Gas in the stomach is usually a sign that a person is swallowing air when they eat or drink. Burping usually helps to release the gas and alleviate any bloating and discomfort.
Mild or infrequent episodes of stomach gas are not usually a cause for concern. However, frequent or persistent stomach gas can sometimes indicate an underlying gastrointestinal condition that requires treatment.
This article outlines the symptoms of stomach gas and its various causes. It also outlines the different treatment options for stomach gas and provides information about when to see a doctor.
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- abdominal pain or discomfort
In some cases, other symptoms may accompany gas in the stomach, such as:
There are various reasons why a person might experience gas.
Gas in the stomach and upper abdomen
Reasons for gas in the stomach and upper abdomen include:
People usually swallow a little bit of air while eating, and this can make the stomach or upper abdomen feel full. Burping generally helps to release the gas and reduce bloating and discomfort.
- eating or drinking too fast
- chewing gum
- sucking on hard candy
- drinking carbonated drinks, such as soda, sparkling water, and beer
- wearing ill-fitting dentures that reduce chewing efficiency
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
GERD is a condition in which stomach acid and other stomach contents frequently leak out of the stomach and up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth and stomach.
People who experience GERD-related stomach gas may notice that their burps have a foul taste or cause them to regurgitate food.
Gas in the lower abdomen
Below are some potential causes of gas in the lower abdomen.
A person experiencing symptoms of gas in the lower part of their belly or abdomen may be experiencing gas from fermentation.
Stomach acid helps to break down food and pass it on to the intestines. The intestines break down the food even further in a process that sometimes releases gases.
These gases either make their way to the stomach and leave the body as a burp or travel through the intestines and leave the body as flatulence.
Some foods may produce gas more than others. The
- greens, such as kale, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts
- vegetables, such as onions, cauliflower, and broccoli
- beans, including black, pinto, and kidney beans
- dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream
- high fiber foods, such as whole grains and fruits
- sugar substitutes and sweeteners, such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an umbrella term for a group of digestive symptoms that can cause pain, discomfort, and changes in bowel movements.
A person with IBS may experience an excessive amount of intestinal gas. This excess gas may lead to abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence. Other possible symptoms of IBS include:
- bowel incontinence
- back pain
The exact cause of IBS remains unknown. However, experts believe that it may be due to food passing through the intestines too quickly or too slowly.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is the medical term for excess bacteria in the small intestine. Experts believe that the condition is due to a lack of movement in the small intestine.
Excessive intestinal bacteria can cause a build-up of gas, which may lead to bloating and flatulence.
Other possible symptoms of SIBO inlcude:
- abdominal pain
- diarrhea or constipation
In extreme cases, the small intestine may be unable to absorb sufficient nutrients from food. This may lead to complications, such as weight loss and anemia.
Frequent bloating and intestinal gas can sometimes indicate a food intolerance. This is where the body is unable to digest certain foods properly.
Common food intolerances include:
- Lactose intolerance: Inability to digest the sugar “lactose,” found in milk and dairy products.
- Fructose intolerance: Inability to digest the fruit sugar “fructose.”
- Gluten intolerance: Inability to digest gluten proteins that exist in cereal grains.
Celiac disease is similar to gluten intolerance but more severe. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which consuming gluten causes the immune system to attack healthy cells in the small intestine.
Some general symptoms of food intolerances include:
- abdominal pain
- skin rashes and itching
Other potential causes
Some less common causes of stomach gas include:
- chronic constipation
- peptic ulcers
- intestinal blockages
- colon cancer
Some causes of stomach gas may improve with home remedies alone. Others may require over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications.
A person who experiences mild or infrequent episodes of stomach gas may want to try home remedies before seeking a medical diagnosis and treatment. Below are some general tips for alleviating stomach gas at home.
Some lifestyle changes that may help to alleviate stomach gas include:
- chewing food thoroughly
- avoiding chewing gum and hard candy
- avoiding carbonated beverages
- avoiding smoking
- ensuring that dentures or other dental devices fit correctly
People may also benefit from keeping a food journal to record what and when they eat and when they experience symptoms. This will help to identify any trigger foods. After identifying the foods, a person can alter their diet to avoid those foods in the future.
Anecdotally, some people report relief from stomach gas using various herbs, such as:
In some cases, people may require OTC or prescription medications to help alleviate stomach gas and associated symptoms.
People with certain food intolerances can take digestive enzymes before a meal to help their body digest problematic foods. Common examples include taking lactase to help digest milk products or taking alpha-galactosidase (Beano) to help break down carbohydrates, fiber, and protein from beans and vegetables.
For someone already experiencing gas, OTC products containing simethicone can help combine gas bubbles, making the gas easier to pass. Examples of such products include:
Doctors may recommend prescription medications for people who cannot find relief from home remedies and OTC options.
The type of medication a doctor prescribes will depend on the underlying condition causing the gas. Some medications a doctor may prescribe include:
- medications to manage GERD, such as:
- antacids to alleviate heartburn
- H2 blockers to decrease the production of stomach acid
- proton pump inhibitors to reduce the production of stomach acid and help heal the esophagus
- prokinetics to help the stomach empty faster
- medications to manage IBS, such as:
- antispasmodics to alleviate abdominal pain and cramping
- laxatives to help relieve constipation
- antimotility medications to help alleviate diarrhea
- antibiotics to help treat SIBO
In many cases, gas in the stomach is not a cause for concern, and symptoms will pass with little or no treatment.
However, anyone experiencing frequent or persistent stomach gas should see their doctor for a full diagnosis.
Stomach gas that occurs alongside other symptoms, such as weight loss or changes in bowel movements, also warrants medical attention. These symptoms could indicate an underlying medical condition that requires treatment and management to prevent any long-term complications.
Mild or occasional stomach gas is usually not a cause for concern. In such cases, people can usually find relief using simple home remedies and OTC medications.
However, a person should see their doctor if they experience frequent or persistent stomach gas. This could be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment or careful management.
Treatment should help alleviate symptoms while preventing the risk of further health complications.