Intestinal gas is a byproduct of the digestive process. It may also occur as a result of swallowing air while eating and drinking, switching to a high fiber diet, or having an underlying health condition. Although intestinal gas is typical, excessive or trapped gas can cause discomfort and pain.
The body eliminates excess gas through belching and flatulence. Belching releases excess gas from the stomach, while flatulence releases excess gas from the intestines. Gas pains may occur if the body produces too much gas or cannot release excess gas.
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.
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.
Intestinal gas is not typically painful. However, a person may experience abdominal discomfort if excess gas cannot pass through the intestines easily. This bloating sensation may cause the abdomen to swell.
Gas is a typical byproduct of digestion. It can also occur as a result of swallowing air while eating or drinking or switching to a high fiber diet, according to 2014 research. 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, the following factors can cause a person to swallow excess air:
- chewing gum
- drinking carbonated beverages
- eating or drinking 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. The acronym “FODMAPs” stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.” These are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates that the small intestine may have difficulty digesting due to a shortage or absence of enzymes.
The large intestine contains
Health conditions that can cause gas
Certain health conditions may cause a person to produce more gas or experience gas pain. Examples
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
- functional gastrointestinal disorders
- problems digesting certain carbohydrates such as lactose or fructose
- celiac disease
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- conditions that may cause a bowel obstruction, such as colon cancer
Gas symptoms can vary from person to person. They
Gas symptoms do not usually cause distress. However, excessive intestinal gas that is unable to escape may cause a person to experience an intense sharp stabbing pain or a general feeling of abdominal discomfort.
When gas accumulates in the intestines, people may mistake the pain for a different condition. For example, gas that collects on the left side of the colon may present as chest pain, whereas gas that collects on the right side of the colon may feel similar to gallbladder pain.
In some cases, people may also experience additional symptoms such as constipation and diarrhea.
Symptoms of gas pain are typically brief and usually resolve once a person releases gas through belching or flatulence. 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.
To determine the cause of gas and gas pain, a doctor will take a person’s medical history and perform a physical exam.
The doctor will likely 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:
- stool tests
- blood tests
- imaging tests
People can often relieve the physical discomfort of gas pain through belching or flatulence.
If a person experiences persistent and painful gas symptoms, their doctor
Changes to eating and drinking habits
A doctor may recommend changes to eating and drinking habits. Possible
- 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
If a person can identify foods that their body has difficulty digesting, they should consider avoiding or limiting them.
- certain fruits, such as apples, peaches, and pears
- cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale
- legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils
- dairy products, such as milk, ice cream, and yogurt
- 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
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 symptoms, such as probiotics, ginger, or peppermint oil
- products containing enzymes such as lactase or alpha-galactosidase, which can help people digest certain carbohydrates
Gas is a common byproduct of digestion. People typically eliminate gas from the body through belching or flatulence.
When people cannot release excessive gas, they may experience gas pains. While this discomfort can be severe, it often resolves quickly.
However, if a person frequently experiences persistent gas, they should contact a doctor to determine the cause. A doctor may run tests to help identify whether the gas symptoms are due to an underlying condition, an intolerance to certain foods, or a person’s eating and drinking habits. They will then be able to recommend any suitable treatments.
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. Symptoms of gas pain often resolve quickly. However, anyone who experiences frequent or persistent gas pain should contact a doctor, who will work to diagnose the cause.
Treatments for gas pain include avoiding certain foods, 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.