Gas is a normal part of human digestion. However, it can cause pain and discomfort, and it can have an unpleasant smell.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, people pass 1 to 3 pints of gas each day. People also typically pass gas between 14 and 23 times per day.
Most people feel embarrassed by gas, but it is part of a natural process, and there are ways to reduce it.
Medical treatments are available, but dietary and other lifestyle measures can also help.
This article will look at some of the ways that people can relieve gas and any associated discomfort.
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders recommend a number of dietary changes that may reduce gas.
These changes can be quick and easy ways to address the issue. Keeping a food diary can also help a person to pinpoint the problematic foods.
Some food groups that cause the body to produce gas include:
If the body lacks the enzymes needed to break down sugars in the diet, bloating and gas can result.
Examples of dietary sugars include:
- raffinose, an ingredient in beans and green vegetables
- lactose, which is present in milk and dairy products
- fructose, which occurs in onions, artichokes, and wheat
- sorbitol, an artificial sweetener that is common in sugar-free foods
Starchy foods, such as potatoes, corn, and wheat, can cause gas.
Fiber can aid digestion, but only if the body is used to it. A sudden increase in fiber intake can lead to gas and bloating.
Oat bran, peas, and fruits contain soluble fiber. This type of fiber produces the greatest amounts of gas.
If a person wants to boost their fiber intake, the best strategy is to add one serving a day. A person should also drink plenty of water to help the fiber dissolve better.
To reduce gas, it may not be necessary to remove all of these types of foods from the diet.
Keeping a record of the meals in a week and accompanying symptoms can help a person to identify specific trigger foods.
Another approach involves eliminating one type of food that causes gas for a few days, observing changes in symptoms, and moving on to the next. Keep eliminating the foods, one by one, until the symptoms improve.
Some foods, drinks, and dietary habits produce gas, but others can reduce it.
To reduce the amount of gas, try:
- drinking beverages that are room temperature
- eating raw, low-sugar fruits, such as apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, grapefruits, peaches, strawberries, and watermelons
- choosing low-carbohydrate vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, okra, tomatoes, and bok choy
- eating rice instead of wheat or potatoes, as rice produces less gas
- swapping carbonated beverages for still water, which hydrates better and promotes digestion, rather than gas and constipation
- drinking water with a squeeze of lemon or lime, rather than fruit juice or beverages with flavorings or artificial sweeteners
- drinking teas that can help ease digestion and reduce gas, such as those that contain chamomile, fennel, peppermint, or turmeric
Some behaviors cause a person to swallow air, and this can lead to gas.
- not chewing gum
- not eating hard candy
- taking your time when eating and drinking
- consume smaller meals more often
- avoiding drinking fizzy, or carbonated, beverages, which increase the amount of air in the stomach
- not eating foods with added artificial sweeteners
- making sure dentures are too loose
- not smoking
- do some physical activity
If possible, take a walk after eating. The movement promotes the steady passage of gas through the gut, making episodes of flatulence less likely.
People who regularly experience bloating report that physical activity seems to help reduce the problem.
Babies often have painful gas because their digestive tracts are smaller and their digestive systems are still forming.
The stomach may feel hardened, and they may curl their legs toward their chests, in an attempt to relieve gas pain.
These tips can help to reduce gas in infants:
- Use a slower-flow bottle nipple to reduce the speed at which the infant is drinking. Manufacturers have developed bottle nipples specifically for babies with gas.
- When breastfeeding, keep track of the foods you consume. Dairy products, tomatoes, and other foods that may cause gas in the mother can do the same in the infant.
- Burp the infant often, both during and after feeding.
- After the infant eats, place them flat on their back and move their legs as if they are riding a bicycle, to help free up gas. Time spent lying on the stomach, or tummy time, can also help.
- A pediatrician may recommend an infant-specific simethicone gas drop. These can help some babies, but it is important to review the dosage with a pediatrician.
During pregnancy, high levels of progesterone cause the muscles to relax.
This can result in extra gas because digestion takes longer and food spends more time in intestines. It may also lead to bloating and burping.
The following tips can help:
- Avoid fried or fatty foods, as they increase digestion time.
- Refrain from drinking through a straw, because straws can cause a person to swallow more air.
- Sit up straight after eating, to promote the downward flow of digestion.
- Take a walk around the block to free up gas, unless there are exercise restrictions.
- Wear clothing that is loose, especially around the waist.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and support the movement of digested food.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day to maintain blood sugar levels and consistency in the digestive pattern.
Over-the-counter treatments can often help to reduce gas.
Many contain simethicone, a compound that combines with gas bubbles to make them easier to eliminate.
Some natural therapies target specific enzymes in the intestine.
Some examples of natural therapies and medications that can help include:
- lactase, for those who are lactose intolerant
- beano, for people who find it difficult to digest foods that contain raffinose, such as fibrous vegetables and beans
- probiotics, either in yogurt or supplements, which can promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach
If these types of treatments provide no relief, a doctor may prescribe stronger medications to enhance digestion.
These medications may also reduce other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
For some, gas may be mild, if embarrassing, while for others it can indicate a more serious digestive problem, such as a bowel obstruction or malabsorption disorder.
If the following symptoms accompany strong gas, talk to a doctor:
Also, contact a doctor if gas starts to occur more frequently and a person can feel it working its way through the digestive system in more places.
The doctor will consider the person's symptoms, medical history, diet, and current medications.
Blood tests and imaging studies can show signs of inflammation in the digestive tract and help confirm a diagnosis.
Gas occurs when normal bacteria break down food in the gastrointestinal tract. It can increase when people consume carbonated drinks, chew gum, and other activities.
The gas escapes either through the rectum or the mouth.
If gas is particularly odorous or uncomfortable, it may indicate a medical condition that is preventing the body from breaking down foods completely. Lactose intolerance and celiac disease are two examples of these conditions.
An estimated 1 in 3 people produce methane gas in their intestinal tracts. Methane is a particularly strong-smelling gas that can cause the stool to float in water. Intestinal gas also consists of carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
As gas moves through the digestive tract, it can stretch the stomach and intestines. This can result in sharp, jabbing pain and bloating or cramping that is highly uncomfortable.