Excessive buildup of gas in the digestive tract is often observed in people who follow a diet that is rich in complex carbohydrates or insoluble dietary fiber. The major reason behind flatulence is bacterial fermentation of certain complex sugars such as raffinose, starches, stachyose, sorbitol, etc., in the colon. Excessive gas could also be attributed to aerophagia (swallowing excess air), which in turn may be attributed to eating food hastily, especially without chewing it properly. Prolonged use of antibiotics, misuse of laxatives, and intolerance towards gluten, lactose, or artificial food additives could also be the reason behind excessive gas.
Gas that is present in the stomach usually passes through the mouth when we burp, while the intestinal gas is released through the rectum. Distressing symptoms such as pain or bloating could occur when gas remains trapped in the digestive tract.
Symptoms Associated with Gas
Various medical conditions could cause excessive gas in the digestive tract. These include indigestion, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, malabsorption, gastroenteritis, celiac disease, small bowel overgrowth syndrome, etc. The symptoms accompanying gas pain would therefore vary, depending on the underlying cause. Here are some of the symptoms that are commonly associated with the buildup of gas.
Pain or discomfort in the abdomen is one of the most common symptoms of gas. This pain is often described as a jabbing, cramp-like pain. The intensity of the pain largely depends on the amount of gas trapped in the colon. It can be felt in any part of the abdominal cavity. Sometimes, the pain may even be referred towards the chest cavity. The pain may be intermittent. At times, excessive gas may be a symptom of a digestive disorder. For instance, a sharp, cramp-like pain may be experienced when the gas gets trapped in the flexures or the bends in the large intestine. When the gas is trapped in the bend that lies under the spleen, the affected individual is diagnosed with splenic flexure syndrome.
Eructation, which is commonly called burping or belching, refers to the release of gas from the stomach through the mouth. Belching could be voluntary or involuntary. More often than not, it occurs when a large amount of air is swallowed while eating or drinking. Burping may sometimes by accompanied by the regurgitation of gastric juices to the esophagus. Burping that occurs after a heavy meal is not a cause of serious concern. However, if it becomes chronic, it could be a symptom of a digestive disorder. Chronic belching could be caused by Meganblase syndrome, which occurs when swallowing of air leads to the formation of gas bubbles in the stomach.
Bloating is another common symptom that arises due to the presence of excessive gas in the digestive tract. The affected individual experiences a feeling of fullness in the abdomen. Bloating could also be caused by some underlying intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small bowel bacterial overgrowth. At times, a knotted feeling in the abdomen may be experienced due to the movement of gas or contractions of the abdominal muscles.
The term 'borborygmus' refers to the gurgling noise that is caused by the movement of gas through the intestines. These noises may become louder if there is an imbalance of microbial flora. This could occur if there is an increase in the number of bacteria in the small intestine. Unlike the large intestine, the small intestine doesn't contain a large number of bacteria. However, the number of bacteria may increase in case of people affected by inflammatory bowel disease or intestinal motility disorders. Excessive gas may be produced when bacteria act on the food, thereby affecting the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.
Flatulence can become a cause of social embarrassment when there is increased passage of foul-smelling gas. The bad smell is attributed to the presence of skatole, indole, and sulfur compounds. Some people may even lose voluntary control over the passage of flatus.
Dos and Don'ts
The treatment of flatulence usually involves the use of antacids, digestive enzymes, simethicone, bismuth subsalicylate, activated charcoal supplements, etc. Following certain measures will certainly prove beneficial.
Excessive consumption of cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, eggs, red meat, beans, legumes, potatoes, corn, onions, peas, etc., must be avoided. These food items are hard to digest, and are likely to cause gas.
Maintain a food diary, and make a note of food products that you feel cause excessive gas. Cut down on the intake of these food items.
Refrain from talking while eating or eating food hastily, as that allows air to enter the digestive tract.
Avoid using a straw while having drinks. Cut down on the intake of aerated beverages.
Have smaller, frequent meals rather than having heavy meals. Refrain from consuming food items that are difficult to digest.
Increase your intake of water and fluids.
A sedentary lifestyle can make a person susceptible to flatulence, so stay physically active. Take a stroll after meals.
Include natural probiotics in your diet. Probiotic supplements can also be taken to restore the microbial balance of the intestine.
Drinking tea brewed from crushed anise or fennel seeds may prove beneficial. You can also drink ginger, chamomile, or peppermint tea.
If you have been experiencing bloating and gas pain, it would be best to make certain lifestyle changes. Cut down on the intake of gas-producing food items, and stay physically active. Since gas pain is caused when gas remains trapped in the digestive tract, exercising regularly will help ease the passage of gas, thereby providing relief. Though taking over-the-counter drugs may help to some extent, it would be best to consult a doctor if the pain persists.
: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.