Gas and Abdominal Bloating

Why is abdominal bloating and gas important?

Abdominal bloating is a very common symptom, usually due to increased gas forming in the intestines. Gas is produced by bacteria as they break down nutrients that haven’t been absorbed by your body. The gas can cause distension which may precipitate cramping and abdominal pain. Generally, gas-related distension settles overnight, only to build up again the following day.

All people pass gas but some people pass more than others. It is normal to pass gas even 20 times per day and often, this reduces or even relieves bloating, distension and discomfort.

Different people tolerate foods differently and some people can eat a food without issue but other people find will cause a lot of symptoms.

Causes of bloating

  • Swallowed air can occur when eating quickly or after consuming gas-containing liquids like soft drinks or beer. Try and eat more slowly and avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Some people absorb nutrients like lactose, fructose and fructans poorly. Bacteria in the gut metabolise these nutrients and produce gas, which is passed as flatus. Foods that are major gas producers for some people may cause little gas for others. Try a low FODMAP diet.
  • Constipation can cause bloating and distension and bacteria have more time to produce gas from any nutrients sitting in the bowel. Try and avoid constipation and regular soluble fibre may help bowel regularity and reduce gas production.
  • Some medicines and nutritional supplements can cause bloating and gas as side effects. Review your therapies with your doctor and if necessary, try alternatives.
  • Antibiotics may disrupt the usual balance of gut bacteria, resulting in more gas-producing bacteria. In a small number of people, probiotics may help to rebalance the bacteria population.
  • Many women have bloating around the time of their periods because they retain fluid and may experience constipation at this time. Don’t be surprised if bloating is worse around the time your period begins.
  • Stress and the resultant production of hormones such as adrenaline, alters bowel motility and may worsen gut hypersensitivity. Stress management may improve your abdominal symptoms as well as your enjoyment of life. GUT hypnotherapy is another new approach.
  • Rarely, bloating can be the sign of serious disease such as coeliac disease (gluten allergy), ascites (fluid in the abdomen), tumours (especially ovarian cancer), pancreatic insufficiency or bowel obstruction. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor to see if further investigations are appropriate.