Conditions that cause you to feel constantly bloated and gassy include food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and constipation.

A man and a woman blow up party balloons.Share on Pinterest
Flashpop/Getty Images

We all have gas in our intestinal tract, but when it is excessive, it causes an uncomfortable sense of fullness known as bloating. Bloating may be accompanied by gas, belching, and the urge to pass gas.

Occasional bloating is very common. Research shows that nearly 1 in 7 people in the the United States experience bloating at least once a week. But if you’re experiencing constant gas and bloating, an underlying digestive issue may be at play.

Gas is the byproduct of enzymes, bacteria, and other digestive fluids breaking down the food you eat. Anything that affects this process, such as a missing enzyme or a bacterial imbalance, can lead to excess gas. As can chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Keep reading to learn more about the different causes of gas and bloating.

Food intolerances are a common cause of gas and bloating. They occur when your body has trouble digesting certain foods, beverages, or ingredients. If your bloating is constant, it may be due to something you eat or drink regularly, like milk, coffee, or bread.

Lactose intolerance

If you notice an increase in gas and bloating after eating dairy products like cheese and ice cream, you might have a food intolerance. Lactose intolerance occurs when you have difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar in milk and dairy products. It happens because your digestive system doesn’t produce enough lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications that contain the lactase enzyme, such as Lactaid, can help reduce gas, bloating, and other symptoms. People typically take this medication just before they eat dairy.

Gluten intolerance

If you feel bloated, gassy, and sick after eating carbohydrates like bread and cookies, you may be one of the nearly 6% of people in the United States living with gluten intolerance. Gluten intolerance occurs when your gut is sensitive to gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley.

Gluten intolerance, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, is different from Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition. But it can cause similar symptoms.

In addition to digestive symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea, gluten intolerance can cause symptoms elsewhere in the body. People report issues such as headaches, foggy minds, and rash.

Other offending foods

There are several other foods and drinks that people are more likely to be intolerant to. These foods can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and other symptoms.

  • food preservatives and colorings
  • caffeine
  • fructose
  • sulfites found in wine and beer
  • monosodium glutamate found in cured meat and ripened foods
  • foods high in FODMAPs, including legumes, vegetables, and sugar alcohols

Bloating and gas are common symptoms of constipation. The longer your stool stays in your large intestine, the more opportunity bacteria have to act on it. This action produces gas as a byproduct. Gas can become trapped and accumulate in the abdomen.

Other symptoms that may indicate constipation include:

  • passing lumpy, hard stools
  • stooling fewer than three times a week
  • straining and feeling pain during bowel movements
  • blood in stool

Swallowing a lot of air when eating can cause excess gas. This often happens when you chew gum or suck on hard candies.

Eating too fast can also cause bloating and gassiness, as you tend to swallow a substantial amount of gas when eating and drinking. So can eating too much food at once.

Without proper chewing, your food may not get adequately digested before it moves into the large intestine. This gives the bacteria in the intestines more work and could increase gas production.

IBS is a common digestive disorder that causes several gastrointestinal symptoms, including:

  • bloating
  • gas
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps and pain

Health experts are unsure of the condition’s cause. But they believe that problems with how the brain and gut interact may affect how the gut works.

SIBO occurs when there is an overgrowth in the bacteria that live in the intestines. Health professionals recognize it as a common cause of malabsorption and maldigestion. Common symptoms of SIBO include:

Problems with the contraction of the digestive tract muscles (dysmotility), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and structural abnormalities in the digestive system can contribute to this condition.

Bowel motility disorders, including those that affect the gastrointestinal muscles and nerves, can cause intestinal paralysis and spasms. Depending on the motility disorder, you may have difficulty swallowing, digesting food, or having bowel movements. Your food may also take much longer to work through your digestive system, providing more opportunity for gas formation.

If your bloating occurs regularly around the time of your period, menstruation may be the reason. Some people experience bloating as one of the symptoms of their period. Other symptoms alongside period bloating include:

Visceral hypersensitivity is a heightened pain sensation in the digestive organs. It is also one of the hallmark characteristics of IBS.

If you have visceral hypersensitivity, the inner organs in your abdomen, chest, and pelvic cavity have an increased sensitivity to pain and other stimulus. Even the typical functioning of your organs, especially the gastrointestinal ones, can cause symptoms like:

  • nausea
  • indigestion
  • bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • general abdominal discomfort
  • mental and emotional distress

Occasional bloating and the sensation or passing of gas are often not causes for concern. But if these symptoms occur regularly, persist, or worsen over time, you may want to consider speaking with a doctor.

A doctor can help make a diagnosis of an underlying condition and suggest treatments, including prescription and OTC medications.

There are several reasons you may experience bloating and gas. The type of food you eat and your eating habits are the most common causes, but medical conditions like IBS and motility disorders can also contribute.

Reducing your air intake when eating or drinking, eating small amounts of food at a time, particularly the ones your body can digest, and doing light exercise after eating can help you manage these symptoms.