Burping, Farting and the Art of Passing Gas: Why it Happens and How to Stop it

Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has shown that an average person passes gas one or other way at least thirteen to twenty-one times in a day. The stigma associated with digestive problems which manifest physically such as passing gas, uncontrollable belching etc. oftentimes prevents persons from reporting them at all. However, none of us are completely immune to these issues as they can be caused by many everyday activities.

Gas and flatulence are associated with stomach bloating and abdominal discomfort. It is important to know that not all instances of uneasiness or discomfort or pain in the abdomen are a sign of gas. These can also mean organ inflammation, appendicitis, and distention.

Since gas is air trapped in the digestive tract of a person, it is categorized in accordance with the mode of passing it – i.e. gas passed through the mouth is called burping or belching (produced when too much air is swallowed), and gas passed through the rectum is called farting or flatulence (produced in the colon).

Gas and its effects are usually naturally curable, but chronic flatulence, or sudden increase in frequency of belching, or extreme bloating can be causes of concern.

Symptoms Of Gas

Some symptoms can be most commonly associated with gas and heartburn, whether the person experiencing it is pregnant, on their period or just eating lots! These are as follows:

  • Shifting pain in the abdomen
  • Indigestion
  • An involuntary passing of gas
  • Temporary loss of appetite
  • Bloating or swelling in the abdomen
  • Feeling as if the stomach is tightly knotted
  • Fainting or dizziness

Causes Of Pain And Discomfort

Gas is commonly caused by the enormous cost of food groups and types that humans expose themselves to. Women may experience cravings between their menstrual cycles or during pregnancy. An erratic eating pattern or a combination of various factors cause gas in a person.

The following should help in identifying the correct reasons for the pain being experienced:

Gas Producing Food

Many of the food items we consume daily are the commonest causes of gas. If one feels like they have increased amounts of gas related pain, they may look out for the following in their diet:

Raffinose – this is a complex sugar particle which is found in beans, sprouts, whole grains, cabbage and broccoli.

Lactose – This is found in milk products and derivatives such as butter or cheese.

Fructose – This is found in onions, wheat, pears as well as artichokes. These are also used as artificial sweeteners in aerated drinks.

Starches – Potatoes, corns and noodles cause gas when they are broken down in the large intestines while digesting and assimilating in the entire body. Rice – a starch – is the only one from the family which does not cause any gas.

Soluble or Insoluble Fiber – Oat bran, fruits and peas contain soluble fibers which dissolve in water quickly and turn into a jelly like substance in the intestines, causing pain associated with gas. Insoluble fibers in found in vegetables and doesn’t often cause painful gas, as much as general flatulence.

Aerated Drinks

Carbonated drinks are so commonplace today that we don’t think twice before consuming them with our meals. However, the fizzier the drink is, the more the likeliness of it causing painful gas cramps. This phenomenon occurs because all the carbon dioxide which is swallowed looks for a way out of the body. Usually this is in the form of belching.

One tends to feel more bloated when consuming aerated drinks. The carbon dioxide content in the drink (the fizz) is a health hazard and can expand the size of the digestive tract. Carbonated drinks should be substituted for juices and water.

Air Swallowing

Aerophagia – or air swallowing is a common practice which causes a build-up of excessive gas in the body. This can be caused by chewing rapidly, breathing with the mouth open, smoking, excessive chewing gum, or wearing loose dentures.

The air so consumed gets trapped in the digestive tract and often shows itself in the form of belching or burping. The tightness of the tummy and feeling immobile are typical symptoms of this. There can be a minute amount of pain experienced, however, accompanied with cramps.

Children who use bottles most commonly face this problem. Mothers often forget to fill the bottles with milk and give the child an empty bottle to suck on so as to keep them from crying. The child then swallows excessive amounts of air from the inside of the bottle and this results in an even crankier baby due to the trapped air in the digestive tract.

Food Intolerance

Persons who suffer from Lactose intolerance or celiac disease also face the same symptoms as those who suffer from gas pains. Abdominal pain and discomfort is more severe in these cases and is accompanied by vomiting, nausea etc.

Those who suffer from lactose intolerance are intolerant of the enzyme lactase which is naturally produced by organisms in their small intestines. This enzyme when in excess, or when scarce becomes the reason for lactose intolerance. Milk and milk products cannot be digested correctly by persons who are suffering from it and the resulting pain can often be mistaken for gas or heartburn.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder which is genetic in nature. Persons who suffer from this cannot ingest gluten as they are unable to digest it and instead it destroys the walls of the small intestine. This causes a host of symptoms which can also be mistaken for gas, but are extremely severe in intensity and can be unbearable also. Diagnosis of this can only be done by a registered medical practitioner.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an intestinal disorder which affects almost double the number of women as it does men. There are three types of Irritable Bowel Syndromes. These are:

  • Mostly diarrhea and abdominal discomfort (IBD-D)
  • Mostly constipation and abdominal discomfort (IBS-C)
  • Alternating loose stools and constipation with abdominal discomfort (IBS-mixed)

IBS is not a suddenly occurring infection. It happens over a long period of time and the symptoms show sporadically throughout one’s life. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is averagely diagnosed by the age of 40. The symptoms of this include change in texture and quantity of stools, pain during the passing of stool, abdominal cramping, and tightness of the stomach. It can also cause mucus in stool or a feeling of not having completely emptied the bowels along with abdominal pain and chronic pelvic pain.

