of us experience the bloating or flatulence and discomfort in the stomach, either after eating or at times for most part of the day. This is because of the excessive intestinal gas produced for various reasons.

Excess gas in the stomach often results in burping which is not serious but can be embarrassing. The accumulation of gas in the lower intestine can cause flatulence and also irregular and fluctuating pain. As this is a natural process, most people pass gas through anus several times a day, about 10 to 20 times a day. However, passing gas more frequently and abnormally may indicate a disturbed functioning of the digestive system. The pain associated with intestinal gas is due to accumulation of excess gas and inability to pass it out of the body.

Excess air entering the body while eating or drinking and some digestive disorders may cause gas problems.

Foods responsible for excess intestinal gas: Usually, foods rich in carbohydrates can cause excess gas in the intestine, as these are quite tough to digest. However, foods causing the gas problem may vary from person to person depending on the constituent of gut microbiota and ability to digest carbohydrates.

Some common foods causing gas problem may include:

  • Lentils /beans
  • Certain vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, and asparagus
  • Fruits including apple, pears etc.
  • Whole grains
  • Food rich in fiber content (though fiber has several benefits, some insoluble fibers may cause excess production of intestinal gas)
  • Certain fruit juices
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Drinks containing fructose corn syrup
  • Dairy products including milk, cheese, cream and so on
  • Bread
  • Candies and gums

Disorders causing the gas problem may include:

  • Autoimmune disorder affecting the small intestine (Celiac disease)
  • A group of symptoms developed after having surgery involving the stomach (Dumping syndrome)
  • Food allergy
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Delayed gastric emptying (Gastroparesis)
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine caused due to conditions such as diabetes mellitus.
  • Constipation

Common signs and symptoms of gas problem may include:

  • Passing gas very frequently, may be voluntary or involuntary
  • Abdominal cramps or sharp pain at different locations. Pain usually gets relieved on its own.
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Bloating in the abdomen
  • Burping, or belching

Seek immediate medical care if the frequent passing of gas is accompanied by any or more of the following conditions:

  • Consistent abdominal pain for long time
  • Blood in the feces
  • Abnormal stool color
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

A diagnosis of gas problem does not require any lab test or imaging studies. It can be simply assessed by studying dietary habits, health history and physical examination.

  • Assessment of health history – To detect for the past or recent diagnosis of any digestive disorder that might be causing excess gas production.
  • Assessment of dietary habits – To see if you are consistently or majorly consuming food that might cause excess production of intestinal gas.
  • A physical exam – Examining the stomach with hollow sound of tapping on the abdomen, which indicates the presence of excess intestinal gas.

Further, if the gas problem is accompanied by several other symptoms, you may be diagnosed for underlying digestive disorder.

Following factors may increase the possibility of having a gas problem or excess production of intestinal gas:

  • Lactose intolerance
  • Having a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, dairy products and whole grains.
  • Drinking too much carbonated beverages or fruit juices, especially apple juice.
  • Having any digestive disorder (mentioned in causes)

Ideal treatment approach to manage gas problem often involve medications, diet selection, several lifestyle modifications and some over-the-counter remedies.

Drugs and medications: If the gas problem is diagnosed as a consequence of any disorder, your doctor may prescribe the medication/s accordingly to treat the condition and then the gas problem will be resolved automatically. 

Dietary modifications:

Following the recommended dietary approaches which may help to minimize the production of intestinal gas:

  • Avoid food that may cause a gas problem (listed in the section of causes-foods causing the gas problem)
  • Avoid fried foods and those rich in fats
  • Avoid foods rich in fiber at least for a few weeks
  • You can try certain fiber supplements with a glass of water and requires increased intake of liquids.
  • Avoid dairy products
  • Avoid dairy products completely.

Over-the-counter remedies

One can consider the trying below mentioned over-the counter remedies. However, the benefits of it cannot be assured. These may include:

  • Add Beano to foods restricted such as vegetables and beans. It is recommended to have it in the beginning of your meal, maybe with the first bite. This is believed to reduce the amount of gas produced due to these foods.
  • Include supplements of lactose, such as Lactaid /Dairy-Ease if you are lactose intolerant. This is believed to promote lactose digestion.
  • Take supplements containing simethicone. It helps to break up the bubbles in intestinal gas.
  • Consuming tablets made of an activated charcoal (before and after meal – 2 tablets) is believed to relieve the gas problem.

Lifestyle recommendations:

Several lifestyle modifications may help to reduce or relieve excess gas production. These may include:

  • Eating in small-small portions
  • Eating systematically (chew the food thoroughly without gulping it)
  • Eating slowly
  • Avoiding chewing gum, candies and avoid using a straw to drink anything. All these are believed to be responsible for excess intake of air in the body.
  • Checking your dentures for the poor fitting
  • Quitting smoking
  • Being physically active by practicing convenient exercises as a daily routine.

Following measures may help one to prevent the excess production of intestinal gas:

  • Exercise daily
  • Eat balanced healthy diet
  • Avoid candy and chewing gum
  • Eat and drink slowly
  • Avoid beer and carbonated beverages
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.