Everyone gets uncomfortable when they need to talk to someone else about gas and bloating. However, many times you may need to have a serious conversation about it with your doctor. While everyone gets a little gas pain here and there, continuous pain can be the sign of a serious ailment. The following article investigates the causes of gas and bloating pain and gives some medicinal and home remedies for cases that aren’t serious. Any pain that lasts for a significant period of time needs to be looked into by a physician. The possible causes of prolonged pain are also dealt with in the article.
What Causes Gas and Bloating?
Stomach bloating is caused by gas that gets trapped in the intestines and colon. It is normal for the digestive tract to produce gas.
Everyone gets gas that gets processed through the mouth and rectum. That gas is produced in the body either by ingesting it when we eat or by being formed during digestion. Gas is made up of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen. Even though gas is normal, it can create bloating or pain in the abdomen.
Diet is the main cause of stomach bloating. Food that is high in fructose or fats needs more enzymes to break it down. The stomach acids may not be able to break them down, resulting in gas production. Other foods also are not totally digested and can lead to gas and bloating. Later in this article, we will discuss this issue more.
Some behaviors lead to air that is trapped in the digestive tract. These include mouth-breathing, smoking, drinking through straws, chewing gum, eating on the go, and taking certain kinds of medications. Hormonal changes can cause gas during a woman’s period, ovulation, or pregnancy.
Many people suffer from chronic constipation. The body needs to keep getting rid of waste from the GI tract. If this doesn’t happen, then the waste can harden and compact. This causes indigestion and bloating. Many people try to resolve the problem with laxatives. This does not address the underlying problem, however. The best way to treat this kind of problem is to alter your diet and lifestyle. You should drink a lot of water and eat high-fiber foods. Daily exercise will stimulate the colon as well. If these methods don’t work, then it’s time to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.
Nowadays, people consume a lot of high-fat and heavily processed foods. They also eat less foods that have a lot of natural deriving enzymes. This makes our bodies have to work extra hard to produce the stomach acid necessary to digest foods high in fat and protein. Also, a fast-paced lifestyle that includes eating on the go or smoking can lead to poor digestion and trapped gas. Certain foods tend to produce gas as well. To avoid bloating, you should eat processed foods in moderation, take digestive enzymes, and eat yoghurt and naturally fermented foods.
Water retention is another reason for bloating. Eating foods high in salt can contribute to this. They make the cells in your body retain water. They do this to maintain a proper level of sodium in the body. You can address this problem by consuming less salt and drinking more water to flush the system. Woman also tend to retain water during PMS and pregnancy.
Indigestion can also cause stomach bloating. Some viruses or bacteria can cause erosion in the stomach lining and intestines that can lead to severe gas problems.
The cells that line the stomach make gastric acids and other substances that you need to break down proteins and release nutrients for absorption. Usually, the creation of stomach acid is controlled by bicarbonate. People who eat high-fat processed diets can get acid reflux from excessive production of gastric acids. Foods high in fat need a lot of acids to decompose proteins to make up for the lack of enzymes in the food itself. The result is bloating and acid reflux that comes about from excess gastric acid being pushed up through the esophagus.
Some people can get stomach bloating from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s a condition that affects different organs of the digestive tract with symptoms. These symptoms include bloating, gas, pain, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.
What Causes Stomach Bloating After Eating?
Bloating of the stomach after meals can be caused by the type of foods that you are eating or by an underlying condition.
Some foods do not get broken down completely in digestion. This results in gas that bloats the stomach. Also, air may be swallowed during the process of eating.
Food intolerances can cause bloating. Food intolerance happens when your body doesn’t have the right enzymes to break down proteins or sugars in certain foods.
The undigested part of the food can interact with bacteria in the colon that results in gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Common food intolerances include lactose, gluten, MSG, fructose, histamine, and food additives.
Foods That Cause Bloating
Experts recommend that you control your consumption of the following foods. They can lead to gas and bloating:
- Legumes – The sugars in beans, lentils, and peas are difficult for the body to break down. This leads to gas and bloating. When you eat legumes, you can eat small portions or take some Beano, a digestive enzyme, with it.
