Gut Pain and Gas
Everyone has gas and we’ve all probably chuckled at a fart joke at least once in our life. But if you have ever experienced painful gas, you know it is not a laughing matter. Gas can be extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing with cramping, dull ache, or sharp pains. Although regular gas is a sign of healthy gut microbes, there are some circumstances where gas is a symptom of your body trying to tell you something else.
Gas–how does it get there and where does it come from?
Gas enters the body from two main processes that occur in the digestive tract. One way is by swallowing air while eating, drinking, chewing gum, or talking while eating. Often this gas is released through belching and burps, but sometimes it gets trapped in the intestines, leading to gas. The other way gas builds up in the body occurs when certain foods are digested in the large intestines. Most sugars, starches, and fiber are not fully digested or absorbed in the small intestine. When they move through to the large intestine, harmless bacteria break down the food, producing gases. When enough gas builds in the large intestine, we can experience tightness, bloating, and pain until they are released through the rectum.
Passing gas is completely normal and part of healthy bodily function. However, significant pain could be a sign of something more serious. Of course, there are many stories of individuals seeking medical attention for abdominal pain, fearing a heart attack or even appendicitis, only to find relief once they pass gas. In fact, nearly 5% of emergency room visits are because of abdominal pain. But it’s always best to air on the side of caution! If you experience gas alongside chronic diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting, rectal bleeding, and/or weight loss, you might want to consult your healthcare provider.
Some factors that contribute to gas and bloating include eating habits (eating too fast, swallowing too much air) and diet. Gas-producing foods like beans or high-fiber foods, may cause excess gas. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, some foods that cause gas include vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts, sugars found in dairy products (cheese, ice cream), natural sugars in some fruits (apples, pears, peaches, and prunes), artificial sweeteners, and food sources high in fiber.
Digestive problems can also be a source of gas. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, or celiac disease may experience more bouts with painful gas and bloating. Many medications can also cause issues with gas.
How do you prevent it?
With so many contributing factors to gas and abdominal pain, it might seem impossible to prevent it. Although gas is inevitable, there are ways to reduce, or completely eliminate, pain and bloating.
Some ways to reduce overproduction of gas include:
● Mindful eating – chew and eat slowly and avoid talking while eating.
● Eliminate carbonated drinks – carbonation is dissolved carbon dioxide that becomes a gas in your body
● Limit sugars like fructose, sucrose, sorbitol, and artificial sweeteners – these are difficult for the body to fully digest without producing additional gases
● Avoid foods with raffinose like broccoli, beans, and cabbage – raffinose is a carbohydrate that is digested by bacteria in the colon that produces odorless gases
● Consume a low-fiber diet – Many studies have demonstrated the tendency of fiber to increase bloating symptoms and flatulence
If you find yourself in a gaseous state, you can also try several of these home-remedies:
● Yoga - several yoga poses can promote gas movement and relaxation
● Acupuncture - one study found acupuncture resulted in gas relief within 30 mins!
● Massage - gently massage the painful area to release tension and move gas
● Liquids - avoid carbonated beverages that might add additional gases; try a warm cup of peppermint tea instead!
● Kitchen remedies - anise, caraway, coriander, fennel, turmeric, or apple cider vinegar
If all else fails, there are several medications and prescription options available for improving gas and bloating. These medications typically involve various enzymes (Alpha-galactosidase, Lactase) to help the body break down sugars and lactose, decreasing the likelihood of troublesome gas.
Many experts suggest keeping a food diary if you are really concerned with gas or painful gut issues. By tracking everything you eat and drink each day, you might be able to determine if you have any food sensitivities, or identify any specific symptoms that
correspond to your lifestyle. You can also use this to consult with a doctor if the pain and issues persist. Gas happens to the best of us, but fortunately it is usually not a serious medical condition–you just need a little time to let it pass!
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