Overview

Air trapped in the digestive tract or gas formed during the digestive process can cause bloating. The air and gas leave the body through the mouth or anus. It is estimated that everyone passes gas approximately 14 times per day.

Causes

Trapped air is caused by eating too fast, smoking, chewing gum, sucking on hard candy, and drinking carbonated drinks. Gas is a byproduct of digesting certain sugars and starches. Some conditions, such as lactose intolerance, also cause bloating and gas. Other GI conditions, such as IBS, can change how gas passes through the system.

Symptoms

Burping, passing gas, feeling uncomfortably full, and swelling in the abdomen are all symptoms of gas and bloating.

Screening and Diagnosis

Occasional gas and bloating should not cause any concern, but if your symptoms persist, finding the cause can be important. Begin with a food and activity diary and track your symptoms as they relate to meals. If making dietary changes does not relieve the problem, or if your symptoms suddenly change, you develop new symptoms, or if your gas is accompanied by constipation, diarrhea, or weight loss, you should make an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

Treatment

Underlying conditions are treated individually. To relieve common gas and bloating, avoid gum and hard candies, avoid carbonated drinks, eat slowly, quit smoking, and avoid the foods and beverages that seem to be your trigger. If dairy is the problem, you may be lactose intolerant and should avoid milk, milk products, and products that contain lactase.