What Is Gas?
Gas affects about 140 million people every year.* So, if you suffer from gas, you're in good company. Gas, burping, and bloating are all normal conditions.
Gas is made in the stomach and intestines when your body breaks down food into energy. Bloating is a feeling of fullness in the abdomen, which can make you feel uncomfortable. Although people may think that they pass gas too often or have too much gas, it is rare to have too much gas.+
Gas consists mainly of the odorless gas carbon dioxide.** Small amounts of other gases are also present, for example methane and hydrogen sulphide. The unpleasant smell of intestinal gas is caused by hydrogen sulphide or other compounds. These other compounds are mostly amines, which are produced when proteins break down in the colon. Over the counter remedies like Gas-X® can relieve the discomfort, pressure, and bloating caused by gas.
Belching or burping (eructation) is the voluntary or involuntary, at times noisy release of air from the stomach or esophagus through the mouth. Burping 3 to 4 times after consuming a meal is normal and is often caused by swallowing air. Additional causes of burping include nervous habits or other medical conditions, for example an ulcer or a gallbladder problem.+
All people pass gas. However, some people produce more gas than others. It is normal to pass gas from 6 to 20 times in one day. Although this may be embarrassing or annoying, excess intestinal gas is not usually caused by a serious medical condition.+
What Causes Gas?
Common causes of gas and bloating include:
- Swallowed air. If swallowed air is not burped up, it passes through the digestive tract and comes out through the anus as flatus.
- Consuming non-digestible foods.
- Eating foods containing fiber.
- Eating foods that the body cannot tolerate (such as in the case of lactose intolerance which happens when you lack the enzyme that digests lactose).
- Eating foods such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and bran.
- Malabsorption (which occurs when your intestine is not able to absorb certain nutrients), often occurs concurrently with diarrhea.
- Medicines or nutritional supplements. Both prescription and nonprescription medicines, and dietary supplements, can cause bloating and gas.
- Medical conditions, such as a bowel obstruction or Crohn's disease.
- Changes in hormone levels. For example, it is common for women to have bloating right before their periods.
Tips To Help Reduce Gas:
- Increase the amount of fluid you drink, particularly water. Avoid carbonated and alcoholic beverages.
- Avoid foods that cause gas, such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and bran.
- Avoid swallowing air. Swallowing air may increase your symptoms.
- Eat slowly. When you rush through meals, you are more likely to swallow air.
- Chew your food thoroughly.
- Avoid drinking with a straw.
- Avoid chewing gum or eating hard candy.
- Do not smoke or consume other tobacco products.
- If you wear dentures, check with a dentist to make sure they fit adequately.
- Keep calm. Tension can cause you to swallow air.
- Exercise regularly.
How Is Gas Treated?
Taking over the counter remedies like Gas-X® is an effective way to reduce the pressure, bloating, and discomfort of gas. Other ways to help reduce your gas are by changing your diet and reducing the amount of air swallowed.
As always, if you have prolonged periods of gas and discomfort or if you have further questions, please consult with your physician.
- * Arbor Study, 2002.
- + National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health.
- ** Cleveland Clinic