- Dairy Products – Lactose intolerance is a common condition amongst people. It means that your body doesn’t have the necessary enzymes to break down this sugar. This in turn produces bloating. Nowadays, you can opt for dairy products that are lactose free.
- Asparagus, Broccoli, and Cabbage
Green vegetables are very healthy for you. However, asparagus, broccoli, and cabbage contain raffinose.
This is a sugar that stays undigested until it reaches the large intestine. There it is fermented by methane-producing bacteria.
You can eat these vegetables in moderation, accompanied with other foods. This will help prevent bloating. You should also know that they are easier to digest when they are cooked and not raw.
- Frozen Dinners and Processed Food – You need to watch out for microwavable meals and canned soups. These are very high in salt. Also, bottled condiments and sauces are very high in sodium. These foods can especially be a trigger for women according to experts.
- Sugarless Gum – Gums that contain sorbitol can cause bloating and other digestive distress. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol. Therefore, sugar-free foods that contain sorbitol are also an issue. You should try to use only two to three servings a day if you cannot remove them from your diet altogether. It seems that artificial foods in general are not so good for the digestive system.
- Apples – Some people have a problem digesting the fructose that is found in apples and other fruit. Also, apples are high in fiber, which can contribute to a bloated feeling. Apples, however, are a good source of nutrients. Try spreading out your consumption of apples. Eat a half or a quarter of a serving at a time to reduce bloating.
- Carbonated Drinks – The air bubbles in carbonated drinks expand inside your digestive tract. This causes it to swell like a balloon filled with air. This means that even diet soda can be an issue.
- Bulky Meals – It should come as no shock that consuming a large quantity of food at one time can cause GI distress. The full capacity of the stomach is about six cups of food. A large amount of food at once can cause bloating. This even includes salads. This means that you should try to monitor the volume of the food that you eat.
Signs of Bloating
The most common symptom of bloating is a sensation that the stomach is full or distended. Occasionally, bloating can cause pain or shortness of breath.
The pain that comes about from bloating feels sharp and causes stomach cramping. These pains can happen anywhere and can change locations rapidly.
Sometimes, pain from bloating in the upper left side of the chest can be mistaken for heart pains. Pain on the right side may be mistaken for problems in the appendix or gallbladder.
Sometimes, hiccups can come about because of gas. They are harmless and will abate on their own.
Treatment for Gas and Bloating
If your gas and bloating is caused by an underlying disorder, then to treat it you must treat that disorder. Otherwise, bloating and gas can be treated with dietary measures, lifestyle modifications, or over-the-counter medications.
The following are dietary changes that can reduce the amount of gas that your body produces or help the gas move more quickly through your system:
- Try to figure out which foods affect you the most. We have already discussed which foods are common culprits.
- Try reducing the amount of fried and fatty foods that you consume. Bloating can be caused by them. Fat delays stomach emptying and can increase the feeling of fullness.
- Temporarily cut down high-fiber foods. You can add them back slowly over several weeks. Most people adapt to the fiber when it is added slowly. Some people, however, never can adapt.
- Reduce fiber supplements. You should try cutting down on the amount that you take and add to your intake slowly. If you continue to get symptoms, then try a different supplement. You should take the supplements with a lot of water and consume plenty of liquid throughout the day.
- Cut down on dairy products. You should try to use low-lactose dairy products, such as yoghurt, instead of milk. You can also try using products that help digest lactose. These products include Lactaid and Dairy Ease. Try consuming small doses of milk products at one time. Also, combining them with other foods may help them digest. Some people need to cut out dairy products completely from their diet.
Some products are helpful. However, they aren’t always effective.
- Lactase Supplements – If you are lactose intolerant, then supplements of the enzyme lactase can help you digest lactose. You can also try products that are lactose-free or have reduced lactose.
- Beano – Adding Beano to beans and vegetables can help reduce the amount of gas that they produce. Beano has to be taken with the first bite of the food to work properly. It generally works best when you have only a small amount of gas.
