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Top 10 Reasons for Feeling Bloated or Gassy

Abdominal bloating and discomfort may be due to intestinal sensitivity or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), up to 11 percent of Americans say they frequently feel bloated. Another 7 percent complain of excessive burping or belching, and others feel excessively gassy. All these gas-related symptoms are not just uncomfortable; they can be embarrassing and painful. If you suffer from bloating, excess gas or belching and you want to reduce it, here are the common causes and what you can do about them.

1. Swallowing Too Much Air

If you gulp your food, or eat too quickly, you may swallow excess air, leading to gas and bloating. When excess air is swallowed it will be passed as a belch or gas. If it passes into the stomach, it can cause bloating. Normally, about half of passed gas comes from swallowed air. There are several habits that can increase the amount of air you take in, including the following:
  • Eating too quickly
  • Gulping beverages
  • Loose or poorly fitted dentures
  • Drinking though a straw
  • Excessive swallowing due to nervous tension
  • Excessive swallowing due to postnasal drip
  • Chewing gum or sucking on candy
Certain artificial sweeteners, such as maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and other sugar alcohols, can increase bloating. This makes chewing sugarless gum or sucking on candies especially problematic because you often swallow lots of air that can create gas and bloating.

Michael Cox, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore says that "Sorbitol pulls water into your large intestine, which can cause bloating and, in high enough doses, diarrhea."

2. Stress

Too much stress can cause your stomach and colon to go into spasms, leading to uncomfortable gas and bloating. In addition, when you're under stress it encourages junk-food binges, and all those fatty, salty snacks and sweets can lead to feeling more bloating.

3. Eating Too Much Fruit

Just as some people are lactose-intolerant (see below), others are fructose-intolerant, and their bodies cannot digest the sugar properly. If you find you have excess gas and bloating after eating fruit, this may apply to you.

People who are fructose-intolerant do not have to cut out fruit entirely, but rather can eat it in small servings, or choose lower-fructose fruits, like cantaloupe and apricots, instead of high-fructose fruits like apples and bananas.

4. Drinking Too Much Soda

Those who are fructose-intolerant may find that many sodas contain fructose and produce the same problems. In addition, carbonated beverages continue to release gas after you consume them.

5. You're Not Getting Enough Exercise

"Exercising helps the body absorb gases in the colon," says Dr. Michael D. Levitt, a gastroenterologist and associate chief of staff at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

And, aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes will help to counter constipation by helping food to move through the digestive tract more quickly, Raymond says.

6. You're Lactose-Intolerant

Lactose-intolerance is a relatively common food allergy. If your body doesn't produce enough of the intestinal enzyme lactase to break down lactose then milk, dairy products, and medications that contain lactose can produce gas.

Some people, especially those of Asian, African and Southern European descent, have trouble digesting this milk sugar. Lactose that is not completely digested will pass to the colon where gas is produced by the bacteria trying to break it down.

7. Eating Vegetables that Produce Gas

Certain vegetables produce more gas than others do, and everyone varies in their ability to absorb and tolerate that gas. If you're sensitive, you may want to limit the amount of gas-producing vegetables such as the following:
  • Baked beans
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Cauliflower
  • Fatty foods (they slow digestion, giving food more time to ferment)
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans

8. Eating Starches that Produce Gas

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
If you notice severe discomfort after eating certain grains or starches, you may be sensitive to that food or suffer from a condition known as celiac disease.

The digestive process actually ferments some material, which produces a mixture of gasses: carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen, and sometimes hydrogen sulfide (the telltale odor we think of when we think of gas).

This is why people with digestive disorders including irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease, as well as those with food allergies, often experience gas as a side effect.

9. Taking Medication

Some medications, such as those that inhibit digestive enzymes or contain indigestible sugars like lactulose or sorbitol, can cause gas-related symptoms. Antibiotics are known to cause excess gas because they kill the beneficial bacteria in the colon that normally aids in digestion. This makes it more difficult to break down certain foods, and leads to more gas.

10. Using a Straw

Most people tilt their head forward when they use a straw. This puts the air in your mouth above the liquid when you swallow and leads to more gas in your system.

Excess gas and bloating is rarely dangerous, but you can cut down on the uncomfortable feelings and embarrassment by following these quick tips:

10 Tips to Avoid Gas and Bloating

  • Eat slowly, chewing your food thoroughly
  • Exercise regularly to help keep food moving.
  • Deal with your stress
  • Don't drink through a straw, and sip your beverages rather than gulp them.
  • Avoid or limit consumption of foods and drinks that cause you discomfort.
  • Avoid foods that contain sorbitol or other sugar alcohols (found in drinks, candy, gum and breath fresheners)
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help move food through the colon.
  • Substitute Rice for grains that produce gas.
  • If you are lactose-intolerant try avoiding dairy products for a few days and see if the problem clears up. You can then try reintroducing small amounts of dairy each day over several weeks. You may be able to retrain your body to build up a tolerance for lactose. Activated Charcoal may provide some benefit.
  • Use spices that are known to prevent or relieve gas such as ginger, fennel, turmeric, peppermint, coriander, chamomile and sage.

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This consumer advocate website is protected by copyright 2002-2012 Askdocweb, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This is a layman's report and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. Do not use the information on this forum as a substitute for your doctor's advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any drug and follow your doctor's directions. Source material: Food and Drug Administration, Medline, Physician's Desk Reference, and the largest community of people in the world, those who are concerned about side effects and healthcare.
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