Does excess gas cause you embarrassment and discomfort?
You may feel that you pass a lot of gas, or just suffer from bloating and crampy abdominal pain. You may feel this pain in areas where gas can become trapped, such as in bends in the colon, which occur naturally in the area under the liver (upper to mid-right part of the abdomen), and in the area under the spleen (upper to mid left part of the abdomen).
WHERE DOES ALL THIS GAS COME FROM?
There are two main sources of intestinal gas: gas that is ingested (mostly swallowed air) and gas that is produced by bacteria in the colon.
It is normal to swallow a small amount of air when eating and drinking and when swallowing saliva. Some of that air comes out through belching and some moves on to the small intestine. Belching is more common with certain foods that relax the sphincter around the lower end of the esophagus where it joins the stomach, like peppermint, chocolate, and fats.
The colon normally provides a home for billions of harmless bacteria, some of which support the health of the bowel. Did you know that there are more bacteria than human cells in your body? Certain carbohydrates that are incompletely digested by our body’s enzymes are “eaten” by those bacteria instead. The by-products of this process include lots of different gases.
A condition called bacterial overgrowth can increase the number of bacteria and cause excess gas production.
But most people who complain of excessive gas do not produce more gas than the average person. Instead, they are more aware of normal amounts of gas. People with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and FD (functional dyspepsia) are especially sensitive, for example.
WHAT CAN CAUSE INCREASED GAS?
1- Swallowed air, called aerophagia, typically an unconscious process. Treatment focuses on decreasing air swallowing by eating slowly without gulping and avoiding carbonated beverages, chewing gum, and smoking.
2- Foods that cause gas such as beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, potatoes, corn and some whole grains, such as wheat.
3- Lactose intolerance — Lactose intolerance occurs when your body has difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in most milk-based products.
4- Intolerance to other food sugars, like fructose (found in fruit and many processed foods) and sorbitol (a sugar substitute contained in some sugar-free candies and chewing gum).
5- Diseases associated with increased gas, like Celiac disease.
WHAT’S THE BEST TREATMENT FOR GAS AND BLOATING?
A great start is keeping a diary of the foods that are most bothersome, so you can avoid them. These may include milk and dairy products, certain fruits or vegetables, whole grains, artificial sweeteners, and carbonated beverages.
If you are lactose intolerant, do not consume products that contain lactose. Most yogurt and hard cheeses are ok, but stay away from milk, fresh cheeses and ice cream. You can always have those dairy products you love if you use a lactose-digestive aid, such as lactase supplements (eg, Lactaid® tablets or liquid), or you can try lactose-free products.
Try an over-the-counter product that contains simethicone, such as some antacids (eg, Maalox® Anti-Gas, Mylanta® Gas, Gas-X®, Phazyme®).
You can also try an over-the-counter product that contains activated charcoal (eg, CharcoCaps®, CharcoAid®). If you have gas mostly after eating vegetables like beans, try Beano®.
However if your condition is not improving, you need to consult a doctor immediately. Gas and bloating can also be symptoms of more serious condition. Such as Colon cancer or intestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Our Brooklyn office provides a multidisciplinary approach to the treatments of gastrointestinal disease. Our board-certified gastroenterologists, who have worked together for many years, provide ranging from all gastroenterology procedures to the treatment of hepatitis and Crohn’s Disease.