While there are several reasons you may find yourself to be gassy, there are many solutions for reducing belching, flatulence, abdominal bloating and pain. Excess gas commonly is associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Other serious gastrointestinal disorders usually produce other symptoms besides just being “gassy.”
Doctors usually recommend a plan to help move gas through the intestines more readily, combined with preventive measures, such as eliminating certain foods from your diet and avoiding chewing gum. Although many products on store shelves promise to help, their success is not guaranteed and often depends on the individual. There are also prescription medicines and some alternative therapies.
Keeping a diary of the foods and beverages you consume can help you systematically eliminate one food or group of foods at a time to determine which may be most responsible for your symptoms. One of the first questions at the top of the list would be ‘Could this be related to dairy products?’. If it is, the first step should be to eliminate these products from your diet for about seven days. If you feel better, then try to add dairy products back to your diet in smaller amounts to see if you can tolerate them.
There are some recommended home remedies and lifestyle changes. Chew more slowly and thoroughly because gas can be a sign of undigested food, the enzymes in saliva begin the first stage of breaking down food in the body’s absorption process. Avoid foods you know cause indigestion. Common food sources of gas include Brussels sprouts, bran, beans, milk products, cabbage, artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages and alcohol. Take a short walk after you eat to prevent gas accumulation.
Maintaining a regular exercise schedule in the form of walking, jogging and calisthenics will help stimulate the passage of gas through the digestive tract. Perform chest-to-knee stretches. Lying on your back, bring your right knee to your chest. Hold for 10 seconds and, then repeat with the other knee.
If those remedies don’t provide relief, your doctor may recommend that you take an over-the-counter antacid, activated charcoal, or a lactase or bismuth product.
Antacids contain aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide (known as Milk of Magnesia), calcium carbonate, or other ingredients individually or in various combinations. Antacids help to control the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition in which the stomach’s juices (acid and digestive enzymes) flow backward, or reflux, into the esophagus.
Tablets of activated charcoal may provide relief from gas in the colon. Studies have shown that when taken before and after a meal, lower-intestinal gas is reduced.
However, activated charcoal can cause black stools and constipation. While these are harmless side effects, black stools can be confusing to a physician, because color changes in stool can be a sign of a serious illness. Evidence concerning the benefit of activated charcoal is contradictory. Its effect in alleviating symptoms of intestinal gas has been supported by some studies yet refuted by others. As a result, physicians may recommend that patients consider trying activated charcoal to see whether its use results in some symptom relief. The usual dose is two to four tablets taken just before eating and one hour after meals.
Gas is often a symptom of lactose intolerance, which makes digesting dairy products difficult. It occurs when the body has too little of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk and milk-based products. Although lactose intolerance can happen at any age, it tends to affect most people as they grow older. Lactase comes in liquid or tablet form. Adding a few drops to milk before drinking or chewing lactase tablets just before eating helps people who have difficulty breaking down lactose.
Bismut has salts to relieve inflammatory conditions of the stomach and intestines and can sometimes relieve gas. It also reduces the odor of unpleasant smelling gas caused by hydrogen sulfide, a sulfur-containing compound. Like activated charcoal, bismuth may result in black stools. Take before or after meals, on either an empty or full stomach.
In summary, stomach and intestinal gas is normal. Excess gas can be distressing, but rarely is it caused by a serious medical disorder. If your symptoms cannot be easily controlled or you have additional problems such as abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, or rectal bleeding, you need to contact your doctor’s office.