What is bloating and excessive gas?
Bloating is the sensation of stomach fullness and tightness, while excessive gas is the presence of excess gas in the digestive tract. Together, they make up “abdominal bloating.”
Bloating and excessive gas may seem like a passing discomfort, but it can have a big impact on your life. In people with bloating and excessive gas, the belly can be hard or tight and swollen.
You may feel full quickly when you eat or feel a constant need to belch or pass gas. This condition feels uncomfortable—almost like you have a rock in your stomach.
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What causes bloating and excessive gas?
Gas is a normal part of the digestive process, but it can build up in your intestines for many reasons. Bloating often occurs because of trapped gas.
It happens when swallowed air doesn’t escape from your stomach normally or when undigested food moves into the small intestine too quickly. The small intestine is where your body breaks down food into liquids that the body can easily absorb.
It’s a process called “fermentation,” and it produces gas as a byproduct. This gas has to go somewhere, so you burp or pass it through your rectum. If too much air builds up in your stomach or small intestine, bloating may occur.
Other problems—like swallowing air while eating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, and eating hard-to-digest foods—can cause excessive gas and bloat. Bloating can also happen if your gallbladder isn’t working properly to push bile into the digestive tract because of gallstones, cancer, a blocked bile duct, or removal of the gallbladder.
Symptoms that accompany bloating and excessive gas
Most people who have excessive gas and bloating often can’t pinpoint their problem with just one of these conditions. Some common symptoms include:
Belching can be a natural process of getting rid of swallowed air. But if you swallow a lot of air or have to burp frequently, it could mean that bacteria in your small intestine aren’t breaking down the food as they should.
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often experience stomach cramps and other digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
This symptom is also called “distension.” Mild distension may make you look slightly pregnant. Severe cases prevent you from buttoning your pants comfortably. You might even look like you’re in the later stages of pregnancy.
Some people say they feel “bloated.” Others describe it as a feeling that their stomach is distended, enlarged, or feels heavier than normal.
You may also feel an urgent need to have a bowel movement. This symptom is different from constipation. Constipation happens when you don’t have any bowel movements, usually three times per week or less.
After a typical meal, some gas is normal. You may also feel pressure on your bladder from gas in your intestines.
It is strongly advisable that you inform your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms listed above persistently. They could be indicative of serious medical problems, like bowel obstruction, gallbladder disease, colon cancer, ulcers, infections in the digestive tract, or an allergic reaction to food or medication.
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Risk factors for bloating and excessive gas
Bloating and excessive gas are common in both men and women of all ages. But some people are more at risk for this condition than others. Other factors that increase your chance of bloating include:
During pregnancy, the growing uterus presses on your abdomen. This pressure can cause bloating, gas, and stomach aches.
Carrying excess weight puts pressure on the digestive organs in your abdomen, which can lead to bloating.
The digestive system needs oxygen to help break down food, so it’s important not to swallow large amounts of air during mealtimes.
Beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, onions, peppers, zucchini, apples with peels (especially if they’re eaten whole), raisins, tomatoes (cooked only), grapes (including juice ), popcorn, pretzels—anything you eat too fast can cause air to get in your digestive system.
If you gulp down food, you swallow more air than normal. This also applies when drinking—sip your beverages slowly or add a straw.
Milk and other dairy products contain a sugar called lactose. It is difficult for many people who have trouble digesting lactose, so they have diarrhea with bloating when they eat dairy products.
Some prescription drugs can cause gas and bloat as side effects, including narcotics, estrogens, antihistamines, calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, antacids that contain aluminum hydroxide (like Amphojel), beta-agonists, certain antibiotics, and tuberculosis drugs.
This common functional bowel disorder can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
A condition in which too many bacteria grow in the small intestine can lead to symptoms of gas and bloating.
It is caused by an immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat or other grains like rye or barley. You will experience severe pain in your stomach area if this disease is not treated properly.
What is the treatment for bloating and excessive gas?
People who have bloating and/or excessive gas should eat slowly and avoid chewing gum, or eating too much at once. If you experience lactose sensitivity, try to limit the amount of dairy products in your diet.
You may also switch certain foods with carbohydrates for low-fat protein options such as lean meat instead of fried chicken or hamburgers. Exercise is another excellent way to reduce bloating and get rid of gas. Eating slowly and avoiding carbonated drinks can also help ease discomfort from these symptoms.
When should I worry about bloating and gas?
Bloating and excessive gas are common symptoms in the general population and usually nothing to worry about, but they can also be symptoms of severe health conditions.
You should consult with your doctor on bloating and excessive gas if;
- You experience bloating and/or excessive gas that lasts longer than two weeks,
- Your symptoms begin to interfere with your work or social activities,
- The bloating comes with other symptoms like; vomiting, nausea, fever, blood in stools, chills, painful gas, pain behind the chest, or any weight loss.
Bloating and excessive gas isn’t really something to worry about as long as it is occasional and you don’t have any symptoms that stand with the bloating. If you notice any symptoms that are beginning to bother you, please go to your doctor or a nutritionist so they can help you with the problem.
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