Suffering from intestinal gas and the associated bloating is extremely common for people from all over the world. It has two main causes:
- Some air being swallowed along with the food.
- Gases being released during the breakdown of the food particles during the digestive process.
Gas that is swallowed and created during the digestive process in the stomach is usually expelled from the mouth in the form of belching. Gases formed in the intestines, however, are expelled from the anus in the form of flatulence. If people are unable to expel the gas, either because they deliberately withhold it because they are in a public setting or because of certain physiological factors, then it is manifested in the form of a stomach cramp, which is also referred to as gas pains in certain quarters.
Causes of Gas and the Associated Bloating & Belching
If you feel as if you are uncomfortably full after having a meal, then you are suffering from bloating. It usually has the following triggers:
- A gastrointestinal infection, or certain physiological anomalies that hampers the smooth passage of food particles in the digestive system.
- Anxiety or stress.
- Consuming food allergens such as gluten by those suffering from Celiac diseases (gluten intolerance) or milk products by those suffering from lactose intolerance.
- Drinking carbonated beverages (sodas or sparkling water) while eating.
- Sucking on candy, chewing gum, drinking through a straw and eating too quickly may cause you to swallow air.
- Eating foods with a high fat content slows down the digestive process.
- Smoking, which causes you to swallow air as well!
Belching pretty much has the same causes as bloating, with a small caveat. People who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) tend to suffer from belching as well because the stomach acids backs up into the esophagus (food pipe) from time to time.
Symptoms of Gas
Although everyone has a general idea of what the various symptoms of gas usually are, they have been consolidated underneath to create a uniform frame of reference:
- A loss of appetite.
- A tight or knotted feeling in the abdomen.
- Passing of gas either in the form of belching or flatulence. This can be voluntary or involuntary.
- Feeling bloated.
- A sharp jabbing pain in the abdomen, similar to that of a stomach cramp. The location of the pain may keep changing and may get better really fast.
Home remedies to Get Rid of Gas & Bloating
Getting gas is really common and it is usually not necessary to see a doctor. One can easily get rid of the symptoms with the help of the following home remedies.
- Avoid Triggers
At the risk of sounding clichéd, it is no secret that everyone is unique in their own way and the uniqueness can refer to one’s digestive system as well. You should consider keeping a food diary to check and see what triggers a bout of severe gas and then try to eliminate that from your diet in the future.
To get you started, it is usually suggested that one should stay away from beans and uncooked vegetables, especially if you have a faulty digestive system. Cooking tends to break down the chemical structure of the nutrients in vegetables, which makes it easier for the digestive system to break down further and absorb.
Another trigger for gas is foods containing artificial sweeteners. Most of these foods, such as sugar-free gum and candies are sweetened with chemicals such as sorbitol and aspartame which cannot be digested, hence they stay in the digestive tract until they are expelled with feces. Things being stuck in the digestive tract is bad news as they will eventually trigger gas and bloating.
- Pass the Gas
Yes, this may not always be immediately possible in polite society, but do note that once you start suffering from gas or bloating, you will not face any relief until you actually pass the gas. Try seeking a quiet corner for yourself to do the deed and then move on with the rest of the day!
If you are severely bloated and still unable to pass the gas, chew on a pinch of caraway seeds. It will give the trapped gases a helpful nudge in the right direction, thus providing you with some welcome relief!
- Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety is synonymous with life in the 21st century and almost all millennials are exposed to it in some form or the other. Stress and anxiety puts your body in a constant state of “flight or fight” which has a negative impact on your digestive system. Sometimes this manifests in the form of gas and bloating. There are several ways you can reduce stress in your life. Following are some ideas:
- Some find yoga or meditation techniques to be extremely beneficial towards leading a stress free life.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed with pending tasks you can close your eyes for five minutes and take some deep breaths. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people feel relaxed after this and can approach their tasks in a calm manner.
- Some have a hobby such as listening to music, which helps divert the mind from the stressful agenda.
- Take a vacation.
- If you believe that your workload is not fair or you have been given too much to do, you may consider having a word with your colleagues or your supervisor.
- Some even consider switching careers to find something that they truly love. If you love your job then the issue of stress and anxiety tend to get resolved on their own.
- Light Exercise
Studies have shown that light exercise or any physical activity tends to speed up the digestive process. Hence, it is often suggested that one should go for a quick ten minute walk after every meal to reduce the chances of gas and bloating!
- Avoid other Habits that Trap Gas
Drinking through straws, eating too fast, drinking carbonated beverages and chewing gum all causes air to be passed down the food pipe, causing you to belch. Avoiding such habits can go a long way towards easing these symptoms.
- Start your Meal with Protein
Protein is one of the building-blocks of life and you cannot ever consider eliminating it from your diet. That being said, it is also one of the toughest nutrients to consume. If the protein stays in an undigested form in your digestive canal, it tends to ferment and putrefy, causing gas with a nauseating odor!
Americans tend to be in a habit of consuming a salad before proceeding with the main meal. Salad consists of fresh veggies with simple carbo-hydrates, hence it does not require tremendous amounts of stomach acids to absorb the nutrients. However, by the time you get to the protein your reserves of stomach acids are usually depleted, resulting in incomplete digestion.
Instead of starting with the salad, many nutritionists suggest people with frail digestive systems to consume it while having the main course. This ensures that you get your nutrients from the salad, while your protein is consumed in an optimal manner.
Not only is water essential for survival, it also helps the digestive system to function properly. If the digestive system is performing in an optimal manner, then it minimizes the production of gas and the associated bloating.
The basic rule of thumb for water consumption is that men should drink at least 3 liters of water per day and women should drink at least 2.2 liters of water. People who live in tropical climates or those who are overweight should drink even more.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that drinking a glass of warm water may provide some adequate relief from gas. This is because not only the water helps you flush your digestive system, the heat from the water relaxes your intestinal muscles, thus providing you with some relief from the pain.
Probiotics are a group of healthy bacteria that promotes digestive health. They are usually present in abundant quantity in fermented milk products such as yogurt and buttermilk. Your local health food store probably carries several specialized probiotic drinks as well.
- Drink Liquids Before a Meal
If you drink water or any other liquids while you are having your meal, it tends to wash away or dilute your stomach acids that would help in digestion. Hence, it is highly recommended that you drink some fluids about thirty minutes before you sit down for a meal, so that you urge for consuming fluids while having your meal goes down significantly.
- Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal has pores in its structure that can absorb gas, which would in turn reduce the symptoms of bloating and gas. It is usually available either in a powder or a pill form. However, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor or the pharmacist before you start using them.
There are charcoal lined seat covers and underwear available in the market as well, which would help make the symptoms less noticeable by the others, while you stealthily wait for the home remedies to take effect!
- Lemon Water
Drinking warm water with lemon juice every day helps flush out your digestive system by removing toxins. This ensures that your digestive system operates at an optimal level, thus reducing the chances of you suffering from gas or bloating. Lemon water also balances the pH level in your stomach by inducing the production of hydrochloric acid, which helps in your digestion.
When you wake up in the morning, simply warm a glass of water till it is lukewarm. Squeeze half a lemon in it and drink it on an empty belly!
This treatment is not recommended for people suffering from heartburn.
Try incorporating pumpkin with every major meal. This is because it is rich in Vitamin A and Potassium, both of which help ease the process of digestion, reducing the chances of gas and flatulence in the process. You can have seared or mashed pumpkin as a side-dish or you may incorporate it while preparing the main course. It does not matter how you consume it, as long as you consume the amount equivalent amount of 1 cup of pumpkin with every meal.