- Symethicone – products that contain this can help neutralize gas bubbles in your system. Although these products are used by a lot of people, they still haven’t been proved to be effective against gas and gas pain.
- Activated Charcoal – Charcoal tablets that are taken before meals may help reduce symptoms. However, there is no evidence that they do in fact relieve gas. Charcoal tablets can also be messy and stain the inside of your mouth and your clothing.
Home Remedies for Gas and Bloating
In addition to over-the-counter remedies, there are some things commonly found in the kitchen that can be used as natural gas relievers.
Some herbs in the carminative family can help relieve gas and stop bloating. The actual definition of a carminative is a substance that helps in the expulsion of gas.
Ginger is one herb in this family that helps break up and expel gas. Studies have shown that ginger speeds digestion.
If your stomach empties more quickly, then gases can more speedily move into your small intestine. This can ease discomfort and bloating.
Other herbs in this family that can help reduce gas pain include:
It is better to get these herbs through the food that you consume rather than taking supplements.
You need to get approval from a doctor before taking any of these supplements. A lot of them have effects on the body and can even interact with medications that you are taking.
Probiotics can also be effective in reducing bloating and gas. They are live microorganisms.
They are similar to the bacteria found in the human gut. While they are available as supplements, you can also get them from the following foods:
Studies have shown that some probiotics can ease bloating in people with certain functional bowel disorders in a matter of weeks. Also, they have shown that an over-the-counter probiotic was effective in relieving adults from intestinal gas.
Gas can be made worse by stress. Since there are a lot of nerves in the GI tract, people who have a tendency to be nervous can develop gas, diarrhea, or constipation. This is why relaxation therapy can help when other remedies fail.
Studies have shown that life stress can cause spasms in the colon and abdominal discomfort.
Progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, counseling, or changes to the amount of daily stress can reduce overall stress and have a positive effect on digestive health.
Bloating in Women
Occasional bloating in women is normal and usually happens as a result of incomplete digestion or consumption of gas-causing foods.
It can also occur as a regular symptom of the reproductive cycle. If bloating is persistent, then it can indicate a chronic disorder or an abnormal growth.
PMS is the expression for a group of mental and physical symptoms that happen 5 to 11 days before the start of a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Symptoms of PMS include abdominal bloating and fullness. PMS can be controlled with lifestyle changes such as getting plenty of fluids, taking vitamins, reducing salt intake, increasing exercise, and getting regular sleep.
Aspirin, pain relievers, and use of birth control pills can relieve some of the symptoms as well.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that grow on the outside or inside of the ovaries. They grow as a result of hormonal imbalances in the body involving the luteinizing hormone.This hormone causes the ovaries to release eggs. Most women have small cysts on their ovaries that do not cause any symptoms.
If the cysts grow, it can cause pressure and bloating of the abdomen, amongst other symptoms.
If the symptoms are manageable, then the cysts are monitored to see how large they grow. If they grow to be very large, then they may have to be removed.
Warning Signs of Bloating
Sometimes, bloating can be a sign of something seriously wrong in your body. The following is a list of such problems:
- Weight Loss – If you feel full after just a small amount of food on a regular basis, then you might have a tumor that is pressing on the intestines.
- Ascites – This is an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen or pelvis. It can result in bloating and weight gain. It is usually caused by liver disease. However, about 10 percent of the time the cause is cancer. Ascites can be so bad that it actually makes you look like you are pregnant. If you get bloating and jaundice together, then this can be a sign that you have a cancer that has spread to the liver. However, it could also be a symptom of hepatitis.
- Severe Abdominal Pain – Pain and bloating that occur suddenly, particularly if you have nausea and vomiting, can be a sign of a bowel obstruction from scar tissue or a tumor that is pressing on the bowel. This requires immediate medical attention to avoid serious complications. Obstructions can be very painful because the bowel stretches as it fills up with food and digestive juices.
- Blood in Stool or Vaginal Bleeding – Bleeding in between periods and post-menopausal bleeding can be associated with severe bloating. Usually these symptoms are not a sign of something serious, but you should always be evaluated because it can be a sign of colon or uterine cancer.
