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Topic Overview

Gas
(flatus), burping, and bloating are all normal conditions. Gas is made in the
stomach and intestines as your body breaks down food into energy. Gas and
burping may sometimes be embarrassing. Bloating, which is a feeling of fullness
in the abdomen, can make you uncomfortable. Although many people think that
they pass gas too often or have too much gas, it is rare to have too much gas.
Changing what you eat and drink can sometimes cut down on gas and relieve
discomfort caused by gas.

Belching or burping (eructation) is the
voluntary or involuntary, sometimes noisy release of air from the
stomach or
esophagus through the mouth. Burping 3 or 4 times
after eating a meal is normal and is usually caused by swallowing air. Other
causes of burping include nervous habits or other
medical conditions, such as an
ulcer or a
gallbladder problem. In some cultures, a person may
belch loudly after eating to show appreciation for the meal.

All
people pass gas, but some people produce more gas than others. It is normal to
pass gas from 6 to 20 times a day. Although this may embarrass or annoy you,
excess intestinal gas usually is not caused by a serious health condition.

Common causes of gas and bloating include:

  • Swallowed air. If swallowed air is not
    burped up, it passes through the digestive tract and is released through the
    anus as flatus. Excessive air swallowing may cause
    hiccups.
  • Foods and beverages.
    The amount of gas that different foods cause varies from person to
    person.
  • Lactose intolerance. A person who cannot easily digest lactose, a type of natural sugar found in milk and dairy products can have both gas and bloating as well as other symptoms.
  • Constipation. This can cause bloating but generally does
    not increase gas. For more information, see the topic
    Constipation, Age 11 and Younger or
    Constipation, Age 12 and Older.
  • Medicines or nutritional supplements. Both prescription and nonprescription
    medicines, as well as dietary supplements, can cause bloating and gas as side
    effects.
  • A
    medical condition, such as a
    bowel obstruction or
    Crohn’s disease.
  • Changes in hormone
    levels. It is common for women to have bloating right before their periods,
    because their bodies retain fluid.

Dyspepsia is a medical term that is used to describe a vague
feeling of fullness, gnawing, or burning in the chest or upper abdomen,
especially after eating. A person may describe this feeling as “gas.” Other
symptoms may occur at the same time, such as belching, rumbling noises in the
abdomen, increased flatus, poor appetite, and a change in bowel habits.
Causes of dyspepsia can vary from minor to serious.

Occasionally, a person may dismiss serious symptoms, such as
symptoms of a heart attack, as “just gas or
indigestion.”

Check your symptoms
to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

Do you have a problem with gas, bloating, or burping?
You may think of these symptoms as indigestion.
Yes
Gas, bloating, or burping problem
No
Gas, bloating, or burping problem
How old are you?
Less than 12 years
Less than 12 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female
Do you have moderate or severe belly pain?
This is not the cramping type of pain you have with diarrhea.
Yes
Abdominal pain
No
Abdominal pain
Could you be having symptoms of a heart attack?
If you’re having a heart attack, there are several areas where you may feel pain or other symptoms.
Yes
Symptoms of heart attack
No
Symptoms of heart attack
Are you having trouble swallowing?
Yes
Trouble swallowing
No
Trouble swallowing
Can you swallow food or fluids at all?
Yes
Able to swallow food or fluids
No
Unable to swallow food or fluids
Do you have hiccups?
Yes
Hiccups
No
Hiccups
Have you had hiccups for more than 2 days?
Yes
Hiccups for more than 2 days
No
Hiccups for more than 2 days
Do hiccups occur often and disrupt your usual activities?
Yes
Hiccups occur often and disrupt activity
No
Hiccups occur often and disrupt activity
Do you think that a medicine could be causing the symptoms?
Think about whether the symptoms started after you began taking a new medicine or a higher dose of a medicine.
Yes
Medicine may be causing symptoms
No
Medicine may be causing symptoms
Have you tried home treatment for more than 1 week?
Yes
Tried home treatment for more than 1 week
No
Tried home treatment for more than 1 week
In the past few weeks, have you been losing weight without trying?
Yes
Has been losing weight without trying
No
Has been losing weight without trying
Have you felt less hungry than usual for more than 2 weeks?
Yes
Poor appetite for more than 2 weeks
No
Poor appetite for more than 2 weeks

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older
    adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart
    disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care
    sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain
    medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them
    worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery
    or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them
    more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug
    use, sexual history, and travel.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the
    symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any
    concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect).
    You may need care sooner.

Many nonprescription and prescription medicines and
supplements can cause gas and bloating. A few examples are:

  • Aspirin.
  • Antacids.
  • Diarrhea
    medicines, such as Imodium, Kaopectate, and Lomotil.
  • Opioid pain
    medicines.
  • Fiber supplements and bulking agents, such as Citrucel,
    Fiberall, and Metamucil.
  • Multivitamins and iron pills.

Symptoms of a heart attack may
include:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of
    breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a
    strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both
    shoulders or arms.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden
    weakness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

The more of these symptoms you have, the more likely it is that
you’re having a heart attack. Chest pain or pressure is the most common
symptom, but some people, especially women, may not notice it as much as other
symptoms. You may not have chest pain at all but instead have shortness of breath, nausea, or a strange feeling in your chest or other areas.

Home treatment for gas and bloating
includes things like:

  • Avoiding foods and drinks that make symptoms worse.
    (Some examples are chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, and, in some cases,
    spicy foods or acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus
    fruits.)
  • Taking antacids.
  • Not smoking.
  • Not
    eating right before bedtime.

