What are the causes of Gas and Bloating?
While uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing, according to the NDDIC 10% – 20% of the adult U.S. population suffers from frequent uncomfortable gas and bloating. Gas is usually manifested as belching, flatus, or abdominal distention/bloating. Most people who are bothered by gas-related symptoms do not have an excessive amount of gas in the intestine, but instead, have an increased sensitivity to normal amounts of gas in the intestine.
The most common causes for excessive gas and bloating include, but are not limited to:
- Air gulping (swallowing)
- Ingesting foods which contain artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Eating certain foods (lactose-containing and fructose-containing products, fruits/vegetables, legumes, etc.)
Is further testing needed for persistent Gas and Bloating symptoms?
Most commonly, gas and bloating are benign conditions related to diet and do not require a great deal of testing. However, further testing may be necessary if symptoms are accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, GI bleeding, fever, nausea and vomiting, anemia or weight loss. Additional testing can consist of stool studies, lactose tolerance testing, imaging studies, blood tests, and endoscopic evaluations. An endoscopy procedure such as an EGD or colonoscopy can be used to diagnose and exclude celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, GI malignancies, etc.
How do I get Relief from Gas and Bloating?
While gas and bloating due not have an absolute cure, the symptoms can be treated with a combination of the following:
- Diet: Certain foods such as milk and dairy products, whole grains, artificial sweeteners, fruits and vegetables, and carbonated beverages can aggravate gas and bloating. Keeping a food journal to determine which foods most affect you is an excellent way to find out which foods you should avoid.
- Medications: Over the counter agents such as simethicone (Gas-X and Phazyme) can help reduce gas by breaking up the gas bubbles. Beano can help reduce gas if taking when eating certain vegetables such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. People who are lactose intolerant benefit from taking a lactase supplement when eating lactose-containing foods. In cases of bacterial overgrowth, patients benefit from treatment with a gut-specific antibiotic.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are thought to benefit our digestive systems by providing more of the “good “ microorganisms to the gut. Studies are currently being performed to determine if probiotics significantly improve gas and bloating. I have several patients who have had significant improvement in their gas and bloating symptoms after taking probiotics.