The only thing more uncomfortable than bloating and gas is talking about bloating and gas. Which is unfortunate because expelling gas from your body is not only completely normal, but it is essential for health. Let’s have a frank discussion about gas and bloating! What is normal? What is not? What can you do to help reduce digestive discomfort?
The body produces intestinal gas as a normal part of the digestive process. As gas is released in the colon, it either works its way out of the body via passing gas through the anus, exiting as a blech through your mouth, or small amounts may be reabsorbed. Regular flatulence is actually a sign that your digestion is working properly. Flatulence is generally due to an over production of gas in the colon, and burping is often caused by excess gas in the stomach. A buildup of gas or excess gas produced in the body can lead to bloating, and over time, can lead to other health concerns or be indicative of more serious health conditions (1). Check in and see if you fall under the normal and abnormal symptoms of gas and bloating.
Normal symptoms of bloating and gas can be caused by an excess intake of air or excess gas production in the stomach and abdomen. Symptoms include (2):
- Passing gas
- Cramping in your abdomen
- A feeling of fullness or pressure in the abdomen
- Increase in size of the abdomen
Not Normal (consult your doctor) symptoms may be due to a GI blockage in the intestines or other potential harmful health conditions such as: irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal disease, Crohn’s, stomach virus, etc. Symptoms may include(2):
- Bloody stool
- Change in consistency of stools
- Change in frequency of bowel movements
- Weight loss
- Chronic constipation
- Nausea or vomiting
Most people fall into the normal symptom category, and while your gas may not be an indication of a serious health issue, it can still cause discomfort and embarrassment.
7 Tips for Dealing with Gas and Bloating
Plenty of us have experienced the “hold-it-in” phenomena. It is not always convenient to pass your gas like in a big meeting, on a first date, or in a crowded room. Below are 7 tips to help control and reduce your gas and possibly decrease its noxious smell.
1. Avoid swallowing excess air:
Eating slowly can help reduce swallowing air as you eat and diminish after-dinner bloat. Taking your time while eating has other health benefits, like increasing food satisfaction, improving your sensitivity to feelings of fullness, and enhancing digestion. Here are a few other air swallowing activities that may be contributing to your gassiness: chewing gum, drinking through a straw, sucking on candy, and consuming carbonated beverages. (3)
2. Try the elimination diet:
You may have a food intolerance you don’t know about. A food intolerance is when your digestive system is unable to break down and absorb certain foods. Undigested food in the colon can lead to gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, malnutrition, and vomiting. Start by eliminating potential problem foods. Try eliminating troublesome foods for about 2-3 weeks, including: dairy, gluten, eggs, seafood, nuts, etc. Reintroduce foods back into your diet one at a time and record your daily GI distress. (4)
3. Find your fiber balance:
This one is a little tricky because fiber is essential for keeping your digestive track running smoothly. Fibers can add bulk to stool and promote balanced motility – keeping things moving. On the other hand, excess fiber can contribute to an increase in gas and bloating. Many fibers are indigestible, meaning they can reach the colon without being fully broken down. Bacteria in the colon feed off the fibers and produce gas as a by-product of their digestion. Diets particularly high in fiber may be contributing to gastrointestinal bloating and promote particularly smelly flatulence. (5)
The amount of GI distress a fiber can cause is often proportional to its serving size. Some fibers, like inulin require a large dose of 8-30 grams to provide their prebiotic benefits. New, innovative prebiotic fibers, XOS (xylooligosaccharides) can provide the same healthy snack for your good gut bacteria, but at a much lower dose with greatly reduced side effects such as gas and bloating.
4. Avoid constipation:
It might seem obvious that being constipated is a bad thing, but in addition to wreaking havoc on your GI motility, constipation also backs up your gas removal. The average adult produces 1-3 pints of gas a day and passes gas 14 to 23 times a day. (6) If your colon is blocked, no gas is getting expelled, and the corresponding buildup can be painful. You can reduce your risk of constipation by staying hydrated, increasing fiber intake, and getting regular exercise. (7)
5. Go for a walk after a meal:
For exercise to be effective, it doesn’t have to mean high sweat high exertion. In fact, studies show that 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise such as walking, yoga, swimming, or going on a bike ride improves gut transit time and reduces gas. Conversely, overly strenuous exercise may act as a stressor on the intestines and worsen symptoms. (8) A gentle, after dinner walk is a great way to improve digestion and maintain regularity.
6. Try Yoga:
Certain yoga poses can help as they position the muscles in a way that encourages the release of gas. (8) These yoga poses have been shown to relieve gas: Child’s Pose, Happy Baby Pose, Squats, and Downward Facing Dog.
7. Consider digestive enzymes:
Enzymes are simple proteins found within each living cell. They are mediators of thousands of critical activities in the body. They spark various biological reactions, including many important to digestion. Taking the proper blend of digestive enzymes has shown to help limit gas, bloating, and even reduce foul-smelling flatulence. (9)
While expelling gas is a normal, even a necessary part of the digestive process, studies show that your lifestyle choices can help manage pressure, reduce discomfort, and optimize gut health.
- Wilkinson, J. M., Cozine, E. W., & Loftus, C. G. (2019). Gas, Bloating, and Belching: Approach to Evaluation and Management. American family physician, 99(5), 301–309.
- Gas and gas pains. (2020, March 03). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gas-and-gas-pains/symptoms-causes/syc-20372709
- Zhang, L. (2020, November 01). Meteorism. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430851/
- Meyer, R., Godwin, H., Dziubak, R., Panepinto, J. A., Foong, R. M., Bryon, M., Lozinsky, A. C., Reeve, K., & Shah, N. (2017). The impact on quality of life on families of children on an elimination diet for Non-immunoglobulin E mediated gastrointestinal food allergies. The World Allergy Organization journal, 10(1), 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40413-016-0139-7
- Zhang, M., Juraschek, S. P., Appel, L. J., Pasricha, P. J., Miller, E. R., 3rd, & Mueller, N. T. (2020). Effects of High-Fiber Diets and Macronutrient Substitution on Bloating: Findings from the OmniHeart Trial. Clinical and translational gastroenterology, 11(1), e00122. https://doi.org/10.14309/ctg.0000000000000122
- Gas (Burping, Belching, Flatulence): Causes & Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/7314-gas#:~:text= Everyone has gas and gets, to 23 times a day.
- Yurtdaş, G., Acar-Tek, N., Akbulut, G., Cemali, Ö., Arslan, N., Beyaz Coşkun, A., & Zengin, F. H. (2020). Risk Factors for Constipation in Adults: A Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 39(8), 713–719. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2020.1727380
- Cozma-Petruţ, A., Loghin, F., Miere, D., & Dumitraşcu, D. L. (2017). Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients!. World journal of gastroenterology, 23(21), 3771–3783. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v23.i21.3771
- Graham, D. Y., Ketwaroo, G. A., Money, M. E., & Opekun, A. R. (2018). Enzyme therapy for functional bowel disease-like post-prandial distress. Journal of digestive diseases, 19(11), 650–656. https://doi.org/10.1111/1751-2980.12655