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7 Reasons for Feeling "Bloated" or "Gassy"
and How to Avoid Them

Up to 11 percent of Americans say they frequently feel bloated, according to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG). Another 7 percent of Americans complain of excessive or bothersome belching, and others feel excessively gassy (which the ACG defines as passing gas more than 20 times a day).

gassy stomache

Gulping your food, or eating too quickly, can cause you to swallow excess air, leading to gas and bloating.

These gas-related symptoms are not just uncomfortable -- they can be embarrassing and even painful. If bloating, excess gas or belching is interfering with your daily routine - or even if gas or belching is only a moderate issue for you and you want to reduce it -- check out these common causes, and what to do about them.

1. You Swallow Too Much Air

When excess air is swallowed it will be passed as a belch or gas, or return to the stomach, where it can cause bloating. Normally, about half of passed gas comes from swallowed air, but when too much air is swallowed this amount increases. Many habits can increase the amount of air you take in, including:

  • Eating too quickly

  • Gulping beverages

  • Drinking though a straw

  • Chewing gum or sucking on candy

  • Wearing loose-fitting dentures

  • Being nervous

  • Smoking

Chewing sugarless gum or candies may be especially problematic because certain artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, xylitol and other sugar alcohols, can increase bloating.

"You often swallow lots of air [when chewing gum], which can create gas and bloating," explains Christine Frissora, M.D., a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

Further, "Sorbitol pulls water into your large intestine, which can cause bloating and, in high enough doses, diarrhea," says Michael Cox, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

2. You're Stressed

When you feel stressed, your stress hormones increase and cause your stomach and colon to go into spasms, rather than just contract normally, says Patricia Raymond, M.D., a GI doctor at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia.

Further, stress encourages junk-food binges, and all those fatty, salty snacks and sweets can lead to even more bloating.

3. You're Eating Too Much Fruit, or Drinking Too Much Soda

Just as some people are lactose-intolerant (see below), others are fructose-intolerant, and their bodies cannot digest the sugar properly. If you find you have excess gas and bloating after eating fruit or drinking soda, which often contains fructose, this may apply to you.

People who are fructose-intolerant do not have to cut out fruit entirely, but rather can eat it in small servings, or choose lower-fructose fruits, like cantaloupe and apricots, instead of high-fructose fruits like apples and bananas.

4. You're Not Getting Enough Exercise

"Exercising helps the body absorb gases in the colon," says Dr. Michael D. Levitt, a gastroenterologist and associate chief of staff at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

And, aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes will help to counter constipation by helping food to move through the digestive tract more quickly, Raymond says.

5. You're Lactose-Intolerant

Some people (especially those of Asian, African and Southern European descent) have trouble digesting the milk sugar lactose because they do not make enough of an enzyme (lactase) that's needed to breakdown lactose. Lactose that is not completely digested will pass to the colon where it will be broken down and turned into gas.

stress stomache

Too much stress can cause your stomach and colon to go into spasms, leading to uncomfortable gas and bloating.

If you think you may be lactose-intolerant, try avoiding dairy products for a few days and see if the problem clears up. You can then try reintroducing small amounts of dairy each day for several weeks, and may actually be able to retrain your body to digest lactose in this way.

6. You're Eating "Gassy" Foods

Certain foods do produce more gas than others, and everyone varies in their ability to absorb and tolerate the gas that's produced. If you're sensitive, you may want to limit your intake of known gas-producers like:

Further, be aware that if you notice severe discomfort after eating certain grains, you may be sensitive to wheat or suffering from a condition known as celiac disease.

7. You're on Medication

Certain medications, such as those that inhibit digestive enzymes or contain indigestible sugars like lactulose or sorbitol, can cause gas-related symptoms. Also, antibiotics may cause excess gas, Levitt says, because they "disrupt the natural flora of the colon, thereby making it more difficult to break down certain foods, and thus leading to more flatus."

Quick Tips to Avoid Gas and Bloating

Excess gas and bloating is rarely dangerous, but you can cut down on any uncomfortable feelings and embarrassing outbursts by following these quick tips:

  • Exercise regularly

  • Deal with your stress

  • Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly

  • Don't drink through a straw, and sip, rather than gulp, your beverages

  • Quit smoking

  • Pay attention to foods and drinks that cause you discomfort, then avoid or limit them

  • Avoid foods that contain sorbitol or other sugar alcohols (these could be found in drinks, candy, gum or breath fresheners)

Recommended Reading

Getting Past Passing Gas: How to Reduce or Eliminate the Problem No One Discusses, Flatulence

The Danger of Antacids and What You Should Do Instead


Caremark Health Resources

American College of Gastroenterology

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