Bloating (Gas in the digestive tract)
Overview of bloating
Gas is a common phenomenon that takes place in a body and almost everyone experiences it. When gas does occur, it tends to find a way out through belching or through flatulence. However, when gases cannot escape the body it builds up in the stomach and intestines and lead to bloating.
When we eat, bacteria and acid helps digest our food. As a result of this process gas is formed which is primarily composed of carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane. It may also contain some amount of sulphur that tends to add odor to the gas passing through the anus.
Symptoms of bloating
One should not worry too much about gas and in most cases is harmless. However, when there is pain, happens to frequently and a bloated stomach leads to significant unpleasantness, it can be a sign of something being amiss in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Symptoms of gas is generally easy to notice but maybe confused with other diseases. It is best to consult a doctor to get to the truth.
Belching: It is normal for a person to belch during or after meals, but if the frequency increases of becomes chronic, it can be a case of severe gas.
Meganblase syndrome: Meganblase syndrome is another form of chronic belching. Person suffering from this generally has severe bouts of belching after meals and may also experience fullness and shortness of breath.
Gas-bloat syndrome: This is a syndrome under which there is excessive production of gas in the gastrointestinal system. This situation is caused due to an infection of the gastrointestinal system, excessive intake of air, altered diet or after a surgery.
Flatulence – Flatulence is the normal body condition where gases are passed through the anus. According to research, passing gas 14 to 25 times a day is considered normal but anything over that should be treated as a case of chronic gas and bloating of stomach.
Abdominal bloating – This kind of bloating is generally related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Under such cases the abdominal area feels bloated due to irregular contractions of intestinal muscles.
Other issues – Gas and bloating of stomach can also be caused due to Splenic-flexure syndrome, Crohn's disease, colon cancer, and internal hernias. Fatty foods can delay stomach emptying and cause bloating and discomfort. People may also experience abdominal pain or discomfort when gas collects in the stomach or intestinal tracts.
Causes of bloating
There are plenty of causes for gas and a bloating stomach but the most common is due to overeating. It is also seen that food with high fat content also makes you feel bloated. Fat takes a long time to digest and tends to keep your stomach full. One must also eat slowly so that the brain can register when the stomach is full. Eating too fast may result in overeating. Carbonated drinks or food with carbohydrates (sugar, starches, and fiber) are generally not digested quickly and leads to the production of gases like hydrogen and carbon dioxide. One must reduce consumption of such beverages or food when the stomach feels bloated.
Diagnosis of bloating
When the symptoms of gas or a bloated stomach points to something serious it is best to find out as early as possible the causes behind it. To understand the problem better, a doctor may ask a patient to consider the following diagnosis.
Abdominal X-ray: An X-ray of the abdomen maybe considered to see if anything in that area is causing gas or bloating.
Maintaining a diary: A patient may also be asked to maintain a diary of what he or she ate on a day. This would help the doctor in determining if a particular type of food causes gas and bloating.
Colonoscopy: For elderly patient above the age of 50 a doctor may want to get a colonoscopy done. This procedure allows a doctor the view the entire colon and intestinal region and allows for a through investigation.
Sigmoidoscopy: In this procedure air is blown in through the rectum and a lighted flexible tube enables a doctor to have a proper view of the region.
Barium: To determine a problem with the upper digestive system in the body a patient may be asked to swallow barium. Barium highlights the organs it flows through and enables an X-ray to assess the digestive system better.
Treatment of bloating
Reducing swallowed air – People with problems of belching and burping need to make a conscious effort to swallow less air. Eating slowly and chewing adequately maybe one of the ways to reduce the quantity of air being swallowed.
Lactase supplements: Supplements of the enzyme lactase helps digest lactose, which may be particularly helpful if gas is caused due to lactose intolerant. You might also try dairy products that are lactose-free or have reduced lactose.
Simethicone: Medicines with Simethicone are found over the counter at most chemist stores. Medicines like Gelusil, Betip, Decolic are some of the popular ones in India. These medicines help break up the bubbles in gas and are proven effective for gas and gas pain.
Prevention of bloating
Preventing gas and a bloated stomach may need changes on two fronts
- Not talking too much while eating
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Drinking very hot or cold beverages
- Chewing gum
- Long-term use of medications for relief of cold symptoms
Foods (Avoid the following)
- Carbonated beverages
- Spicy, fried or fatty foods
- Broccoli, cabbage, onions
- Apple or prune juice
- Dried fruits
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Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: January 30, 2015