The average adult passes gas between 13 and 21 times a day. Gas is a normal part of the digestion process. But if gas builds up in your intestines and you’re unable to expel it, you may start to feel pain and discomfort.
- swallowing air while you eat or drink
- gum chewing
- smoking cigarettes
- eating certain foods
Make an appointment with your doctor if your gas symptoms:
- cause you distress
- change suddenly
- are accompanied with constipation, diarrhea, or weight loss
Your doctor can determine the underlying cause.
Often, your gas is caused by what you eat. Food is digested primarily in your small intestine. What is left undigested is fermented in your colon with bacteria, fungi, and yeast, as part of digestion. This process produces methane and hydrogen, which are expelled as flatus.
For many people, changing dietary habits is enough to alleviate gas and its accompanying symptoms. One way to determine which foods are giving you gas is by keeping a food diary. Common culprits include:
- high-fiber food
- foods with high fat content
- fried or spicy food
- carbonated beverages
- artificial ingredients commonly found in low-carbohydrate and sugar-free products, such as sugar alcohol, sorbitol, and maltitol
- beans and lentils
- cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli
- prunes or prune juice
- foods containing lactose, such as milk, cheese, and other dairy products
- fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) — molecules found in a wide range of foods, such as garlic and onion, that may be hard to digest
- over-the-counter fiber drinks and supplements
Once you figure out what food is causing the gas, you can modify your diet to avoid the culprit.
If changing your diet doesn’t completely do the trick, you have several options to try.
Studies have shown that peppermint tea or supplements may reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including gas. Talk to your doctor before you start using supplements. Peppermint can interfere with iron absorption and certain medications. It may also cause heartburn in some people.
Supplements will have directions about how much you should take on the bottle. For peppermint tea, drink one cup before each meal for best results.
Simethicone is an over-the-counter medication that is available under several different brand names. These include:
Simethicone works by consolidating gas bubbles in your stomach, allowing you to expel them more easily. Follow dosing instructions, and make sure to discuss this medication with your doctor, if you’re taking other medications or pregnant.
Activated charcoal is another type of over-the-counter medication that helps eliminate gas trapped in your colon. You take tablets right before and one hour after meals.
Apple cider vinegar
Dilute a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a beverage, like water or tea. Drink right before meals or up to three times daily as long as needed to reduce symptoms.
Exercise can help release trapped gas and gas pain. Try walking after meals as a way to avoid gas. If you have gas pain, jumping rope, running, or walking may help you expel it.
Lactose is a sugar in milk. People with lactose intolerance can’t digest this sugar. Lactase is the enzyme the body uses to break down lactose. Lactase supplements are available over the counter and can help your body digest lactose.
Cloves are an herb used in cooking. Clove oil may help reduce bloating and gas by producing digestive enzymes. Add two to five drops to an 8-ounce glass of water and drink after meals.
If no medical condition is causing the problem, preventing gas may best be accomplished by altering lifestyle habits and diet:
- Sit down during each meal and eat slowly.
- Try not to take in too much air while you eat and talk.
- Stop chewing gum.
- Avoid soda and other carbonated beverages.
- Avoid smoking.
- Find ways to work exercise into your routine, such as taking a walk after a meal.
- Eliminate foods known to cause gas.
- Avoid drinking through straws.
Some conditions can cause excess gas. They include:
- lactose intolerance
- celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- peptic ulcer
- irritable bowel syndrome
Gas can be painful, but it typically isn’t dangerous. If gas pain or bloating are issues for you, look to your diet and lifestyle to see what changes you can make. In many cases, lifestyle and diet modification may be able to eliminate the issue completely.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you don’t notice a difference after several weeks of lifestyle and diet changes. They can run tests to see if your symptoms are caused by a medical condition.
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