Waking Up Gassy? Here's What Your Body's Trying to Tell You

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Waking up bloated or gassy could be due to something you ate the night before, or it might be a sign of a more serious issue.
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After a night of shut-eye, it's not uncommon to wake up with a big gust of morning wind. After all, your body's ready to release all the stored gas it built up overnight.

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But if you always start the day playing the butt trumpet, you might be wondering, ​Why am I so gassy in the morning?​ While flatulence is a fact of life, frequent or excessive farts in the a.m. could be a sign that something's going on in your gut.

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Here, Rajiv Sharma, MD, an Indiana-based integrative gastroenterologist and author of Pursuit of Gut Happiness,​ shares the seven most common causes of gas in the morning, plus what you can do to stop cutting the cheese at sunrise.

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Warning

If you experience frequent vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, unintended weight loss or sharp (or worsening) belly pain, or your stool floats, has a foul odor, is tough to flush or contains blood, see your doctor immediately as these can all be symptoms of a serious medical condition, Dr. Sharma says.

1. You Ate Gassy Foods the Night Before

That big bowl of salad you ate for dinner last night could be bringing on your morning bloat and gas.

Gas-inducing foods such as beans, legumes, cauliflower and cabbage contain a lot of fiber and FODMAPs (short-chain carbohydrates found naturally in many foods), which get fermented by gut microbes to make CO2, methane and other gases that give you digestive discomfort, Dr. Sharma says.

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Spicy foods can make you fart too. Too much spiciness triggers gut motility, making you pass more gas, Dr. Sharma says.

Fix it:​ To prevent painful morning gas, limit gas-inducing foods and drink lots of water, Dr. Sharma says. Taking probiotics (which promote healthy gut flora) is also helpful, he adds.

When your morning belly bloat is in full swing, you can turn to over-the-counter medications like simethicone — found in products like Gas-X ($4.29, Target.com) — to decrease the discomfort caused by excessive gas, Dr. Sharma says. And check out six other natural remedies for gas.

2. You Have Aerophagia

Your a.m. gassiness could be a byproduct of aerophagia, a condition that occurs when a person unconsciously swallows too much air, which enters the GI system and causes symptoms like farting, bloating and belching, Dr. Sharma says.

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While a little air in your GI tract doesn't seem like a big deal, it can deliver a lot of discomfort. Think of it this way: You have air trapped in a 20-foot tunnel. "Air travels fast, like a hurricane in the gut and butt," and it wants to get out, Dr. Sharma says.

Fix it:​ You can help avoid aerophagia by not talking while eating or drinking, Dr. Sharma says. In addition, practicing yoga and relaxation and being cognizant of your airflow (air should go down the nose and windpipe, not the esophagus or food pipe) can be helpful as well, he says.

3. You Don’t Drink Enough Water

When you're not getting enough water, gassiness and constipation can occur.

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That's because without sufficient H2O, your poop will become dry (hello, constipation), and your gut transit time will be delayed, Dr. Sharma says. In the meantime, fermentation of foods will cause hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide to build up in the gut, he says. Essentially, your belly fills like a balloon.

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Fix it:​ Aim to drink 64 ounces (that's 8 cups) of water a day, Dr. Sharma suggests. This will help keep things flowing smoothly and prevent your backside from getting backed up with poop and gas.

4. You’re Getting Your Period

Your monthly menses may be the reason why you have so much gas in the morning.

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Indeed, the hormonal changes that happen during your period can affect your gut. For example, some hormones slow down gut motility, leading to stagnated poop and secretions, Dr. Sharma says. And this causes a chain reaction of increased fermentation and gas production, he adds.

Fix it: ​Luckily, menstruation — and the associated gassiness — is only temporary. Your gut should go back to normal as your cycle progresses.

5. You Have a Gut Infection

Frequent farting can also be a sign of an intestinal infection caused by bacteria or parasites, Dr. Sharma says.

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One such infection happens when H. pylori bacteria infect your stomach. Transmitted through direct contact with saliva, vomit or feces (or through contaminated food or water), H. pylori infections are quite common, affecting up to half of the global population, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In addition to gassiness and bloating, a person infected with H. pylori bacteria may also experience the following symptoms, per the Mayo Clinic.

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  • An ache or burning pain in your abdomen
  • Abdominal pain that's worse when your stomach is empty
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent burping
  • Unintentional weight loss

Giardiasis is another type of intestinal infection that produces gassiness as well as stomach cramps, bloating, nausea and watery diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic. Caused by a microscopic parasite found in pools, lakes or streams, a giardia infection is among the most common sources of waterborne illness in the United States (and can also be contracted through food and person-to-person contact).

Fix it:​ If you suspect you’re dealing with an intestinal infection, see your doctor, who can treat you with an antibiotic or antiparasitic.

The Mayo Clinic also recommends following a few simple steps to reduce your risk of developing a giardia infection, including:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Use water purifiers or drink bottled water.
  • Wash produce with safe, uncontaminated water.
  • Keep your mouth closed when swimming in pools, lakes or streams.
  • Practice safe sex.

6. You’re Taking Certain Medications

Certain medicines can meddle with your stomach and make you extra gassy in the morning.

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Normally, gas trapped in the gastro system will cause pain and dilation of the gut, which then triggers the brain to relax your anal sphincters, so you can pass wind, Dr. Sharma explains. But some medications — like those used to treat depression or stroke, for example — can interfere with your body's ability to do this, which results in more retention of gas and stool, he says.

Fix it:​ Speak with your doctor, who may be able to adjust your dosage or prescribe you another drug. Minimizing your intake of gas-inducing foods can be helpful as well, Dr. Sharma says.

7. You Have Another Underlying Medical Condition

Sometimes frequent morning gas can be a symptom of a more serious underlying medical problem. For instance, a cancerous mass in the gut can create an obstruction of stool and gas, Dr. Sharma says. Additionally, when cancer cells die, they ferment, producing gas, which builds up in your gut, he says.

Another chronic health condition that generates excessive gas and bloating is Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease that's characterized by inflammation in the digestive tract. Crohn's disease causes bleeding and malabsorption of food along with a blockage of flow of gas and liquids, Dr. Sharma says.

Per the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of Crohn's disease include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Mouth sores
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Pain or drainage near or around the anus

Fix it:​ If you have persistent, excessive gas along with abdominal pain or bloody stool, or if you have any of the above signs, see a gastroenterologist, who will be able to assess you and make a proper diagnosis.

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references

Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.