- Fever – If this accompanies bloating, then it is usually a sign of infection or inflammation.
- Uterine Cancer – Bloating, in addition to various other symptoms, can be a sign of uterine cancer. The pain is usually persistent.
- Colon Cancer – This can block the inside of the colon, which produces progressive bloating. For cancers high up in the colon, bloating may be the only initial symptom.
- Pancreatic Cancer – This form of cancer is very aggressive and has a low survival rate. Bloating associated with jaundice, weight loss, poor appetite, or upper abdominal pain that radiates to the back can indicate pancreatic cancer. If you come down with diabetes and have bloating, weight loss, and abdominal pain, then that could be a sign of pancreatic cancer.
- Stomach Cancer – When you first get this disease, it may be without symptoms. Some initial vague symptoms are bloating, indigestion, and a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen.
- Liver Cancer – Bloating that is accompanied by ascites and jaundice may be a sign of cancer that has spread to the liver or primary liver cancer.
- Diverticulitis – This usually causes bloating, fever, and abdominal pain and tenderness accompanied by diarrhea or constipation. Bowel rest with a liquid diet is the usual treatment. Antibiotics are also sometimes given.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – This occurs when the uterine lining, fallopian tubes, or ovaries become infected. This comes from sexually transmitted diseases of certain types. It can also happen from childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage. Bloating along with fever, pain, and tenderness in the pelvic area with a vaginal discharge can be a sign of this illness.
- Crohn’s Disease – This is an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive tract. Usually, it happens in the small intestine or colon. Bloating is one of the early symptoms, and it can take many years to diagnose the illness. This illness can cause narrowing of the intestines and lead to a bowel obstruction. This results in severe bloating, weight loss, and nausea and vomiting after meals.
Most people who get bloating don’t have any of these serious illnesses. However, if your problem is severe, you should always be checked out by a medical professional.
There are various medical tests that can diagnose bloating, gas, and flatulence. First, your doctor will take a complete medical history and physical exam to figure out if your symptoms are intermittent or continuous.
If your doctor determines that your symptoms are intermittent, then they can be attributed to an increase in gas.
This can be resolved with lifestyle changes. However, if your symptoms are continuous, then the cause may be digestive diseases, enlarged abdominal organs, abdominal fluid, obesity, or tumors.
If the doctor suspects a serious underlying cause, they may order more comprehensive tests. These tests can include:
- Abdominal x-rays – These check for the presence and location of large accumulations of air.
- Small Intestine X-Rays – These determine if there is an obstruction in the small intestine.
- Gastric Emptying Studies – These measure the ability of the stomach to digest and empty.
- MRI, Ultrasound, and CT Scans – These determine if there are any tumors, enlarged abdominal organs, or abdominal fluid.
- Mal Absorption and Mal Digestion – These look for an increase of fat in the stool. This can determine whether or not there is a digestive disease.
- Methane/Hydrogen breath Tests – These measure the quantity of hydrogen or methane in a patient after a meal that identifies bacterial overgrowth.
The Difference Between Bloating and Distention
Bloating is the feeling that you have when your abdominal region is larger. Distention is the actual physical finding that your abdomen is larger.
It is possible to feel bloated without any distention. To count as distention, your abdomen must increase in size by one quart.
Distention is a more serious condition than bloating. Three different things are responsible for it:
To figure out the cause of your distention, you need to determine if it is intermittent or continuous.
Continuous distention is the swelling of the abdomen for a significant length of time. Four things may be the cause of it:
- Enlargement of an organ within the abdomen
- A tumor in the abdomen
- An increase in fluid around the organs in the abdomen
Intermittent distention is swelling that comes and goes. It is usually less serious and is caused by improper digestion.
In this short article, we have seen the causes of stomach gas and bloating and have suggested ways to get rid of it. It was shown that most cases of gas and bloating are not serious or life-threatening. Any bloating that lasts for an extended period of time could be more serious and needs to be checked out by a doctor. It has also been seen that bloating and gas accompany many different types of conditions and illnesses. For this reason, you might want to undergo several tests to determine the precise cause of your problem.
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