Gas and bloating are uncomfortable digestive symptoms that everyone experiences from time to time. A little bit of gas is healthy, and occasional bloating is not much to be concerned about. However, excessive gas or frequent bloating could be signs of more serious digestive issues. In this article, we'll talk about the significant causes of gas and bloating and how to prevent and treat these digestive issues.
What Is Gas?
Intestinal gas is a mix of odorless vapors, including:
- Carbon dioxide
Gas in the stomach is mainly caused by swallowing air when you eat or drink. Gas also forms in your large intestine when the bacteria ferment the carbohydrates that aren't digested in your small intestine. Gas is a normal part of the digestive process. It is normal and natural to expel gas by either burping or passing gas. If gas is trapped in the digestive system, however, it could cause bloating or pain. Excess gas may also be due to a digestive issue—something mild like eating a heavy meal or something more severe like a digestive disease.
What Is Bloating?
Bloating is a side effect of gas in the digestive system. It occurs in the abdomen when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. As a result, a bloated stomach feels tight, full, uncomfortable, and often even painful.
While bloating is usually caused by excess gas in the system, it can also be due to certain medical conditions.
What Are the Causes of Gas and Bloating?
Bloating is primarily caused by excess gas in the system, so the causes of bloating are usually the same as causes of excessive gas. However, bloating can also be caused by certain medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), weight gain, and hormonal imbalances. Below, we'll discuss what causes much gas in the digestive system and how you can prevent excess gas and bloat. We'll also discuss some more information about the medical conditions associated with excess gas and bloating.
1. Swallowing Air
Perhaps the most common cause of gas is swallowing air. We naturally swallow air throughout our day when we eat, drink, and do other activities. Usually, we only swallow a small amount of air. Still, some people may have a habit of swallowing more air than others, which can cause excess gas to get trapped in the system. Swallowing air is among the top causes of trapped gas and the top causes of stomach gas in general.
The solution to avoiding this is simply being mindful when eating and not swallowing too much air. A little bit is fine, but too much could cause more gas to get trapped in your system. Certain habits may also cause you to swallow more air than usual, such as:
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Eating or drinking too quickly
- Chewing gum
- Drinking through a straw
It is recommended to avoid these if you are concerned about excess gas in your system.
2. Dietary Choices
Food choices are also among the biggest causes of excess gas, as well as one of the biggest causes of gas pain. Certain foods can create more gas in your system. So if you eat many of these foods frequently, it could be causing you excess gas and bloating.
Carbohydrates are perhaps the food type most responsible for excess gas, as many carbs are indigestible carbs that are fermented in the gut by gut bacteria. Gas is a natural byproduct of this fermentation process. Therefore, some indigestible carbs, known as prebiotics, are good for your gut health, but too much could cause more gas and bloat.
Certain foods that may increase gas include:
- Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts)
- Oat bran
- Whole grains
- Processed foods
Because these foods may take the body longer to digest, they can potentially lead to fermentation and gas that has an unpleasant odor. Broccoli and eggs also contain sulfur compounds that may make gas smelly. Many of these foods also contain prebiotic fibers that cannot be fully absorbed in the small intestine and are passed into the large intestine, fermented, and broken down by gut bacteria. This process may also cause gas.
Food affects people differently. So, some foods that cause one person gas may not cause gas for another person. If you experience excess gas, reflect on the foods you have been eating and determine if a particular food causes more gas for your system.
3. Dietary Habits
Equally important to what you eat is to focus on how you eat. How you eat can cause you to have more or less gas. If you eat rapidly, you could be taking in air with your food, causing you gas. Additionally, when you eat too fast, you do not mix your food well with digestive enzymes in the saliva that help break down food. Furthermore, your body may be stressed, which could impair digestion. When you eat, make sure you are relaxed and take your time to chew and enjoy your food.
Overeating food can also contribute to excess gas and bloating. Most people are familiar with the feeling of a bloated stomach caused by overeating. This is because all that food in the gut can cause fermentation. As the stomach works extra hard to break this excess food down, it can produce more gas as a byproduct, especially if you overeat foods like beans and broccoli!
Certain food combinations may also lead to poor digestion, gas, and bloating. Mixing fruit with meals, for example, could cause poor digestion. This is because fruits are simple sugars that digest quickly. However, suppose they are mixed with other difficult-to-digest foods like proteins and fats. In that case, they could ferment in the gut while the other foods are digesting—which could cause some gas and digestive discomfort.
While food combining is not an exact science (and is somewhat controversial), many people experience digestive discomfort when they mix too many different foods or if they eat too close together, such as following a big meal with a sugary dessert.
Try to eat in a way that supports digestion. For example, eat, chew your food, and avoid overeating. Also, avoid drinking too much water with meals as it can potentially dilute the hydrochloric acid (HCL) and enzymes in your stomach that break down food.
4. Underlying Health Conditions
If your food choices and eating habits aren't causing you gas, it could be caused by certain underlying health conditions. Some of the medical conditions that could result in excess gas or bloating include:
- Food intolerances
- Eating disorders
- Chron's disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Peptic ulcers
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Celiac disease
How Do You Get Rid of Excess Gas and Bloating?
The most effective way to eliminate gas and bloating is to eliminate the cause of your gas and bloating. For example, if certain foods cause excess gas and bloating, you are unlikely to see relief unless you remove these foods from your diet. This requires you to pay close attention to the foods you eat and how they affect you and to note the foods causing you gas, bloating, or other digestive discomforts.
The same goes for how you eat. Suppose your gas and bloating are caused by eating too quickly, not chewing your food thoroughly, or overeating. In that case, you are unlikely to find relief from these symptoms unless you change these eating habits. So, take your time when you eat, chew your food well, and avoid overeating food at once.
That being said, there are some home remedies for relieving gas and bloating. These are primarily carminative herbs. Carminative herbs are herbs that soothe digestion. They often contain compounds or volatile oils that increase gastric emptying and peristalsis, relieving cramping, bloating, and gas.
The best carminative herbs for gas and bloating include:
Ginger is a fantastic herb for many digestive issues, as is fennel seed. Ginger is best for general discomfort. However, it is a heating and spicy herb. So, suppose you are experiencing burning indigestion. In that case, it is better to consume fennel seed or mint, as these herbs have more cooling and soothing properties.
The best way to consume these herbs is as a warm herbal tea. However, capsules or powders may also provide relief. If you drink these herbal teas for gas or bloating relief, try not to drink too much with a meal or shortly after, as the liquid can disrupt digestion. So, drink small amounts and drink them slowly and mindfully.
Digestive enzymes can also help relieve gas and bloating, as they contain enzymes that support the digestive process. These enzymes help break down food better, increasing absorption and preventing gas and bloating.
We all experience gas and bloating from time to time. Excess gas and bloating, however, can not only be uncomfortable but could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. If you are experiencing excess gas or bloating, try adopting some tips in this article. If you are still experiencing digestive issues, it is recommended to consult with your doctor for further health guidance.