Have you ever experienced trapped gas? While gas is a normal part of digestion, sometimes it can build up in your digestive tract and cause some pretty painful symptoms. Since gas pains are a common issue for IBS patients, it's important to have tools in your IBS toolbox for how to relieve trapped gas. Check out the information below to find the tips and tricks that work for you.
Where Does Gas Come From?
There are a few ways you can end up with excessive gas in your digestive system. The first is by swallowing air. This can happen when you use a straw, slurp your soup, speak while you're chewing, chew gum, or eat too quickly. These little gulps of air end up in your stomach. If they aren't burped out, they travel through your entire digestive system and come out the other end.
You can also add air to your digestive system when you drink carbonated drinks like sparkling water or pop. While the process of carbonation can be different based on the kind of product you're drinking, the end result is the same. Those bubbles have to go somewhere!
Finally, your body naturally produces gas during the digestion process. This type of fermentation normally happens in the large intestine. Though, there are some gut disorders that may cause it to happen higher in the digestive tract (ex. SIBO).
When broken down food enters the colon (large intestine), your gut flora ingests the molecules to break them down even further. This is an important part of the digestive process because these little bugs poop out fatty acids and vitamins the body can't produce on its own. As part of their digestion process, gut bugs also produce methane or hydrogen gas.
Most people release gas up to 20 times per day (either through belching or passing wind). But, for people with IBS, problems absorbing high FODMAP foods, issues with the way our gut muscles move, or imbalances in our gut bugs can lead to excessive gas.
How to Relieve Gas Pains
If you're suffering excessive gas, you have a few options when it comes to relieving your gas pain. The first option is to try and relax your gut muscles. You can do this using heat (like having a warm drink, a warm shower or bath, or using a hot water bottle), drinking peppermint tea, or deep breathing and meditation.
Another option is to try moving your body. This could look like getting up and moving around, having a stretch, or taking a short walk. Physical movement can help stimulate the muscles in your bowel. These gentle contractions can help encourage the gas to move along your digestive system.
You can also try “wind relieving” yoga poses. These are specific yoga poses that attempt to massage the internal organs and the abdominal wall. This can help move gas into a more comfortable position or *fingers crossed* help you let it go! If you want to give wind relieving yoga poses a try, you can watch this handy video by Yoga with Adriene or look up some variations on Pinterest.
If relaxing your muscles and trying to gently stimulate your bowel haven't helped, try a gas-management medication like Simethicone. Simethicone works by changing the surface tension of the gas bubbles in the digestive system. This helps smaller bubbles join together into a larger bubble, which makes them easier to pass.
Simethicone is the name of the drug itself. You can buy it over the counter under the brand names Alka-Seltzer Anti Gas, Colic Drops, Colicon, Gas Aide, Gas-X, Maalox Anti-Gas, Mylanta Gas, Mylaval, Phazyme, or SonoRx.
Remember, if you have IBS, there is likely an underlying cause for your gas pains. Speak to your doctor before you try any medications, as there may be a more effective way to manage your symptoms long-term.
You should also see your doctor ASAP if you experience gas pains along with bloody stools, changes in the frequency or consistency of your bowel movements, weight loss, or persistent or recurring nausea and/or vomiting.
How to Avoid Gas Pains
The best way to treat gas pains is to prevent them from happening as best you can. This might include consciously trying to eat and drink more slowly and avoiding things like speaking while chewing, chewing gum, or using straws, etc.
You can also ask your dietitian about removing high gas-producing foods like cruciferous veggies from your diet. Making sure you're eating the right amount of the right kinds of fibre. You can also explore testing high FODMAP foods using the Low FODMAP Diet. This will help you pinpoint common IBS dietary triggers that can cause gas as well as other problematic bowel symptoms.
If you're testing foods to manage your symptoms, make sure you keep a food journal. A food journal can help you find patterns even if the trigger and the symptoms are days apart. It can also help give your healthcare team a clear view of your daily symptoms. If you've never kept a food journal before, you can find instructions here.
Finally, if you suffer from IBS-C/M, make sure you're doing your best to have consistent bowel movements. Sometimes gas can become trapped behind stool. Having regular bowel movements can help prevent an unnecessary buildup of normal digestive gasses.
Gas is a normal and healthy part of digestion. But, for people with IBS, motility issues, food intolerances, and imbalances in our gut flora can lead to painful trapped gas. If you have a build up of gas in your digestive system, try relaxing your muscles, moving around, or trying an over the counter medication to manage your symptoms. Remember to let your doctor know if gas pains become a regular issue for you, or if you experience gas pains with other red flag symptoms.
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© 2018 Amy Agur – The FODMAP Formula
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- Drugs.com. (2018). Simethicone Uses, Side Effects & Warnings. [online] Available at: https://www.drugs.com/mtm/simethicone.html
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- Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2018). What You Need to Know About Gas in the Digestive Tract. [online] Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/digestive_disorders/gas_in_the_digestive_tract_85,P00369.
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Gas and gas pains – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gas-and-gas-pains/symptoms-causes/syc-20372709.
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Simethicone (Oral Route). [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/simethicone-oral-route/description/drg-20068838.
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