Swallowing air while eating or drinking may cause gas in the stomach, which can lead to bloating and discomfort.

Having gas sometimes is not a cause for concern. However, severe, frequent, or persistent gas may be a sign of an underlying condition. In some cases, a person may want to relieve gas with medication.

This article outlines what gas is, medications for gas, and other treatments. It also answers some common questions about gas.

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Most people experience a buildup of gas in the stomach at some point in their lives. Swallowing air while eating and drinking usually causes this buildup. It can result in discomfort, bloating, and sometimes pain in the abdomen.

Symptoms

Symptoms of gas include:

Accompanying symptoms may include:

Causes

There are various potential causes of gas. These include:

Swallowed air

People typically swallow some air while eating or drinking. However, certain behaviors can cause a person to swallow too much air, such as:

  • eating or drinking too fast
  • sucking candy
  • chewing gum
  • drinking carbonated drinks
  • smoking

Burping can release excess gas and relieve uncomfortable bloating.

Food intolerances

Frequent gas and bloating may be a sign of food intolerance. This occurs when the body is unable to digest and process certain foods properly. Common food intolerances include:

A person with food intolerance may also experience:

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD is a condition in which acid and other stomach contents come back up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth and stomach. A person with GERD may also experience:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS refers to a group of symptoms that affect bowel movements and cause pain in the abdomen, without visible signs of disease or damage to the digestive tract. As well as gas, symptoms of IBS include:

  • repeated abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • diarrhea

Fermentation in the gut

The process of the intestines breaking down food can release gases, which can build up and cause burping and flatulence. Some foods may cause more gas than others, such as:

Less common causes of gas

Other causes of gas may include:

Below are some common medications a healthcare professional may recommend to relieve gas.

Simethicone

Simethicone is available over the counter (OTC) under a variety of brand names.

Simethicone works by gathering smaller, trapped gas bubbles in the gut into larger bubbles, which helps them pass through the body more easily. The medication typically acts within half an hour.

The medication is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding people and may have some mild side effects.

Alpha-galactosidase

This OTC supplement helps break down complex carbohydrates, such as those in:

  • legumes
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • sugars

Breaking down complex carbohydrates helps prevent or reduce gas by limiting fermentation. Alpha-galactosidase typically has no side effects.

However, the medication may not relieve gas in all cases. A 2021 study found that alpha-galactosidase had no more effect than a placebo on pain, bloating, or concentrations of gas in people with IBS.

Lactase supplements

Lactase is an enzyme that helps people digest disaccharide lactose, a type of sugar in dairy. People who are lactose intolerant have low levels of this enzyme.

Taking a lactase supplement may help the digestive system process lactose, which may reduce gas.

Prescription medication

It is not likely that a person will require prescription medication to treat general gas. However, a doctor may treat an underlying condition with prescribed medication.

Medications to manage IBS may include:

  • laxatives to relieve constipation
  • antispasmodics to relieve abdominal pain and cramps
  • antimotility medications to help stop diarrhea

Medications to manage GERD may include:

Natural products and lifestyle strategies may have an impact on reducing and preventing gas. However, a person should speak with a doctor before using alternative methods to manage gas.

Natural products

Natural products that researchers have found to alleviate gas include:

  • Cinnamon: Researchers have found that cinnamon inhibits the secretion of the enzyme pepsin as well as gastric acid. Over time, this may lead to a significant reduction in gas.
  • Ginger: Ginger has a carminative effect. This means it may reduce bloating, flatulence, and cramping, and relieve pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Anise: Research suggests that extracts of anise may be helpful as a laxative, carminative, and antispasmodic treatment, which could help alleviate gas.

Lifestyle strategies

Overeating any food, or eating or drinking too fast, may cause gas. Eating smaller meals more frequently, and eating more slowly, may help reduce gas.

Researchers have found that certain conditions may be linked to gas and bloating, such as:

Maintaining a moderate weight and seeking treatment for mental health conditions may have a positive impact on digestive functioning.

Avoiding or limiting certain types of food may reduce or prevent gas and bloating. Foods that may contribute to gas include:

Certain activities may also increase the risk of gas, including rigorous exercise soon after a meal.

Below are some of the most common questions about gas.

How can someone get rid of gas quickly?

Most OTC medications for gas work fairly quickly. A person may also try movement and massage to relieve gas.

Learn more about poses to pass gas.

What are the symptoms of trapped gas?

Symptoms of trapped gas include:

  • bloating
  • burping
  • flatulence
  • pain or discomfort in the abdomen

What causes excessive gas?

The following may cause gas:

  • swallowing too much air
  • food intolerances
  • GERD
  • IBS
  • fermentation in the gut

Most people experience gas at some point. It occurs as a natural byproduct of the digestive system. Gas may sometimes be uncomfortable or even painful.

There are various medications available to relieve gas, including simethicone and alpha-galactosidase. There are also medications a doctor may prescribe for underlying conditions that cause gas, such as IBS.

Some natural remedies may also help relieve gas, such as cinnamon, ginger, and anise.

Avoiding certain foods that contribute to gas can help reduce or prevent gas. Gentle movement may also help alleviate gas.