What are bloating and gas?
Gas and bloating are often considered the same thing. In fact, gas is the cause and bloating is the effect. Too much gas, which is a byproduct of the digestive process, can lead to an uncomfortable sensation of being too full.
Learn more about how to get rid of bloating and gas.
When you have gas and bloating, you might feel like your stomach is stretched and overfilled. The gas can make your belly look distended and your clothes might feel too tight. Bending over might feel difficult and increase your discomfort.
Bloating isn’t always painful, but it can be.
When your digestive tract breaks down food, it can cause a chemical reaction that produces gas. This is entirely natural but too much of that gas is what causes bloating.
The most common causes of gas include:
- Overeating: Having too much food in your stomach makes it stretch and feel overstuffed
- Eating foods that cause gas: Certain foods are hard to break down and lead to gas. Beans, some vegetables such as cabbage or asparagus, and artificial sweeteners are often linked to gas and bloating.
- Constipation: Small or infrequent bowel movements leave unpassed stool in your colon. The bacteria in your gut continue to break it down and that produces excess gas
- Swallowing air: Eating too fast, drinking carbonated beverages, or talking while eating can push air into your stomach and result in a gassy feeling.
Sometimes, bloating is a symptom of another condition that you should discuss with your doctor.
Some possible illnesses that cause bloating include:
- Food intolerance: Intolerance to certain foods can cause gas and bloating
- Bowel disease: Bloating and gas may be symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease
- Gastroparesis: This is a condition where your stomach digests food too slowly. Slow digestion produces too much gas
- Cancer: Colon, ovarian, stomach, and pancreatic cancer can all cause bloating
Who can get it?
Anyone can have occasional gas and bloating. However, if you have noticed new or more frequent gas and bloating, you may want to ask your doctor about it.
Diagnosis for gas and bloating
If you have occasional gas and bloating caused by something you ate, there is probably no need to talk to a doctor. However, if you have gas and bloating that are more frequent or more severe than usual, you should see your doctor.
Your doctor will likely just give you a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms, including whether your bloating is just occasional or if it happens a lot.
If it does happen all the time, they may want other tests, like an x-ray or CT scan to look inside your abdomen.
Treatments for gas and bloating
Gas and bloating do eventually go away on their own. If your bloating only happens occasionally, make sure to chew your food well and sit up straight for a while after eating to help your body digest.
Some medications can relieve symptoms faster. Rarely, gas and bloating are symptoms of a serious problem that you should discuss with your doctor.
Non-prescription medicine for gas and bloating can be very effective.
Some helpful medications include:
- Bismuth subsalicylate (found in Pepto Bismol)
- Activated charcoal
- Simethicone (found in GasX)
If you feel bloated and gassy, sitting up straight or taking a walk might help you feel better. The upright position and movement can make it easier for your body to digest food.
You can prevent gas and bloating by being careful by avoiding foods that you know make you bloated. Chew your meals slowly and thoroughly to make digestion easier.
Over-the-counter food additives like Beano or Lactaid can make foods easier to digest so that they don’t make you bloated.
Natural remedies that can relieve the discomfort of bloating are available as well. Adding these to food or drinking them as tea might be helpful.
Some ingredients that help reduce bloating are:
- Peppermint tea
- Chamomile tea
Most gas and bloating aren’t concerning but there are times when they are a symptom of a more severe health issue. If you’re not sure what’s causing the gas and bloating, your doctor might suggest an elimination diet. You will stop eating certain foods to see if your symptoms get better.
You might also need to go to a specialist in digestive problems. That doctor might want you to have an imaging procedure. MRI, ultrasound, endoscopy, or colonoscopy let doctors see the inside of your digestive tract to diagnose any problems.
Treatment plans will vary depending on your diagnosis. Your doctor will tell you what you need to do once they have figured out the cause of your gas and bloating.
Harvard Health Publishing: What’s causing that belly bloat?”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Bloating: Causes and Prevention Tips.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Digestive Diagnostic Procedures.”
Penn Medicine: “Why Do I Feel Bloated? Common Causes of Bloating — and What You Can Do About It.”
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