People can often treat bloating at home, but over-the-counter products such as Alka-seltzer or Lactaid may also help relieve symptoms. Doctors may also recommend prescription medication.
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
- Maalox anti-gas
- 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.
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
Lactaid is one brand that contains lactase. A person can take this supplement every time they consume a dairy product.
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.
Depending on the brand, these medications may contain one or more ingredients such as:
- aluminum hydroxide
- magnesium hydroxide
- calcium salts
Brand names include:
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.
Potential side effects may include:
- 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.
Laxative medications contain different ingredients, such as:
- sodium picosylfate
- arachis oil
- glycol lactulose
The dosage varies between products and types. However, a person should not take laxatives daily or for longer than 1 week.
Potential effects include:
- passing wind
- abdominal cramps
- dehydration causing:
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.
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:
- are recovering from flu or chickenpox
- are allergic to, or taking other salicylates, including aspirin
- have black or bloody stool
- have an ulcer
- have a bleeding issue
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.
- nausea and vomiting
- early satiety, feeling full too quickly
- 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
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:
- a family history of heart problems
- heart conditions such as irregular heartbeats or heart disease
- severe dehydration
- eating disorders
- kidney or lung failure
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:
- tardive dyskinesia — a serious movement disorder that is often irreversible
- other extrapyramidal symptoms
- neuroleptic malignant syndrome
This medication can also interact with certain medications:
- CNS depressants
- CYP2D6 inhibitors
- MAO inhibitors
People must speak with a doctor regarding the warnings and risks associated with this type of medication.
Prokinetics may have serious side effects. These may include:
- nausea and vomiting
- frequent urination
- missed menstruation
- suicidal thoughts
- speech issues
- chest pain
- vision changes
Antispasmodic prescription drugs stop painful muscle contractions that may cause bloating and pain.
Examples of these drugs include dicyclomine (Bentyl) and hyoscine (Buscopan).
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.
Buscopan may cause side effects in some people, but most people have no side effects or only mild effects.
Some of the effects include:
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
- fast heart rate
Natural home remedies that may alleviate bloating include:
- Activated charcoal: A
2017 studyfound 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:
- stomach cramps
- 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.
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 relievebloating symptoms.
- Chewing slowly: Chewing food more slowly can help prevent gas buildup and aid digestion.
- Reducing sodium: Following a lower sodium diet
could helpprevent bloating.
A person should consult a doctor if they experience bloating alongside:
- blood in the stool
- severe pain
- severe or rapid abdominal swelling
- kidney or liver failure
- traumatic injury to the abdomen
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.