Gas (Flatulence)

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Gas is a normal function of the body. Gas is usually accompanied by mild to moderate bloating and abdominal pain, such as aching or cramping.

Gas has many different causes:

  • Gas happens when the body digests food. As the food arrives in the large intestine, bacteria break it down. In the breaking-down process, many types of gas are released, including oxygen, nitrogen, methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and hydrogen sulfide. The gas can cause bubbles in the stomach that are released through the mouth (belching) or through the rectum (flatulence).
  • Gas can happen each time you eat or drink and naturally swallow air. The air moves into the digestive tract and is eventually released in the form of belching or flatulence.
  • Certain foods can cause gas. Carbohydrates, such as pasta and bread, are the most gas-producing foods. High-fiber foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes can cause gas. Carbonated liquids such as soda pop and beer can cause gas.
  • Gas can happen if you’re having other digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea.
  • Chemotherapy medications you may be taking to treat breast cancer can cause gas by speeding up or slowing down your digestion. This can increase the amount of gas released in the stomach, which can increase belching or flatulence. Chemotherapy also can affect how the bacteria in your stomach work, causing gas and abdominal pain.
  • Other medications you may be taking, such as antibiotics, laxatives, or medicines for diarrhea or pain can cause gas. Pain medications that can cause gas include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as naproxen (a brand name is Naprosyn) and ibuprofen (a brand name is Advil).

Managing gas/flatulence

Reducing your air intake while eating and drinking can help reduce gas:

  • Don’t use a straw when drinking.
  • Don’t chew with your mouth open.
  • Don’t talk while eating.
  • Don’t chew gum.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Chew your food thoroughly.

Try these other tips to manage or lessen the occurrence of gas:

  • Eat gas-forming, high-fiber foods in moderation. These foods include vegetables, beans, and grains.
  • Eat small amounts of food that are easier for your body to digest.
  • Relax while you eat to aid in digestion.
  • Take a walk after eating. Stroll around the block to help your body digest food.
  • Sip some herbal tea after a meal. Peppermint or chamomile tea can help your body digest food.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake and don’t smoke. Both alcohol and cigarettes can irritate your stomach.
  • Try over-the-counter remedies for gas, but be sure to talk to your doctor before you take anything.
  • Take slow, deep breaths and relax to help with the cramping.
  • Learn how to manage contributing digestive issues, such as constipation and diarrhea.
  • See tips on managing abdominal pain.

Be sure to see your doctor if you continue to have gas or if any abdominal pain you have gets worse. These can be signs of other, more serious, medical conditions.

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