Stomach Gas Symptoms and Treatment

Trapped gas is uncomfortable, but typically isn't the sign of a larger issue

Stomach gas is a completely normal part of digestion, and everyone experiences trapped gas from time to time. It can be uncomfortable, causing symptoms like bloating or even pain until it eventually comes out as a burp or fart.

In most cases, stomach gas isn't a symptom of a disease or a condition. However, some people may require a visit to a gastroenterologist and treatment with prescription gas medication.

This article describes stomach gas symptoms, typical causes, and common treatments. It also helps you determine when it's time to see a healthcare provider for an evaluation.

Woman on bed holding stomach
Getty Images / PhotoAlto / Frederic Cirou

Symptoms of Stomach Gas

Symptoms of stomach gas include:

  • Belching: Belching (burping) can occur from swallowing air or drinking carbonated drinks.
  • Flatulence: Passing gas from the rectum is most often a result of diet and the digestive process. In rare cases, it can be from other causes, like colorectal or ovarian cancer.
  • Abdominal bloating: Unreleased gas in the digestive tract can cause bloating (abdominal swelling).
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort: Pain from gas is not uncommon, but is usually relieved when the gas is passed.

Causes

Gas can be created by swallowing air during eating or drinking. It can also develop during the digestive process.

When food isn't broken down completely in the small intestine, it passes through to the large intestine where the bacteria further digest food and create gas. Some foods that cause many people to have gas include dairy products, beans, and artificial sweeteners.

Excessive Air Swallowing

You swallow air when you eat and drink, whether or not you're aware of it. The following eating and drinking behaviors can cause excess air to enter the digestive tract:

  • Slurping drinks
  • Eating too fast
  • Talking while eating
  • Drinking through a straw
  • Chewing gum

Once this air gets in, it must then get out, usually through belching. Changing your eating habits can help reduce gas from this cause.

Foods That Cause Gas

Some foods are well-known for causing gas, including:

  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Beans
  • Bran
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cherries
  • Corn
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Wheat

Dairy can also result in gas, especially for those who have lactose intolerance. Carbonated drinks and chewing gum can lead to belching. Sugar substitutes that may also cause excess gas for some people are:

  • Sorbitol
  • Mannitol
  • Xylitol

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a common problem that's caused by a lack of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose (a type of sugar in milk).

Avoiding milk products may improve symptoms of gas if you can't digest lactose well, and continued avoidance is the usual treatment. Lactose-free milk products are now available for those who want an alternative to traditional dairy products.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Gas isn't usually caused by a disease or a disorder. However, if you feel your gas is excessive or if you have other symptoms that accompany it, you may want to see your healthcare provider. They may look for other causes for your gas.

Besides the above, they may consider:

Your healthcare provider may also refer you to a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal (GI) conditions.

Diagnosis

When you see your healthcare provider, they will likely want to determine the root cause of your excessive gas. Most often, the cause is related to your diet, but it could also be a sign of a more serious illness. You may have to take certain tests to rule out other conditions.

Food Diary

Gas can usually be traced back to your diet. That's why keeping a detailed food and symptom diary can help you determine whether your diet contributes to gas problems.

Nothing special is needed to keep a diary. Pen and paper will do just fine. A spreadsheet is also a good way to keep track of your diet, and there are also many smartphone apps that can be used.

Diagnostic Tests

After discussing your medical history with your healthcare provider and having a physical exam, you might need some diagnostic tests. Tests that may be used to evaluate excess gas include:

Treatment for Gas and Bloating

Treatment for gas and bloating usually revolves around changing the food you eat or the way you eat. However, other lifestyle changes and even certain medications may also offer relief.

Diet and Lifestyle

The first step to alleviating your gas pain is changing your diet. You can start by avoiding common foods known to cause gas. In addition to eliminating foods that commonly cause gas, you can also use your food diary to figure out which foods cause you to have gas or gas pain.

Lifestyle changes like movement and exercise can help you get rid of gas. Even changing the way you sit can relieve gas. Try lying on your side and pulling your feet close to your chest. This position will make it easier to release trapped gas.

A certain amount of trial and error can help in finding which methods will work best in reducing gas. But it shouldn't take long before you can tell if your approach is helpful.

Over-the-Counter Medications

There are several effective treatments for gas that can be found right in the drugstore.

  • If you are lactose intolerant, you can take an over-the-counter (OTC) lactase supplement when you eat or drink milk products so that you can digest the lactose, thereby avoiding gas.
  • Beano is another digestive enzyme that you can take to reduce the gas caused by eating beans, vegetables, and grains.
  • Simethicone (brand names include Phazyme, Flatulex, Mylicon, Gas-X, and Mylanta Gas) may not help prevent gas but may help you pass gas more easily.

Other OTC medications may seem related but won't offer much relief with your gas pain, like antacids. Activated charcoal also hasn't been proven to reduce gas, and shouldn't be taken at the same time as other medications because it may reduce their effectiveness.

Prescription Gas Medications

If gas persists, you might have to take a breath test. This can detect if you have bacterial overgrowth. If your test is positive, you may be given a prescription for Xifaxan (rifaximin), an antibiotic that can help reduce gas-causing bacteria.

A Word From Verywell

While gas affects many people, it's usually not severe or an indicator of a serious disease. A change in diet and lifestyle can often help reduce your gas symptoms.

People often think they have too much gas when they actually have a normal amount. If you're concerned about the amount of gas you have or if it's causing significant discomfort, speak to your healthcare provider.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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