Gas happens to the best of us. Learn what’s behind it (and how to stop it before it starts).
A bout of gas can throw a wrench in your plans. Whether it’s bloating and stomach pains or breaking wind, gas can be annoying, embarrassing and even uncomfortable. But with some preparation, you can avoid it in the first place.
What causes intestinal gas?
Gas is a normal part of digestion. Your body makes gas in two different ways:
- Swallowing air: Chewing gum, smoking and eating quickly can cause you to swallow air. This can lead to uncomfortable gas, bloating and pain.
- Bacteria in your large intestine digesting food: “As undigested food moves through your body, bacteria work to break it down,” says Dr. Kevin Ly, a family medicine doctor at Geisinger’s Elysburg clinic.
This process can lead to flatulence or breaking wind.
There are other common causes of flatulence, too, including:
- Eating spicy, greasy or high-fiber foods
- Drinking carbonated beverages, like soda
- Food sensitivities
- GI conditions, like diverticulitis or irritable bowel syndrome
Having gas: What to expect
Different things can cause excess intestinal gas. And gas looks different for each person.
Besides passing gas, you might experience:
- Abdominal pain (often from trapped gas)
Stopping gas before it starts
Preventing gas is easier than you might think. To avoid gas pains and bloating:
1. Say hello to H2O. Drinking water helps move food through your digestive tract. Besides quenching your thirst throughout the day, sipping liquids while you eat helps food go down. To swallow less air (and ward off gas and bloating), Dr. Ly advises, “Sip slowly instead of taking big gulps.”
2. Try a digestive aid. There’s a variety of anti-gas medicine available. Each works in a slightly different way to keep gas away. Some help break down certain sugars or carbohydrates in food, leading to stomach gas. Others relieve stomach pains, indigestion and bloating. You’ll find them in different forms like:
- Soft gels
- Chewable capsules
3. Don’t rush through meals. Another trick to help you avoid having gas? Eat slowly. By chewing slowly and eating at an unhurried pace, you’ll swallow less air.
4. Pay attention to your plate. What you eat can come back to haunt you later. If you’re trying to avoid gas, consider leaving these items out of your meal:
- Dairy products
- Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
- Artificial sweeteners
- Carbonated beverages
- Greasy or fried foods
5. Get help from a probiotic. Probiotics improve gut health. They work by reintroducing good bacteria into your digestive system to keep it balanced. This balance can help you avoid intestinal gas and bloating.
And if gas does strike, not to worry. Gas relief (as well as prevention) aids are available online or at your local drug store. Look for an antacid that contains simethicone.
“Simethicone breaks down air trapped in your body so that it can pass more easily,” Dr. Ly says.
Occasional gas or something more?
Having gas from time to time is normal. Gas pain after eating something greasy? Not a big deal. But if your gas pain is severe or happens frequently, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider. Another reason to talk to your doctor: if gas is accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, constipation or heartburn.
“If you’re having gas more than normal or you’re just concerned, talk to your healthcare provider, says Dr. Ly. “They can order tests to check for a gastrointestinal condition or food sensitivity.”