Gas is present throughout the gastrointestinal tract – from the mouth till the rectum. Most of the time this gas is air that is swallowed with food and water. At other times the gas is produced when food is being digested or from bacteria that breakdown food/waste in the gut and release gas. A small amount of has is also passed out from the bloodstream and into the gut. Collectively we call this gastrointestinal gas, which is passed out of the mouth as a belch or through the rectum as flatus.
Gas in the Stomach
Like every part of the gut, there is also gas in the stomach. Since the stomach is part of the upper gut, most of the gas in it is swallowed air. To a lesser degree, there is also gas from the digestion which occurs in the stomach. The combination of strong gastric acid and powerful digestive enzymes along with the crushing action of the stomach wall breaks down food both chemically and mechanically.
Gas that is produced during digetion is usually a result of the chemical reaction between food and the combined acid and enzymes. In the event that there are bacteria in the stomach then some gas may also emanate from these microbes. However, most bacteria cannot survive in the stomach because of the acidic environment except for H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) which is a common cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers.
Read more on excessive stomach gas.
What is a gassy stomach?
The term ‘gassy stomach’ is a common way of describing excessive gas in the upper gut. It may not be specifically in the stomach only. This gas may be passed out with belching and therefore in terms of being gassy, there may be excessive belching. Furthermore gassy stomach could also mean all gastrointestinal gas as most people incorrectly refer to the entire abdomen as the stomach. As a result, excessive flatulence may therefore be attributed to a gassy stomach.
Apart from belching and flatulence, other symptoms may also be associated with excessive gas. Abdominal bloating is one of the common symptoms believed to be caused by gas. However, this is unlikely to be the case as the gas within the gut is usually insufficient to expand the entire abdomen. Indigestion which includes symptoms like nausea and a bloated sensation are also often associated with excessive gas in the upper gut.
Read more on excessive belching.
Causes of Gassy Stomach
These are a host of different causes of a gassy stomach. It may be a symptoms of various diseases but can also occur with certain dietary and lifestyle factors.
Foods and Beverages
Certain foods and beverages can increase gas in the stomach. Carbonated beverages such as fizzy drinks and beer contain gas (carbon dioxide) that will increase gas in the stomach when consumed. Effervescent drinks, fermented beverages and some alkalizing agents may also produce excessive gas when consumed.
Among foods, there are certain substances in some foods that may produce larger amounts of gas when it is broken down in the stomach. These gassy foods contribute to excessive belching and/or excessive flatulence. These gassy foods may include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Wheat ban
- Whole grains
Some people may experience excessive gas when consuming even a small amount of these foods while others may be able to tolerate larger amounts. Apart from these individual foods listed above, many high fiber or high sulfur foods tend to cause excessive gas.
Excessive Swallowing of Air
It is normal to swallow air on a daily basis. With the throat being the common conduit for both the gut and airways, it is inadvertent that some air will enter the gut. This mainly occurs when swallowing food or fluids. It also occurs when talking to some degree. However, this air swallwing is moderate in most cases and is passed out with belching and flatus during the course of the day.
However, in some instances this air swallowing may be excessive. It is more likely to be excessive under these certain circumstances:
- Eating or drinking very fast.
- Talking fast, loudly or for long periods of time.
- Mouth breathing, usually from nasal congestion.
- Gum chewing or cigarette smoking.
- Hyperventilating frequently as may occur with anxity.
- Snoring on a regular basis.
Diseases That Cause A Gassy Stomach
There are several reasons why a gassy stomach may occur in these conditions. It is important to note that most of these diseases require medical treatment or even surgical intervention. The diseases that may be responsible for a gassy stomach includes:
- Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease / GERD)
- Food intolerance like lactose intolerance or malabsorption such as fructose malabsorption
- Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) infection
- Hiatal hernia
- Obstruction anywhere in the upper gastrointestinal tract
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Peptic ulcer disease (stomach or duodenal ulcers)
How To Treat and Prevent Stomach Gas
Diseases require medical or surgical treatment by a health care professional. However, there are various dietary and lifestyle factors that can help to treat and even prevent the excessive build up of gas in the upper gut, including the stomach.
- Eat food slowly and avoid talking during meals. These two actions are common contributors to excessive air swallowing.
- Limit the intake of carbonated beverages. Rather opt for non-carbonated drinks as far as possible. If consuming carbonated drinks, then consume it slowly.
- Avoid gassy foods in large quantities. It is important to identify specific foods that are worse for gassiness as this may vary among individuals.
- Chew gum without opening the mouth widely and be careful of mouth breathing during gum chewing. It is a common practice when large amounts of gum is chewed.
- Seek medical advice for snoring. An ergonomic pillow may be helpful to limit snoring but there could be other contributing factors to snoring like nasal congestion and obesity.
- Treat nasal congestion appropriately. It is one of the leading factors in mouth breathing and also causes excessive air swallowing when eating or drinking.
- Do not use excessive amounts of effervescents or alkalizing agents, including antacids. Speak to a doctor about the other treatments for symptoms like heartburn or burning urination.