Gas in your digestive system is part of the normal process of digestion. Getting rid of excess gas, either by burping or passing gas (flatus), also is normal. Gas pain may occur if gas is trapped or not moving well through your digestive system.
An increase in gas or gas pain may result from eating foods that are more likely to produce gas. Often, relatively simple changes in eating habits can lessen bothersome gas.
Certain digestive system disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease, may cause — in addition to other signs and symptoms — an increase in gas or gas pain.
Signs or symptoms of gas or gas pains include:
Burping is normal, particularly during or right after a meal. Most people pass gas up to 20 times a day. Therefore, while having gas may be inconvenient or embarrassing, burping and passing gas are rarely by themselves a sign of a medical problem.
Talk to your doctor if your gas or gas pains are so persistent or severe that they interfere with your ability to function well in daily life. Gas or gas pains accompanied by other signs or symptoms may indicate more-serious conditions. See your doctor if you experience any of these additional signs or symptoms:
Seek immediate care if you experience:
Gas in your stomach is primarily caused by swallowing air when you eat or drink. Most stomach gas is released when you burp.
Gas forms in your large intestine (colon) when bacteria ferment carbohydrates — fiber, some starches and some sugars — that aren't digested in your small intestine. Bacteria also consume some of that gas, but the remaining gas is released when you pass gas from your anus.
Certain high-fiber foods may cause gas, including:
While high-fiber foods increase gas production, fiber is essential for keeping your digestive tract in good working order and regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Other dietary factors that can contribute to increased gas in the digestive system include the following:
Medical conditions that may increase intestinal gas, bloating or gas pain include the following:
Your doctor will likely determine what's causing your gas and gas pains based on:
During the physical exam, your doctor may touch your abdomen to determine if there is any tenderness and if anything feels abnormal. Listening to the sound of your abdomen with a stethoscope can help your doctor determine how well your digestive tract is working.
Depending on your exam and presence of other signs and symptoms — such as weight loss, blood in your stool or diarrhea — your doctor may order additional diagnostic tests.
If your gas pains are caused by another health problem, treating the underlying condition may offer relief. Otherwise, bothersome gas is generally treated with dietary measures, lifestyle modifications or over-the-counter medications. Although the solution isn't the same for everyone, with a little trial and error, most people are able to find some relief.
Dietary changes may help reduce the amount of gas your body produces or help gas move more quickly through your system. Keeping a diary of your diet and gas symptoms will help your doctor and you determine the best options for changes in your diet. You may need to eliminate some items or eat smaller portions of others.
Reducing or eliminating the following dietary factors may improve gas symptoms:
The following products may reduce gas symptoms for some people:
Making lifestyle changes may help reduce or relieve excess gas and gas pain.
If the odor from passing gas concerns you, limiting foods high in sulfur-containing compounds — such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, beer and foods high in protein — may reduce distinctive odors. Pads, underwear and cushions containing charcoal also may help absorb unpleasant odors from passing gas.
Before you see your doctor be prepared to answer the following questions:
Keep a journal of what you eat and drink, how many times a day you pass gas, and any other symptoms you experience. Bring the journal to your appointment. It can help your doctor determine whether there's a connection between your gas or gas pains and your diet.