Dr Prasanna Shah writes on what causes excess gas and ways to ease the discomfort
Burping, belching, passing wind, farting, or feeling gassy is a result of what you eat. The digestive system processes the food, and, in this process, there is formation of different kinds of gases that leads to flatulence.
Flatulence is a medical term used for gas formation in the digestive system. On an average, the digestive system forms gas about 20 times a day. However, excessive gas in the form of farting or burping can be painful and discomforting in many ways, such as cramping, a knotted feeling in the tummy, or feeling bloated. But there are simple ways that will help you ease from excessive gas issues.
What types of gases are collected in the digestive system?
1 – Oxygen and nitrogen – Swallowing air while eating and drinking causes collection of oxygen and nitrogen in the digestive tract. This is often released from the mouth in form of a burp.
2 – Hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide – The kind of food one eats can lead to flatulence. It is caused when the body is unable to digest food. Once the undigested food passes into the small intestine, the good bacteria break down the food that leads to the production of these gases. The ratio of these gases may differ on how much of certain foods one consumes.
Factors that cause gas
Sometimes what you eat may not be the root cause of foul-smelling flatulence. Hence it is essential to be aware of the factors that could be the underlying cause of excessive gas. Factors such as –
- Dairy products
- Eating too much of high-fibre foods such as beans, legumes and whole grains
- High consumption of vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, onions…
- Sugary beverages, sodas, chewing gum
- Talking while eating or eating quickly
- Bacterial overgrowth in the bowel
- Food intolerance
5 Ways to help you ease excessive gas
1 – Change of diet – A change of diet does not necessarily mean one has to completely go off foods that causes gas. Perhaps a nutritionist could help you plan out your meals that includes little bit of everything. The aim here is to make sure that you have a well-balanced meal that includes everything in moderation so that your gut is happy and healthy.
2 – Exercise – There are numerous benefits of regular workouts. When you sweat it not only helps flush toxins but also makes your gut stronger. Your metabolic levels are improved and that helps in the digestion process. All one has to do is some light exercises and walk for at least 30 minutes a day. This will certainly improve your digestion.
3 – Drink water – If you feel the urge of drinking water before your meals, then make sure that you have a 30-minute gap. When you drink water right before your meal it flushes down the stomach acid that slows down the digestion process. When you drink water 30 minutes before that promote a smooth digestion process that helps reduce flatulence.
4 – Eat slowly – Chewing your food well is the first step to smooth digestion. When you eat slowly and chew your food well, the digestion process does its job smoothly because you have already minced the food and made it digestion ready. This also helps the food to get digested easily and can help curb excessive gas.
5 – Herbal tea – Drinking any kind of herbal tea, especially ginger on an empty stomach helps speed up digestion. When you are feeling bloated and are in pain, drink some tea – ginger, or chamomile, or mint… it relaxes the digestive tract and improves digestion. If you have overeaten or are feeling cramming a cup of tea will soothe your stomach and help you keep calm.
What if the symptoms still persist?
If changing the diet and taking all measures are not improving your digestive issues, then you need to find the cause. Often times the underlying cause could be some gastrointestinal condition. You need to be on the look out and get yourself checked to avoid any risk. Here are some risk factors that may be causing frequent and excessive gas issues –
1 – Upper gastrointestinal diseases – Frequent belching could be a sign of upper gastrointestinal disorder. It includes ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hiatal hernia, mouth cancer… this is caused due to excessive inflammation, long-term medicine usage, bacterial infections and excessive secretion of digestive acid. Smoking and alcohol consumption could also cause these diseases.
2 – Lactose intolerance – When one is unable to process diary products. This happens when your body is unable to digest sugar found in milk. This can be genetic or can occur at any point in life. The sudden trigger could be caused by another underlying GI condition or it can develop without a specific underlying cause. The symptoms occur half an hour – two hours after the diary product is consumed. It can vary from diarrhea, excessive flatulence, indigestion and abdominal pain.
3 – Celiac disease – It is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered when one eats foods with gluten. The protein present in wheat, rye, barley… damages the lining of the small intestines. This can develop at any age. It can also be passed down genetically. There is no cure but can be managed by eating gluten free food.
4 – Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – People with overtly sensitive intestine can suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. It can be easily cured but it may last for some time – it varies from person to person. There are many causes for IBS to occur – change in food, not eating regular meals, long gaps between meals and stress.
If you have questions for Dr Prasanna Shah, do join us on the Health Live @ Seniors Today webinar, Saturday 15 May, 5.00 p.m. Just click on the link to register: Health Live Webinar
A happy gut is a sign of a healthy body. It is important that you take care of what you eat, how you eat and when you eat. All these factors together work on strengthen your gut. If you are facing excessive amount of foul-smelling flatulence there is nothing to be embarrassed about, it is a sign that your gut needs help. So, if you are facing stomach discomfort that doesn’t seem to calm down do get yourself checked. The sooner, the better for you and your gut.