Gas and bloating interrelate, but they are distinct conditions. When gas accumulates in the digestive tract, it can cause bloating. However, it‘s common to be gassy without feeling bloated.
Gas and bloating often go hand in hand, but people frequently experience one without the other. Bloating is a feeling of fullness that often occurs when gas builds up in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. But it can also happen when you’re constipated, and solids get backed up in your GI tract.
Gas is a natural byproduct of digestion. When your body breaks down carbohydrates for energy, it releases gases in your small and large intestines. Gas also builds up when you swallow air while eating or drinking.
You can be gassy without feeling bloated. It is your body’s natural process. When gas can’t escape as it should, you experience the uncomfortable feeling of bloat.
Some of the most common symptoms of gas and bloating include:
- pain and cramping in your abdomen
- farting frequently
- burping or belching frequently
- gurgling or other noises coming from your abdomen
- a stretched-out abdomen
Read on to learn about the causes of gas and bloating, how you can treat your symptoms, and how to prevent gas and bloating.
A lot of the gas that enters your GI tract comes from the air you swallow, including the air from carbonated beverages. Belching removes most of this swallowed air before it gets too deep into your intestines and becomes harder to release. That’s why people often burp after eating or drinking a beer.
Flatulence is more likely to come from the gases released during the digestion process. The longer food remains in your intestines, the more gas it will produce. When you’re constipated, fecal matter backed up in your colon continues to ferment, releasing gases that need to exit your body.
Swallowing too much air when you eat or drink is a common cause of gas. You swallow more air than usual whenever you chew gum, suck on candies, or eat and drink too quickly. Smoking or wearing loose dentures can also cause you to swallow too much air.
Gas also occurs during a process known as fermentation. Bacteria in your gut break down the carbohydrates you eat and release gas as a byproduct. If you eat a diet high in complex carbohydrates, like bread and baked goods, your body may produce a lot of gas.
Drinking carbonated water or other fizzy beverages can also cause gas to build up. Gas bubbles released from carbonated liquids can make you feel gas pains in your GI tract until you burp or fart them out. Other foods that may be more likely to cause gas include dairy products, which can be difficult for some people to digest.
Bloating usually happens when gas builds up in your GI tract because it’s not exiting your body, which causes pressure and discomfort. You may notice that your abdomen expands when you’re bloated, which doesn’t typically happen when you’re just gassy.
Gas builds up if you don’t burp or fart enough. It also happens when your stomach isn’t emptying quickly enough to move gas through your GI tract.
Other factors that can affect how gas moves through your GI tract include:
- stress or anxiety
- acid reflux
- too much unhealthy bacteria growing in your GI tract
- not having enough healthy bacteria in your gut
- food moving too slowly through your GI tract
- having difficulty absorbing nutrients
- having constipation
- changes in your hormones (especially during your period or pregnancy)
Here are some common treatments for gas and bloating that you can try at home:
Here are some tips to help you prevent gas and bloating:
- Eat fiber to promote softer stools. Aim for 22–31 grams of fiber per day, depending on your age.
- Drink water to help your GI tract muscles move food along. Aim for 11–15 cups of water per day.
- Exercise regularly to promote easy bowel movements and prevent weight gain.
- Avoid eating salty or processed foods, as those can cause water retention and slow digestion.
- Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly to swallow less air.
- Pay attention to foods that make you feel gassy or bloated. Consider reducing or removing them from your diet.
Gas is a natural part of digestion. Bloating can be uncomfortable, but it’s not usually a cause for concern if it goes away on its own.
Seek medical attention if you have painful gas or bloating that doesn’t go away, or that gets worse over time.
Belching, bloating, and flatulence overview. (2022). https://gi.org/topics/belching-bloating-and-flatulence/
Mutuyemungu E, et al. (2023). Intestinal gas production by the gut microbiota: A review. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464622004376
Symptoms and causes of gas in the digestive tract. (2021).