It is important to be aware of such symptoms and keep track of the changes in one’s digestive system. Just tracking these changes and spotting them early on can help in an early diagnosis. If symptoms similar to gas persist for over a couple of weeks, a doctor must be consulted in regards to IBS.

Kidney or Gallbladder Related Issues

Kidney or gallbladder stones are extremely common and occur often in women who are ethnically inclined towards obesity, pregnant women or women who are undertaking hormonal therapy or suffer from Crohn’s Disease.

Kidney stones are formed when crystal forming substances like calcium, uric acid etc. are found in more quantity than can be diluted by the urine fluid.

Gallbladder stones are either caused by the increased destruction of red blood cells or reduced flow or infection in bile juices.

Symptoms of both include similar ones to gas, such as pain in the abdomen. However, gallbladder stones do not cause distention or belching or any actual gas. Kidney stones cause extreme pain which one may overlook at first, but becomes uncontrollable when the stones are finally passed in one’s urine.

Appendicitis

A travelling, dull pain near the navel, or the upper or lower abdomen is the first sign of appendicitis. This, however, is rare and symptoms usually mirroring gas, but in increased intensity, show up in later stages.

By this stage, the anomaly in the appendix can cause it to inflame and bloat. In extreme cases of appendicitis, the appendix can burst and cause an emergency situation where one has to go through an appendectomy.

Symptoms to look out for are:

  • Nausea after the pain begins
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the belly button

GRED (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

Pepsin, bile and other acids of the stomach which help in digestion exist there naturally. These enzymes do not destroy the stomach lining as it is protected by layers. These layers do not protect the oesophagus and when such acids and enzymes are in excess, they sometimes back into the oesophagus and damages the lining of the unprotected oesophagus.

This causes the following symptoms to occur:

  • Heartburn
  • Ulcers
  • Bleeding in the stomach
  • Coughing and choking during sleep

The most common symptom of GRED, though, is heartburn. Early diagnosis is prevented by the commonality of heartburn.

Colon Obstruction or a Hernia

The gas which is produced because of the food that one eats is produced in the colon. An inability pass gas or stool which is accompanied by symptoms such as pain in the stomach and rectum, discomfort in the mid-section can be caused by obstruction of the colon and blockage of stool. This is called faecal impactation.

This can also be caused due to twisting of the bowel, cancerous tumours, Crohn’s Disease, ovarian cancer and damaged blood vessels etc. Hernia and scar tissue from the resulting surgery can also cause for the digestive tract to cave in places and block the flow of stool.

Home Remedies To Cure Gas and Related Pain

Pain caused by the accumulation of gas in the digestive tract can be extremely uncomfortable and troublesome when trying to lead a normal life. The following home remedies can help cure the symptoms of actual gas pain:

Cold Water

The most effective and immediate remedy for gas pains is cold water. One glass of water and a few cubes of ice can go a long way in relieving pain in the abdomen. The cold helps in suddenly dissipating the gas which accumulates in the digestive tract. This urges the body to look for a quick exist for the excess gas and eliminates pain.

When using this remedy, it is important to remember to not drink too much cold water all at once. Consuming such cold water can cause tonsils to inflame, and due care should be taken to not overdo it.

Ajwyan or Carom Seeds, Cumin, Asafoetida and Fresh Ginger

Carom seeds, cumin as well as fresh ginger – all carminatives – can be found in any departmental store at nominal rates.

While carom seeds contain thymol which helps in producing digestive juices, cumin seeds aid in the production of saliva to breakdown the foods. Ginger has high antioxidant value and is considered a carminative. Asafoetida or heeng contains properties which prevent the stomach bacteria from producing excess gas which causes flatulence.

How to use:

  • The first step is to take two teaspoons of the spice or seed of choice and a cup of warm water.
  • Second, soak the seeds in warm water for five to six minutes.
  • Strain, reheat and sip during the day.
  • Pro Tip: If making pure ginger tea, lemon and honey can be great additions!

Heating Pad

Direct application of a heating pad can help curbing gas pain almost immediately. If a normal heating bag is not available, the following steps show how to make a heating pad at home:

What we need:

  • A lone sock
  • A few cups of rice
  • Microwave

How to make:

  • To make a heating pad out of these particulars, one must first put the rice into the sock.
  • Take the sock and heat it for a minute in the microwave.
  • A heating pad is ready for application!

These heating pads do not usually become too hot. They are easy to use and very convenient to make.

