Gas And Gas Pains

1 What are Gas and Gas Pains?

Gas and gas pains can be embarrassing since they can occur at any time and anywhere. Under normal conditions a person passes gases at least 10 times a day.

Gas pains occur when a person fails to pass this gas out. Constipation can also cause gas pains.

Several measures can be taken to reduce the amount of gas that is produced in the intestines and this can relieve the discomfort an embarrassment associated with gas and gas pains.

2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of gas and gas pains include:

  • Voluntary or involuntary passing out of gases either as belches or flatus.
  • Sharp, stabbing pain in the abdomen ( the pain can disappear quickly).
  • A knotted feeling in the abdomen.
  • Swelling and tightness in the abdomen ( bloating)

Sometimes gas pains can be so intense that they may be confused as other serious diseases like heart disease, appendicitis or gallstones.

3 Causes

Gas is caused by bacteria in the large intestines that break down carbohydrates (mostly fibers) which the small intestines fail to digest. Fibers are essential for a healthy diet since they regulate the levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. However, food high in fiber can also cause an increase in the amount of gases in the intestines, which further leads to gas pains.

Foods high in fiber that can cause gas and gas pains include:

  • fruits,
  • vegetables,
  • whole grains,
  • beans and peas.

Carbonated drinks like soda or beer can also cause gas and gas pains.

Other causes include:

  • Swallowing air when eating or drinking
  • Medical conditions like diverticulitis or inflammatory bowel disease, in which excessive gas is produced due to an increase in the number of bacteria in the intestines.
  • Food intolerance, especially lactose intolerance in which the patient lacks the enzyme ( lactose) which is responsible for breaking down diary foods.
  • Artificial additives like sorbitol or mannitol.
  • Constipation, which makes the expulsion of gases difficult leading to bloating and discomfort.

4 Making a Diagnosis

In order to diagnose the cause of gas and gas pain, doctors may take the patient's medical history, dietary habits and a physical examination.

During a physical examination, the abdomen is palpated to check for if it is distended or tapped to check if there is a hollow sound which usually indicated an excess of gases in the intestines.

Other tests can be performed to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms.

5 Treatment

Gas and gas pains may be treated by making changes to the diet and by taking over-the -counter medications.

Dietary changes involve cutting back on foods high in fiber ,avoiding fried food and carbonated beverages and reducing the intake of dietary products.

Over-the-counter remedies include:

  • Adding beano to beans or vegetables to reduce the amount of gas these foods produce.
  • Taking lactase supplements which help to digest the lactose found in dairy foods.
  • Taking over-the-counter products that contain simethicone (Gas-X, Gelusil, Mylanta, Mylicon) which helps to break the bubbles in the gas.
  • Charcoal tablets (Charcocaps, Charcoal Plus) which can be taken before or after meals.

6 Lifestyle and Coping

The following lifestyle changes can alleviate the symptoms of gas and gas pain:

  • Eating smaller portions of foods that cause the excessive production of gases.
  • Eating slowly
  • Avoiding chewing gum,sucking hard candy and drinking with a straw
  • Making sure dentures are well fixed, since if they are poorly fixed they may cause a person to swallow air when eating or drinking.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercising on a regular basis.

Limiting sulfur-containing foods like broccoli, Brussel sprouts and foods high in protein can reduce the odor associated with passing gas.

7 Risks and Complications

Risks of having gas problems include:

  • Being lactose or gluten ( a whey protein found in wheat) intolerant.
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetable, whole grains and legumes.
  • Having chronic intestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel disease.
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