The following suggestions may be helpful to reduce gas:
All of us have gas and must get rid of it in some way. Normally, gas passes out through the rectum or is belched through the mouth. These are both necessary functions of the body that allow us to eliminate gas.
When gas does not pass out of the body easily, it can collect in some part of the digestive tract, causing bloating and discomfort. Even normal amounts of gas in the body can bother people who are sensitive to this pressure. Although gas is usually not a sign of a medical problem, it can be.
The amount of gas that people produce varies. Most people produce between a pint and a half-gallon of gas each day. Oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen from swallowed air make up a large part of flatus (gas). Fermenting foods in the colon produce hydrogen and methane as well as carbon dioxide and oxygen. All of these components of flatus are odorless. The unpleasant odor of some flatus is the result of trace gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, which are produced when foods decompose in the colon.
A common source of upper-intestinal gas is swallowed air. Each time we swallow, small amounts of air enter the stomach. This gas in the stomach is usually passed into the small intestine where part of it is absorbed. The rest travels into the colon (large intestine) to be passed out through the rectum. Gas can be belched out instead of being passed from the stomach into the intestine. This happens for several reasons:
Some people have a sluggish bowel that does not get rid of air readily. Others might have an irritable bowel or spastic colon, which means that they cannot tolerate gas accumulation inside of the intestines, so even small amounts of air feel uncomfortable.
Some people experience frequent belching. This might occur after a person has swallowed air without realizing it. Sometimes belching accompanies the movement of stomach material back up (reflux) into the esophagus. To clear material from the esophagus, a person may swallow frequently, which leads to more intakes of air and further belching.
Another cause of repeated belching is gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). There are many causes of acute or chronic gastritis, but the most common cause is infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacteria can be detected with a breath test, stool test, blood test or from a biopsy from the stomach obtained during an upper endoscopy.
The foods we eat can be a factor in the production of gas in the lower intestine. These foods include:
Today, many people are trying to improve their nutrition and health by eating more fiber. However, some people discover that adding large amounts of fiber to their diets causes gassiness. This can happen when someone begins eating more whole-grain cereals, such as whole bran, oatmeal or oat bran, more whole-grain breads or more fresh fruits and vegetables. They get a feeling of being bloated when they first begin the high-fiber diet, but within three weeks or so, they may adapt to it. Some people, however, don’t adapt, and the bloating from eating a lot of fiber can be a permanent problem.
A common cause of excess lower-intestinal gas is that a person’s body may not have enough lactase, an enzyme normally found in the small intestine. Lactase is needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. When this sugar passes undigested into the colon, it is fermented by bacteria, and gas forms. This can be a cause of excessive flatulence.
If lactase deficiency is suspected of causing your gas, you can stop eating dairy products for a while to see if you have less gas. If you find milk causes gassiness, you may consider drinking milk in which the lactose has been broken down (Lactaid milk). You can also take lactase enzymes (Lactaid) with each bite or drink of dairy products for a week to see if your symptoms improve. Lastly, a breath test is available to find out if you are lactose intolerant.
Finally, ingestion of large quantities of foods that contain fructose, a sugar commonly found in fruits and processed foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, may also contribute to gassiness. The small intestine can only absorb a limited amount of fructose each day. As with undigested lactose, it passes into the colon where it is fermented by bacteria. Artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, found in diet food products are also poorly absorbed and a source of excessive gassiness.
Eating a lot of fatty food can cause bloating and discomfort because the fat delays stomach emptying, allowing gas to build up there. This problem can be avoided by eating less fatty meals.
Gas, in the upper abdomen, is often reduced by belching. Gas can collect anywhere in the lower intestine. It often collects in the left side of the colon, and when severe, the pain can be confused with heart disease. When gas collects in the right side of the colon, the pain can be confused with gallbladder disease or even appendicitis.
A bloated feeling is probably not anything to be concerned about, but it can be a symptom of a more serious problem. If your problem is chronic, or if you are experiencing a severe increase in gassiness, you should talk to your doctor.