Exercise and Yoga

Light exercise everyday helps in curbing abdominal pain associated with gas. However, even a brisk walk when feeling gas related pains can make a huge difference in one’s condition. Yoga is another method through which one can keep their gas at bay.

Suggested Exercises:

Jogging

Air cycling – The process of lying on one’s back, folding the knees into the tummy, extending with the feet in the air, and then making a paddling motion with their feet.

Shavasana – Shavasana is the position of the body at rest. Simply folding one’s knees at a 90 degree angle to a wall and pulling oneself as close to the wall as possible can also help relieving gas.

Potassium Rich Foods

Bananas, mangoes, spinach etc. are all potassium-rich food. These help in the effects of excess sodium such as bloating around the mid-section and fluid retention in the body. 

These are best consumed raw in the form of a salad.

Probiotics

Consuming probiotics helps in preventing several life-threatening illnesses. These drinks such as Yakult aid the body in getting rid of excess waste with ease. They promote a healthy bowel system and clean colon.

Pregnant women have suggested the use of probiotic drinks to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. These drinks allow them to pass stool naturally and without too much pressure on the uterus.

Baking Soda and Lemon + Apple Cider Vinegar

When baking soda and lemon are combined, the chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide which naturally disperses the excess gas build-up in the body. Coupled with the antioxidants found in apple cider vinegar, besides controlling flatulence, this mixture also balances the pH levels of the body.

How to consume:

  • First, take half a cup of water and add 20ml (one full lemon) lemon juice into it.
  • Next, add a teaspoon of baking powder into the mixture.
  • Then, wait for the fizz to fill the cup to the top and dissipate before adding some apple cider vinegar.
  • Once mixed, drink up!

Cinnamon

A cinnamon brewed soy milk can act as a deterrent of your daily flatulence problem and even help cure it in the long run. The heat of the cinnamon prevents the build-up of bad bacteria in the digestive tract.

How to make:

  • First, warm a cup of soy milk or whey.
  • Second, add one teaspoon of cinnamon powder in it and let sit.
  • Warm the mixture and sip away!

Precaution: Pregnant women are advised to only consume half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day. Consuming more of it carries the risk of a miscarriage.

When T0 Visit Your Doctor

A person is advised to see a doctor immediately if one or more of the following are true for them:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Change in colour or texture of faeces
  • Unbearable pain in the abdomen
  • A sudden change in symptoms
  • Weight loss
  • Family history of malignant tumours
  • Sharp pain in the left side of the chest, accompanied by clammy palms and pain in the left arm
  • Recurrent vomiting

CONCLUSION

The reasons for facing abdominal pain issues can be varied. However, the most common reason is gas. Flatulence and the inability to pass the same causes the signature sharp pain and cramps which we all know and have learnt so well. The natural remedies and causes provided in this article are not the opinion of a medical professional. These are highly used, tried and tested methods of pain relief. In case any strange systems persist for over a week, a registered medical professional must be sought.

Could I have gas from constipation?

Flatulence and gas are caused due to the digestive properties and chemical reactions of the body’s juices with all it comes in contact with. When facing constipation, it is but normal to feel temporary inability to pass gas. If this continues for one week, a doctor must be notified.

No passing of stool or flatulence is a cause for concern as it could mean the blockage in the bowels or obstruction of the colon.

I have a bloated stomach – is it gas?

Feeling bloated or tight in the stomach are signs of gas, but can also be indicators of other underlying problems which the body might be facing. This bloating can be a reason for no concern unless the pain persists. If a person constantly suffers from chronic bloating and gas, they must consult a doctor as this could signify a hernia or a collapsed intestinal wall.

How can I curb my flatulence?

The idea of curbing flatulence comes with the impression of the social stigma of passing gas in public. This can cause many hindrances to one’s social progress.

Steps to take to curb flatulence are:

  • Tracking dietary changes.
  • Checking for the problem causing food.
  • Staying hydrated.
  • Exercising daily.

Sources:

  • https://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health/treatment-for-excessive-gas/
  • https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/embarrassing-conditions#1
  • https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gas-digestive-tract/definition-facts
  • https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-is-bowel-obstruction#1
  • https://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health/is-it-gas-pain-or-something-more-serious/
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/gas-pain-in-chest#takeaway
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gas-and-gas-pains/symptoms-causes/syc-20372709
  • https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/digestive_disorders/gas_in_the_digestive_tract_85,P00369
  • https://food.ndtv.com/health/6-home-remedies-for-gas-that-are-sure-to-give-relief-1643392
  • https://www.top10homeremedies.com/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-gas.html
  • http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/natural-home-remedies-to-treat-gas-trouble-problem/#gref
  • https://www.simplysupplements.co.uk/healthylife/digestive-disorders/remedies-for-a-bloated-stomach
  • https://www.belmarrahealth.com/23-natural-remedies-get-rid-gas-immediately/
  • https://www.life-saving-naturalcures-and-naturalremedies.com/natural-remedy-for-gas.html

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