Belching, gas, and bloating can cause both physical and social discomfort, but is a natural part of being human. Belching is typically caused by taking in too much air. For example, drinking carbonated beverages or smoking forces extra air to enter your body. Bloating is a feeling of belly fullness, which may or may not cause your stomach to distend. Gas, or flatulence, is the release of excess gas through your colon. Gas is caused mainly by sulfides produced by bacterial metabolism.
While these bodily functions can be a nuisance, they likely do not point to serious health concerns. “Most cases of abdominal bloating are benign and are not life-threatening. In most instances, they can be managed with simple dietary changes,” says Frederick J. Hardin, M.D. with Baptist Health Eastpoint Gastroenterology. Similarly, lifestyle changes and diet can also have a positive impact on the occurrence of belching and gas. However, there may be other signs to look for in combination with belching, gas, or bloating that could be a reason for concern. “If you have alarming symptoms such as weight loss, vomiting, anemia, rectal bleeding, and/or severe abdominal pain you will need to rule out more serious conditions,” advises Dr. Hardin.
Solution 1: Diet and Lifestyle
A first step to improve belching, gas, and bloating is a change in diet. Avoid foods that are known to cause gastrointestinal distress. These include dairy, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, carbonated beverages including beer, and artificial sweeteners.
Dr. Hardin also suggests exploring a low FODMAP diet which reduces the consumption of foods with sugars known to cause intestinal distress. Lifestyle changes, such as eliminating carbonated beverages and quitting smoking, can also have a positive impact.
Solution 2: Medicines and Testing
There are over-the-counter medicines that can provide relief, such as Pepto Bismol and Gas-X. “Probiotics, such as Align, may be of benefit, but data is scant,” advises Dr. Hardin. Your doctor may also advise further testing. “Testing could include serologic or blood testing for celiac disease (gluten allergy), hydrogen breath testing for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth that may require antibiotics, and breath testing for lactose intolerance,” says Dr. Hardin.
By Tami Pyles