Intestinal gas can be due to many factors and is often related to indigestion or changes in diet. There are various symptoms of intestinal gas--most can be considered normal for the condition but some can be peculiar and seemingly unrelated. If severe symptoms of intestinal gas exist it is always best to consult a doctor to determine the cause and avoid any complications or long-term effects of any underlying conditions.
Flatulence, or "passing gas," is the normal result of intestinal gas. The body has no significant way of absorbing gas in the intestines and any gas located in the bowels, either swallowed or formed internally, is expelled through flatulence or burping.
Intestinal gas is formed when the GI flora cause build up of byproducts such as CO2 or methane. This build-up of gas often causes the abdomen to feel full, distended or bloated as a direct result of the gas build-up.
When gas moves through the intestines it often makes noises or gurgling. Sometimes this is also called "growling" of the stomach but more often it is lower in the abdomen.
When large amounts of gas are formed or when gas is present in the small intestines or other abnormal locations, there can be pain or cramping sensations in the abdomen. Sometimes these sensations are severe but normally there is only slight discomfort. If there is severe pain or cramping there are likely to be conditions other than simple intestinal gas and a medical consultation should be sought.
Nausea and Vomiting
Normal intestinal gas doesn't cause nausea but sometimes people with sensitive stomachs or other conditions experience a sense of nausea with gas. Unless the nausea is very mild or other medical conditions have been ruled out, it is a good idea to have symptoms of nausea and vomiting worked up by a medical professional.
Diarrhea or Explosive Flatulence
When large amounts of intestinal gas build up over a very short time there can be severe evacuation of the GI tract, including diarrhea or "explosive flatulence" where stool is expelled with the gas. This indicates an infection or some other acute abdominal illness and is a good time to consult a physician.
- "Basic Pathology"; Kumar, Contran and Robins; Sixth Edition 1997
- "Cope's Early Diagnosis of the Acute Abdomen"; Silen, 2000