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).
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:
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
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
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.
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
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:
Deal with your stress
Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly
Don't drink through a straw, and sip, rather than gulp,
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
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