Intestinal gas and bloating is a normal part of life, although sometimes gas can become embarrassing and uncomfortable. According to the Mayo Clinic, excess gas comes from certain foods, the way we eat our food, and medical conditions affecting the digestive tract. Luckily there are remedies to help manage the symptoms.
Sources and Symptoms of Gas
It is normal to ingest some air when eating; however when larger amounts are taken into the stomach, the excess swallowed air (also called aerophagia) causes gas and bloating. This may happen when chewing gum, eating too fast, gulping down drinks or smoking, Most swallowed air in the stomach is eliminated by belching. When lying down, this air travels down to the small intestine.
After leaving the small intestine, air permeates the large intestine (colon) which contains a large amount of harmless bacteria. When carbohydrates are not completely digested by helpful enzymes, an abundance of bacteria in the colon takes over the digestion process and produces vapours, such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and sulphur.
Some people have no problem passing gas either by belching or passing wind from the anus. It can be excessive and produce an unpleasant odour. Others notice abdominal distension (bloating) which can be quite uncomfortable and cause gas cramps.
Watching your diet is very important. Certain foods have a tendency to produce gas. These include beans, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli), onions, wheat products, prunes, peaches, pears, apples, potatoes, corn, oats, artificial sweeteners and milk products. If your body produces an abundance of gas, try eating foods such as rice, bananas, meat, eggs, citrus, grapes, hard cheese, peanut butter, non-carbonated beverages and yoghurt with live cultures.
Most medications to control gas and bloating can be found over the counter. Digestive enzymes are supplements that help digest carbohydrates and foods that normally produce gas. Taking Lactaid or Dairy Ease may solve problems for people who cannot digest the enzyme lactase.
Another digestive aid called Beano helps to digest the sugars in beans and many vegetables. This product comes in tables or drops and is used prior to eating to help reduce gas. This product will not help gas produced by fibre or lactose.
When the symptoms of gas are bothersome, taking simethicone (Gas-X, Phazyme, and antacids like Maalox and Mylanta) will break down the bubbles and provide relief. Taking activated charcoal (Charcocaps, CharcoAid) has gas reducing properties, although studies have been contradictory.
When to See a Physician
If you have tried all the home remedies and still have bloating and pain due to gas, consult a physician. You may have a digestive disorder that can be treated with prescription medications. A dietitian may be able to design a food program to keep your symptoms under control.