If you experience gas in the digestive system, it can lead to bloating, discomfort, or distension in the abdomen. It may cause a sensation of fullness, pressure, or cramping and excess gas can also lead to flatulence, which means passing gas through the rectum or burping. While it is a natural part of the digestive process, persistent gas may be a sign of an underlying issue. Dr Kavya Dendukuri, Lead Hepatologist and Gastroenterologist at Kamineni Hospitals, LB Nagar, Hyderabad, explains the causes and how it can be relieved.
Common Causes Of Gas Pain
“Gas in the digestive system primarily results from the breakdown of food during digestion,” says Dr Dendukuri, adding, “When we eat or drink, we swallow air along with it.” Additionally, certain foods produce more gas during digestion than others. Some of the common causes of gas include:
- Eating or drinking quickly, chewing gum, smoking, or consuming carbonated beverages
- Certain foods, like beans and cruciferous vegetables, which contain complex carbohydrates; gut bacteria ferment these undigested carbohydrates, producing gas as a byproduct
- Foods high in fibre along with dairy products in some individuals who are lactose intolerant
- Conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and celiac disease
Research has found that beans contain a compound called raffinose, which is a type of carbohydrate that’s poorly digested by the body. When these are broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, it results in gas and bloating.
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Why Gas Causes Muscle Spasms
According to Dr Dendukuri, when excess gas accumulates in the digestive system, it can cause the stretching of the intestinal walls, leading to distension, meaning swelling and becoming large by pressure from inside.
“This distension triggers the body's pain receptors, resulting in gas-associated pain. Moreover, the presence of gas can irritate the smooth muscle lining of the intestines, leading to muscle spasms. These spasms are the body's attempt to expel the trapped gas and relieve the discomfort,” the doctor explains.
How to Relieve Gas-Associated Pain
There are several effective ways to alleviate gas pain and discomfort. These include:
- Passing gas, meaning allowing gas to naturally pass through flatulence or belching
- Identifying and avoiding gas-producing foods
- Eating slowly and mindfully, and avoiding gulping air while consuming food or beverages
- Over-The-Counter (OTC) antacids that help break down gas bubbles in the digestive tract, as prescribed by the doctor
- Drinking herbal teas, such as peppermint or chamomile
- Indulging in gentle exercises like walking
- Placing a warm compress on the abdomen
- Consuming foods or supplements containing beneficial bacteria (probiotics)
When To Seek Medical Attention
Dr Dendukuri says, “In most cases, gas pain can be managed at home using the techniques mentioned above. However, if gas pain is severe, persistent, accompanied by other concerning symptoms (such as unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel habits, or blood in the stool), or if you suspect an underlying digestive disorder, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation.”