Built-up gas in the belly, also called bloating, can be very uncomfortable. Some people describe it as tightness around the waist, as if the stomach has expanded. Gas in the stomach is usually caused by swallowing too much air, so you might get some relief from burping or belching. Gas farther down can be the result of excessive production of gas by bacteria in your intestines or a problem with digesting milk or other foods. Over-the-counter medications, exercise and a change in your eating habits may help to relieve your symptoms.
Exercise, Motion and Massage
Sometimes simple measures like walking around or massaging your abdomen can be enough to help the built-up gas move through your intestines and out of your body. Adding mild to moderate exercise such as walking, bicycling or strength training can get your digestive system moving and help prevent future episodes. Similarly, some yoga poses can work with your digestive system to keep the gas moving.
Some people find that over-the-counter preparations such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), activated charcoal (CharcoCaps) and simethicone (Phazyme, Gas-X) can relieve gaseous symptoms in the stomach and intestines. If your symptoms seem to be related to gas-producing foods, taking over-the-counter enzymes before eating these foods may help you to digest them more effectively. Alpha-galactosidase (Beano), for example, helps to break down the carbohydrates in beans and other vegetables, while lactase (Lactaid) helps with the digestion of milk products. These products seem to help some people, while others report minimal symptom relief.
Beans and certain vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, turnips and bok choy tend to cause gas because of their high content of difficult-to-digest carbohydrates. However, these foods are healthy, so don't avoid them. One solution may be to eat smaller amounts several times a week rather than a larger amount once a week. When cooking dried beans, the method you use may help reduce the amount of gas produced. One such method, described in "Gastrointestinal Health," involves boiling the beans for 2 minutes, allowing them to sit for 1 hour, then adding them to fresh water to complete the cooking process. Other foods that might cause gas include raisins, corn, fruit, wheat, potatoes, onions and other high-fiber foods.
Other Home Remedies
Little scientific evidence supports claims that herbal remedies relieve gas in the stomach. However, chamomile tea, turmeric, anise, caraway, fennel and coriander are sometimes used to try to reduce gas and other digestive symptoms. Other things to try at home include avoiding carbonated beverages and avoiding the use of a drinking straw, both of which tend to introduce air into the stomach. If you swallow air when you are nervous, reducing anxiety and stress may also be helpful.
When To Seek Medical Attention
See your doctor if your episodes of gas and bloating become more frequent or more intense or if you develop pain that localizes to a particular area of your abdomen. Other signs of possibly serious conditions include diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, heartburn, blood in your bowel movements or unintended weight loss.
Is This an Emergency?
- The Merck Manual Professional Edition: Gas-Related Complaints
- American Gastroenterological Association: Living With Gas in the Digestive Tract
- Brigham & Women's Hospital: Gas: Beat the Bloat
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: Complementary and Alternative Medicines in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An integrative View
- Gastrointestinal Health, 3rd. ed.; Steven R. Peikin
- Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility: Abdominal Bloating: Pathophysiology and Treatment