Gas and gas pains
Gas and gas pains
Gas and gas pains can strike at the worst possible moment — during an important meeting or on a crowded elevator. And although passing intestinal gas (flatus) usually isn't serious, it can be embarrassing.
Anything that causes intestinal gas or is associated with constipation or diarrhea can lead to gas pains. These pains generally occur when gas builds up in your intestines, and you're not able to expel it. On average, most people pass gas at least 10 times a day.
The good news is that although you can't stop gas and gas pains, a few simple measures can help reduce the amount of gas you produce and relieve your discomfort and embarrassment.
For most people, the signs and symptoms of gas and gas pain are all too obvious. They include:
Gas pains are usually intense, but brief. Once the gas is gone, your pain often disappears. In some cases, however, the pain may be constant or so intense that it feels like something is seriously wrong.
Gas can sometimes be mistaken for:
When to see a doctor
Call your doctor if your gas is accompanied by:
In addition, talk to your doctor if your gas or gas pains are so persistent or severe that they interfere with your ability to live a normal life. In most cases, treatment can help reduce or alleviate the problem.
Gas forms when bacteria in your colon ferment carbohydrates that aren't digested in your small intestine. Unfortunately, healthy, high-fiber foods are often the worst offenders. Fiber has many health benefits, including keeping your digestive tract in good working order and regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels. But fiber can also lead to the formation of gas.
High-fiber foods that commonly cause gas and gas pains include:
Fiber supplements containing psyllium, such as Metamucil, may cause such problems, especially if added to your diet too quickly. Carbonated beverages, such as soda and beer, also are causes of gas.
Other causes of excess gas include:
You're more likely to have problems with gas if you:
Preparing for your appointment
Because appointments can be brief, it's a good idea to come prepared.
What you can do
For gas and gas pains, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor will likely determine what's causing your gas and gas pains based on your medical history, a review of your dietary habits and a physical exam. During the exam, your doctor may check to see if your abdomen is distended and listen for a hollow sound when your abdomen is tapped. A hollow sound usually indicates the presence of excess gas.
Depending on your other symptoms, your doctor may recommend further tests in order to rule out conditions that are more serious, such as partial bowel obstruction.
Treatments and drugs
If your gas pains are caused by another health problem, treating the underlying condition may offer relief. Otherwise, bothersome gas is generally treated with dietary measures, lifestyle modifications or over-the-counter medications. Although the solution isn't the same for everyone, with a little trial and error, most people are able to find some relief.
Lifestyle and home remedies
The following modifications to your lifestyle may help reduce or relieve excess gas and gas pain:
Last Updated: 2011-04-30
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