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Got Gas? Learn How To Beat Gas and Bloating

What to Do for Intestinal Gas, Bloating and Flatulence

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Updated July 03, 2014

Although often used by comedy writers for an easy laugh, for many people there is nothing funny about having to deal with intestinal gas and bloating. The experience of passing loud or smelly gas in social situations can be quite humiliating. Bloating, the sensation of increased abdominal pressure, can result in feelings of physical discomfort that range from unpleasant to debilitating. Whether you experience gas and bloating on an occasional or chronic basis, you will find reassurance in the fact that there are steps you can take to combat these distasteful digestive symptoms.

Learn What Causes Intestinal Gas

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It is normal and healthy for gas to be present throughout our digestive system. There are two main causes of intestinal gas: swallowed air and gas that is produced as a by-product of the digestion of certain foods. Most swallowed air is released through burping. The rest is either absorbed in the small intestine or travels through the intestines to be released through the rectum. Gas is also produced by intestinal bacteria as a breakdown product of food material.

Change How You Eat

To make sure you are not swallowing an excessive amount of air:
  • Eat slowly, so as to avoid gulping air as you are filling your belly.
  • Avoid chewing gum and hard candy.
  • If applicable, make sure your dentures fit properly.
  • Stop smoking.

Change What You Eat by Being a Food Detective

In the way of such things, many of the so-called gassy foods, foods that have a high potential for producing intestinal gas, are often foods that carry many nutritional benefits. Therefore, it is important to accurately identify the foods that your system has the most difficulty with rather than to willy-nilly cut out an entire group of foods, such as vegetables, because of their gassy reputation. Use a food diary and keep a careful record of what you eat and whether or not you experience gas afterward. You may find that your body can handle smaller amounts of a gassy food without a problem.

Change What You Drink

It is easy to overlook our beverages when we are trying to figure out what sets our systems off. Carbonated drinks such as soda and drinks containing alcohol both have the potential for increasing intestinal gas and contributing to bloating.

Try an Over-the-Counter Product

There are a variety of over-the-counter products (OTCs) that are designed to reduce intestinal gas. Some of these products work by providing your body with specific digestive enzymes to help you to more effectively digest certain carbohydrates, therefore reducing their availability to be broken down into gas by intestinal bacteria. If your food diary shows that you have difficulty with dairy products, a lactase supplement may prove helpful. If you have difficulty with vegetables and beans, products such as Beano will help you to digest the sugars within those foods that are causing the problem.

Products containing simethicone may help with gas and bloating, but they don't work for everyone.

Try Probiotics

Probiotics are an alternative OTC option. Often called “friendly bacteria,” probiotics are thought to help to create an optimal balance of bacteria and may be effective in reducing intestinal gas.

 

If Applicable, Treat Constipation

People who suffer from constipation are more likely to experience intestinal gas and bloating. Talk to your doctor about developing a treatment plan.

Put Things in Perspective

If you have the unfortunate experience of passing unwanted gas while in the presence of others, remember that although this is embarrassing it is not the end of the world. Everyone passes gas. It is helpful to keep in mind that no one will judge you based on what your body does. Just say “excuse me” and get on with your day. By handling the situation with grace and dignity, you also serve as a role model for those around you should the situation happen to them someday (and it will).

Essential Reading from Dr. Bolen, Your IBS Guide:

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

Sources:

Azpiroz, F. & Serra, J. "Treatment of Excessive Intestinal Gas" Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology 2004 7:299-305.

Houghton, L., Lea, R., Agrawal, A., Reilly, B. & Whorwell, P. Relationship of Abdominal Bloating to Distention in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Effect of Bowel Habit Gastroenterology 2006 131:1003-1010.

Friedman, G. “Diet and the irritable bowel syndrome” Gastroenterology Clinics of North America 1991 20:313-324.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) Gas in the Digestive Tract.

Norton, W. Controlling Intestinal Gas International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

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