Why Do I Have Gas and Bloating?
The 1977 children’s book “Everybody Poops” could have a sequel for adults called “Everyone Burps and Farts.”
It’s true, we all do, and while it’s often seen as impolite, it’s natural. Gassiness, along with bloating, can, however, become a problem, and not just one that leads to blushing and “excuse me” statements.
“Gas can come from swallowed air – we swallow a little when we eat, and more when we eat rapidly,” said S. Max Zollicker, MD, Avera Medical Group family medicine physician. “It can also come from the foods we eat that ferment as they break down in our digestive system.”
Determining if your gas or bloating is excessive requires a little consideration. Here are some things to consider when evaluating your own natural tendencies:
Changes Come With Age
If you’ve been around a baby, you know they burp and spit up a lot. That’s because their stomachs are so small. As we grow up and our organs gain size, they can also get sensitive. “We develop heartburn and intolerances, like that toward lactose, usually later in life,” Zollicker said. “We might also choose foods that are less than healthy, and that can contribute to gas and bloating.”
Some people are more aware – or worried – about gas. They may feel their belches or flatulence are over-the-top. “We all have gas, and it’s usually not a big deal, but sometimes it worries people,” he said. “One thing to consider is body position. If you snack lying on the couch, and then get gas, that might be a reason to only eat when sitting.”
As for the smell, passed gas naturally contain chemical compounds that are unpleasant to the nose.
It Could Be Your Diet
Some folks can eat beans all day and not have issues. Others have beans, carbonated beverages or veggies like broccoli and they can’t stop with burps and toots. “Smoking, chewing gum, alcohol, acidic foods or carbonated beverages all can add to gas,” Zollicker said. “Wheat, beans and legumes, peanuts, onions and dairy for some people – these foods can all produce more lower-digestive gas. If the gas isn’t accompanied by other problems, you’re likely not facing anything big, bad and scary.”
If you’re burping with frequent heartburn or lingering belly pain, you should make an appointment with your provider. “Swallowing difficulty is another sign of issues with the upper GI tract, along with regurgitation, where you burp and some rancid food comes with it,” he said. “If you have pain in the night from gas, especially if it wakes you, or if you have bloody or oily stools, you should to see your family doctor.”
If you have burps that are persistent and smell like sewage, that’s also a sign that you should make an appointment. Another warning sign to report to your doctor is unexplained weight loss, not tied to dieting or increased exercise.
What You Can Do
Primary care providers can handle many gas issues and troubles with bloat. They might ask you to keep a food journal to see if some restrictions will help. They may run some basic lab tests as well. If these initial steps don’t seem to help, they may enlist the help of a registered dietitian, to dig more deeply into your diet, or they may refer you to a specialist.
“Gastroenterology exams can identify issues, and they can develop approaches for serious problems. This may include a chronic condition like diverticulitis or Crohn’s disease,” said Zollicker. “Start by realizing gas is normal, know the signs of problems and if you have them – go see your provider for help.”