Intestinal gas is a byproduct of the digestive process. It may also occur due to swallowing air while eating, diet, and underlying health conditions. If the body cannot release enough gas, it can cause pain in the lower abdomen.

The body eliminates excess gas through belching and flatulence. Belching releases excess gas from the stomach, while flatulence releases excess gas from the intestines.

Lower abdominal pain may indicate gas is stuck in the intestines, further along the digestive tract.

This article describes what gas is and its causes. It provides information on the symptoms of gas pain, as well as its diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

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Intestinal gas is the air that collects in a person’s digestive system. It typically consists of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide from swallowed air, in addition to hydrogen and methane from the process of breaking down food. When gas builds up, the body will attempt to eliminate it through belching or flatulence.

Belching is the body’s way of removing swallowed air from the stomach, while flatulence is the body’s way of removing air that in the intestines. Medical experts consider it typical for a person to pass intestinal gas up to 25 times a day.

Intestinal gas is not typically painful. However, a person may experience discomfort if excess gas cannot pass through the intestines easily. This may cause a bloating sensation and sharp pain.

Gas is a byproduct of digestion. It can also occur as a result of swallowing air while eating or drinking, or a high fiber diet. Some underlying health conditions may also cause excess gas.

Eating and drinking habits that can cause gas

Everyone swallows a small amount of air while eating or drinking. However, a person may swallow more if they:

  • chew gum
  • drink carbonated beverages
  • eat or drink too quickly

If a person does not eliminate stomach gas by belching, the gas will move into the intestines and will eventually pass as flatulence.

Foods that can cause gas

Certain foods and drinks may cause excessive gas production, especially those high in fiber and FODMAPs, which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.”

Fiber and FODMAPs can ferment in the digestive system. This means the microbes that live in the digestive system break them down, producing gas in the process.

This is a natural part of digestion and does not necessarily cause problems. But eating a lot of high FODMAP or high fiber foods may result in more gas production than usual. Some people are also less able to break down FODMAPs.

Health conditions that can cause gas

Certain health conditions may cause a person to produce more gas, which could result in pain. Examples include:

Trapped gas typically causes pain in a specific location. A person may also experience:

  • bloating
  • belching
  • passing more gas than usual

People with underlying conditions may also experience additional symptoms such as constipation and diarrhea.

If pain is in the lower abdomen, it may be in the small intestine, at the center of the abdomen, or in the large intestine, which sits around the outside.

Sometimes, people can confuse abdominal gas pain for other things. For example, pain in the upper left part of the colon can radiate to the chest, while pain on the upper right side may feel like gallbladder pain.

To determine the cause of gas pain in the lower abdomen, a doctor will take a person’s medical history and perform a physical exam.

The doctor may ask a person about their symptoms, eating habits, and any current medications they are taking. They may also ask a person to keep a food diary to help identify any specific foods that may be triggering gas.

During the physical exam, a doctor will check the abdomen for signs of tenderness and any abnormalities. They may also use a stethoscope to listen to the area.

If a doctor suspects that an underlying health issue is causing the gas pain, they may order additional diagnostic tests. These may include:

People may be able to relieve the physical discomfort of trapped gas by:

  • having a bowel movement
  • doing gentle exercise
  • relaxing
  • massaging the abdomen

If a person often experiences painful gas, their doctor may suggest certain changes, depending on the cause. This could include:

Changes to eating and drinking habits

A doctor may recommend changes to eating and drinking habits. Possible recommendations include:

  • avoiding or limiting chewing gum
  • avoiding or limiting carbonated beverages
  • eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • eating meals slowly and while seated
  • avoiding talking while eating

Dietary changes

If a person can identify foods that their body has difficulty digesting, a doctor may suggest avoiding them. However, it is important to do this systematically to avoid limiting the diet unecessarily.

Some foods that are more likely to produce excessive gas include:

  • certain fruits, such as apples, peaches, and pears
  • cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale
  • legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils
  • whole grains and bran
  • beverages containing high fructose corn syrup, such as fruit juices, soft drinks, and energy drinks
  • candy, gum, and other products containing sorbitol
  • dairy products, such as milk, ice cream, and yogurt, in some people

Medications and supplements

In some cases, a doctor may recommend medications or supplements to help reduce gas and gas pain symptoms. The medications a doctor suggests will vary depending on the cause of the symptoms. Possible options include:

  • over-the-counter medications, such as those containing simethicone
  • prescription medications to treat health conditions that can cause gas symptoms
  • supplements that may help ease gas, such as ginger
  • products containing enzymes such as lactase or alpha-galactosidase, which can help people digest certain carbohydrates

Click here to learn more about stopping gas pain.

Symptoms of gas pain are typically brief and usually resolve once a person releases gas. However, a person may require medical assistance if their gas pain is frequent, severe, or occurs alongside other symptoms.

A doctor will work to diagnose the cause of gas pain or identify another reason for the abdominal discomfort.

Many people experience trapped gas from time to time. Typically, this resolves on its own.

Some causes are easy to treat with lifestyle or dietary changes. Others may require medical treatment or ongoing management.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about abdominal pain due to gas.

How do I know it is gas?

If the pain improves after passing gas, that suggests it could have been trapped. However, if the pain persists a visit to the doctor can help determine if it is from gas or something else.

How do you get rid of trapped gas?

Trapped gas often passes on its own, but people may find it helpful to try having a bowel movement, to do some gentle exercise, or to massage the abdomen.

Learn more tips for relieving trapped gas.

When should you go to the ER for gas pains?

Although the pain can be uncomfortable, trapped gas usually passes on its own. However, if a person is not sure what is causing the pain, it does not get better, or keeps getting worse, they should contact a doctor.

If the pain is sudden and severe, makes it difficult to move or eat, or there are other concerning symptoms such as bloody stool or vomit, go to the emergency room.

Intestinal gas refers to air that collects in the intestines during digestion. Typically, a person will eliminate this gas through flatulence. However, when a person cannot release intestinal gas, pressure may build in the abdomen, resulting in abdominal discomfort and pain.

Excessive gas may occur due to certain eating and drinking habits, digesting particular foods, or having an underlying health condition. Anyone who experiences frequent or persistent gas pain should contact a doctor, who will work to diagnose the cause.

Treatments for gas pain may include changing eating and drinking habits, or taking medications or supplements to aid digestion or treat underlying health conditions. A person can talk with a doctor for tailored advice on how to treat their gas pain.