The human digestive system is the mechanism that helps provide nutrition to the body. The digestion process is not straightforward and involves multiple sub-steps to extract nutrition from the food we consume. It consists of the secretion of numerous digestive enzymes that break down the complex food molecules into simpler ones. The remaining bits of food not absorbed in the small intestine is then discarded as waste. During digestion, the food is stored at multiple points, reacting differently sometimes and causing Intestinal Gas problems.
What is Intestinal Gas?
Intestinal gas is a common gastrointestinal complication. The human body produces substantial amounts of gases during digestion or swallowing excess gas during chewing or smoking. However, you produce more than normal amounts of gas in this condition, which is partially released through belching or passing gas. And the rest remains in the intestine. In most cases, it is a by-product of digestion and is absorbed by the system naturally. However, in some cases, where the excess gas fails to get expelled, it accumulates in the intestine, causing pain and discomfort.
Most people consider discussing this matter with others embarrassing. Hence, people seldom consult a doctor for this and try home remedies that can further worsen the situation in some cases.
Clinical Symptoms of Intestinal Gas
In general, excessive passing of gas or burping is the most common symptom of intestinal gas problems. In addition, a person may also experience sharp pain in the abdomen region and a constant feeling of bloating or fullness. Further, changes in patterns of bowel movements, including bouts of constipation or diarrhea, can be witnessed in certain individuals. In certain severe cases, you can see a noticeable change in the size of the abdomen during the day. Due to such signs and symptoms, a person can also experience increased stress and anxiety.
In addition, excessive belching or flatulence can also be associated with other gastrointestinal diseases, such as
- Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) causing inflammation of the digestive tract.
- Celiac disease – An autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten
- Lactose intolerance – It refers to an inability to digest milk and other products containing lactose.
- Irritable bowel syndrome – It is a chronic disorder affecting the large intestine.
- Gastroparesis – It is a disease that affects stomach motility and hampers regular functioning.
- Peptic ulcers – These refer to erosions developed in the inner lining of the stomach and small intestine, causing digestive distress.
- Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) causing ulcers in the digestive tract.
- Diabetes – In some cases, diabetes can lead to gastroparesis.
What Causes Intestinal Gas?
The most common causes of intestinal gas are dietary changes and improper digestion that cause colonic bacterial proliferation . Some food groups like cruciferous vegetables, certain legumes, and whole grains are the main culprits of increased gas production in the body. In addition, certain lifestyle habits such as an increase in smoking or consumption of aerated beverages are also commonly known to cause gas. Certain types of allergic reactions to food groups, such as dairy products, certain grains, etc., can also cause intestinal gas production. Further, people with severe anxiety end up inhaling more air than normal as part of breathing exercises. This aggravates the problem in some cases.
These gases can be of two types
- Upper intestinal, which is a result of overeating or excess intake of air while swallowing, chewing gum, or smoking
- Lower intestinal, which is a result of a reaction to certain food types, the inability to digest food, or bacterial infection in the intestine
When to See a Doctor
It is normal to expel gases as burps or flatus as a part of digestion. In fact, it is considered a sign of a healthy digestive tract to pass gas daily. In a healthy individual, these gases are produced by bacteria present in the intestinal tract that feed on the food and help digestion. However, in some cases, the gases can be caused due to other factors. And they can act as physical obstructions hampering the movement of digested food from the stomach to the intestine and ahead. This will lead to noticeable changes in the body.
You must visit a doctor if you observe the following changes
- Change in stool consistency.
- Blood in stool.
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Persistent or recurring constipation or diarrhea
- Recurring nausea or vomiting.
- Prolonged abdominal pain
- Chest pain.
The best way to prevent intestinal gas is to understand your digestive system and pick the cues about which food groups cause problems. In most cases, the reason is improper chewing, leading to incomplete digestion. To avoid this, you must practice mindful eating and stop using phones or other distractions while eating.
In addition, it is suggested to give your body enough time to digest the food when consuming high-fibre complex carbohydrates such as legumes and cruciferous vegetables. Further, you must restrict the consumption of aerated beverages with every meal and replace them with natural fruit juices or plain water, if necessary.
It is also advisable to incorporate some physical exercise into your daily routine. It naturally helps expel intestinal gases and improves metabolism.
How Can You Treat Intestinal Gas?
Numerous home remedies and treatments are often suggested for intestinal gas. People usually follow it without much thought, and it helps in some cases. But in other cases, these home remedies end up aggravating the problem and cause more suffering. However, it is always advisable to consult a licensed medical practitioner if you face more than normal or unexplained intestinal gas.
Intestinal gas is a common phenomenon in human beings. One must not take it lightly, and we must adopt better eating habits to avoid it in the first place. Although, if you notice flatulence with other symptoms like discomfort, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, etc., you must consult a doctor immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much is passing gas normal?
On average, humans expel gas 14-25 times daily. In addition, it also depends on the daily consumption patterns and foods consumed in the last 24-48 hours. These gases are primarily odourless and undetectable. If you experience more flatulence with abdominal pain or other symptoms but without any significant change in your diet, you must consult a doctor.
Does age contribute to intestinal gas?
Yes, as the body ages, the digestion process becomes slower, and the chances of the food passing into the intestine without proper digestion increase. This can irritate the intestine, leading to increased production and storage of gas. Therefore, it is recommended to chew the food properly.
Should we never eat foods causing gas?
The causes of gas vary from individual to individual. Some people face severe bloating and belching after consuming specific foods. For them, it is advisable to avoid these food items as much as possible. If you wish to eat, ensure to chew them properly and give them enough time to digest before sleeping. Additionally, include workouts, walks, or moderate yoga in your routine. Sitting in specific asanas after meals helps reduce bloating to a substantial level.