Bloating is typically harmless, and people can often treat it at home. However, doctors may also recommend over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication to relieve symptoms.

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A person may experience bloating due to various causes. These include:

Read on for information on OTC and prescription medication for bloating, alternative treatments, prevention, and when to contact a doctor.

Simethicone, a silicone compound, is an OTC medication with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. This drug helps relieve bloating, which results from excess gas in the gastrointestinal tract.

Some examples of Simethicone brand names include:

  • Alka-seltzer anti-gas
  • Gas-X
  • Mylicon
  • Maalox anti-gas

Dosage

The recommended dosage is:

  • Adults: 40–125 milligrams (mg) 4 times daily and a maximum daily dose of 500 mg.
  • Children 2–12 years: 40 mg 4 times daily and a maximum daily dose of 480 mg.
  • Children under 2 years: 20 mg 4 times daily and a maximum daily dose of 240 mg.

This medication contains a mixture of dimethicone — a type of silicone — and silica gel.

Side effects

This medication does not tend to cause serious side effects, although some people may experience mild nausea or diarrhea.

Lactase is available OTC and is a natural enzyme that helps break down lactose into simple sugars, which the body can easily digest. This enzyme can relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance, such as bloating.

Dosage

Lactaid is one brand that contains lactase. A person can take this supplement every time they consume a dairy product.

Side effects

People do not usually experience any serious side effects, although some may report vomiting.

Antacids, another type of OTC medication, neutralize the acid in the stomach. This can alleviate heartburn symptoms, diarrhea caused by bile acid, and constipation.

Ingredients

Depending on the brand, these medications may contain one or more ingredients such as:

  • aluminum hydroxide
  • magnesium hydroxide
  • calcium salts
  • simethicone

Brand names include:

  • Mylanta
  • Tums
  • Maalox

Dosing may vary depending upon the product and the combination of ingredients. People should check the instructions to determine this.

People should use this medication when they have symptoms or feel they will start to get them. This is usually with or after meals or before going to bed.

Side effects

Potential side effects may include:

  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • flatulence
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea or vomiting

OTC laxatives can relieve constipation, which can alleviate bloating.

There are four types of laxatives:

  • Bulk-forming: This type increases the bulk or weight of stool.
  • Osmotic: This draws water from the body into the bowel to soften stool.
  • Stimulants: These stimulate the muscles in the gut lining to help them to move stool along the tract.
  • Stool softener: This laxative allows water into the stool to soften it and make it easier to pass.

Dosage

Laxative medications contain different ingredients, such as:

  • senna
  • sodium picosylfate
  • bisacodyl
  • arachis oil
  • docusate
  • macrogol
  • polyethylene
  • glycol lactulose

The dosage varies between products and types. However, a person should not take laxatives daily or for longer than 1 week.

Side effects

Potential effects include:

Bismuth subsalicylate is an OTC medication that doctors use to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms due to overindulgence in drinks or food.

These drugs are antidiarrheal agents that:

  • decrease the flow of fluids and electrolytes to the bowel
  • reduce intestinal inflammation
  • kill the organisms that can cause diarrhea

One of the most common brand names is Pepto-Bismol.

Dosage

The recommended dosage is 30 milliliters (ml) every 30–60 minutes and no more than 240 ml in 24 hours.

Inactive ingredients include benzoic acid and magnesium aluminum silicate.

A person should not use this medication if they:

Side effects

Side effects may include ringing or buzzing in the ears.

Prokinetics are prescription medications that aim to improve gastric emptying and relieve symptoms of gastroparesis.

Gastroparesis causes:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • early satiety, feeling full too quickly
  • bloating
  • upper abdominal pain
  • slow emptying of solids

Two prokinetic drug examples include Propulsid — the brand name for cisapride — and metoclopramide, marketed as Reglan.

Black box warnings for cisapride

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a series of black box warnings in the 1990s for prokinetics due to cardiovascular safety concerns.

Cisapride has a specific black box warning, which may cause serious irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmia. People should inform their doctor if they have:

People should also inform their doctor if they are taking protease inhibitors or medications for depression or an irregular heartbeat.

A person must also consult a medical professional regarding the risks and warnings associated with this drug.

Black box warnings for metoclopramide

Reglan has a black box warning of using for no longer than 12 weeks. This drug can cause complications such as:

This medication can also interact with certain medications:

People must speak with a doctor regarding the warnings and risks associated with this type of medication.

Side effects

Prokinetics may have serious side effects. These may include:

Antispasmodic prescription drugs stop painful muscle contractions that may cause bloating and pain.

Examples of these drugs include dicyclomine (Bentyl) and hyoscine (Buscopan).

Dosage

People should take these drugs as instructed by a doctor. The dosages and ingredients vary between types.

For example, Buscopan tablets contain 10 mg of hyoscine butylbromide.

The usual dose of Buscopan in adults and children over 12 years is 2 tablets, four times a day. The dose for children between 6–11 years is 1 tablet three times per day.

Side effects

Buscopan may cause side effects in some people, but most people have no side effects or only mild effects.

Some of the effects include:

Read more about treatments for gas in the stomach.

Natural home remedies that may alleviate bloating include:

  • Activated charcoal: A 2017 study found that people who took a mixture of activated charcoal and simethicone daily reported a significant improvement in abdominal pain and did not experience side effects. However, more research is necessary to determine the efficacy of activated charcoal as a bloating treatment.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint oil is an antispasmodic that relaxes bowel walls and can relieve:
    • bloating
    • stomach cramps
    • gas
  • Dietary changes: Eating more fiber and removing foods that cause bloating from a person’s diet can alleviate bloating.
  • Increasing water intake: Drinking more water may help reduce or avoid constipation. Learn more about how much water a person should drink each day.
  • Applying a heated pad to the stomach: A heated pad can help reduce pain associated with bloating.

Learn about other remedies for bloating.

The following actions may help a person prevent bloating from occurring:

  • Completing a food diary: A food diary can help a person learn which foods are likely to cause symptoms and therefore avoid them. It could help identify specific intolerances that may be contributing to bloating or pain.
  • Taking exercise: Physical activity can relieve bloating symptoms.
  • Chewing slowly: Chewing food more slowly can help prevent gas buildup and aid digestion.
  • Reducing sodium: Following a lower sodium diet could help prevent bloating.

A person should consult a doctor if they experience bloating alongside:

Doctors will prescribe OTC or prescription medication to relieve bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms. People should discuss the recommended dosage and potential side effects with a healthcare professional.

A person can also try natural alternatives, such as peppermint, activated charcoal, dietary changes, and a heated pad on the stomach.