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
care.

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the
    next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you
    are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have
    any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need
emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

After you call
911 , the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2
to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin
. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and
    arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don’t have
    one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an
    ambulance unless:

    • You cannot travel safely either by driving
      yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area
      where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms
    and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don’t
    have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and
    seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care
    sooner.
Abdominal Pain, Age 11 and Younger
Abdominal Pain, Age 12 and Older

Home Treatment

Gas, bloating, and burping

Gas, bloating, and
burping are usually harmless and go away without any treatment. If gas,
bloating, or burping is making you uncomfortable, take the following steps to
help manage your symptoms:

  • Increase the amount of fluid you drink,
    especially water. Avoid carbonated drinks and alcoholic
    beverages.
  • Take a medicine that you can buy without a
    prescription. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.

    • Activated charcoal tablets, such as
      CharcoCaps, may decrease odor from gas. Charcoal is usually taken after meals
      or at the first sign of gas discomfort.
    • Antacids, such as Maalox Anti-Gas and Mylanta Gas, allow gas to be belched away more easily.
      But these medicines often have no effect on gas that is already in the
      intestines. Be careful when you take over-the-counter antacid medicines. Many of these medicines have aspirin in them. Read the label to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much aspirin can be harmful.
    • Food enzymes, such as Beano, which help break down the
      sugars found in vegetables and grains, can be added to foods that cause you to
      have gas.

Hiccups

Hiccups are
usually harmless and go away without any treatment. But if hiccups are making
you uncomfortable, the following safe and easy home remedies may help you
manage your symptoms.

  • Swallow a teaspoon of dry granulated sugar. Do
    not use this remedy if you have been diagnosed with
    diabetes.
  • Hold your breath, and count
    slowly to 10.
  • Breathe repeatedly into a paper bag for a limited
    period of time.
  • Quickly drink a glass of cold water.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
treatment:

  • Hiccups don’t go away as expected or they return frequently.
  • Swallowing problems are not
    improving.
  • You continue to lose weight for no
    reason.
  • Symptoms
    become more severe or frequent.

Prevention

You may be able to prevent
gas, bloating, burping, and hiccups.

  • Avoid
    foods that cause gas, such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and bran. The amount
    of gas that different foods cause varies from person to
    person.
  • Take steps to avoid swallowing air:
    • Eat slowly. Avoid gulping food or
      beverages. When you rush through meals or eat on the run, you are more likely
      to swallow air.
    • Chew your food thoroughly before you
      swallow.
    • Avoid talking while you chew.
    • Avoid drinking through a straw.
    • Avoid chewing
      gum or eating hard candy.
    • Do not smoke or use other tobacco
      products.
    • Do not drink
      alcohol.
    • Avoid sudden changes in stomach
      temperature, such as drinking a hot beverage and then a cold
      beverage.
    • If you wear dentures, check with a dentist to make sure
      they fit properly.
    • Keep calm. Tension and anxiety can cause you to
      swallow air.
  • Keep a food diary if you suspect that gas is
    caused by certain foods. Write down what you eat or drink and when symptoms
    occur to help you identify foods or drinks that may cause gas. After these
    problem foods are identified, avoid or limit them to reduce or prevent
    symptoms.

    • Talk with your doctor or a
      dietitian about ways to maintain a balanced diet if you want to permanently
      eliminate certain foods or drinks. For more information, see the topic
      Healthy Eating.
    • If you suspect that milk or
      other dairy products are causing your symptoms, try limiting or eliminating
      these foods. For more information, see the topic
      Lactose Intolerance.
    • If you cook with dry
      beans, soak them in water overnight, then pour off the water and cook the
      soaked beans in fresh water. This may reduce the amount of natural sugars in
      the beans after the cooling process and help prevent gas and bloating.
  • Do not overeat. Large meals can make you feel
    bloated. Try eating 6 small meals a day rather than 3 large
    ones.
  • Avoid constipation, which is a common cause of bloating. For
    more information, see the topic
    Constipation, Age 12 and Older or
    Constipation, Age 11 and Younger.
  • Avoid
    laxatives.
  • Use an antigas product that you can buy without a
    prescription.

    • Food enzymes, such as Beano, which help
      break down the sugars found in vegetables and grains, can be added to foods
      that cause you to have gas.
    • If you have
      lactose intolerance, lactase enzyme supplements, such
      as Dairy Ease and Lactaid, can be taken with dairy products to help break down
      lactose in food.
    • Peppermint and other herbs (carminatives) that soothe the digestive tract may
      permit belching and decrease bloating after large meals.
  • Exercise regularly.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to
answer the following questions:

  • What is your main symptom? How long have you had
    this symptom?
  • How long do symptoms last when they
    occur?
  • What do you think is causing your symptoms?
  • Have
    you tried any home treatment? If so, what measures have you tried? Have they
    helped?
  • Have you been treated for this problem in the past? What
    was the treatment? Did it help?
  • Do you think your symptoms are
    caused by what or how you eat?

    • Do symptoms seem to begin after you have
      certain foods or drinks? If so, which ones?
    • Do you chew gum, eat
      rapidly, drink carbonated beverages, or drink through a straw?
  • Do you wear dentures? Do they fit
    properly?
  • Do you smoke or use other tobacco
    products?
  • Do you drink alcohol? If so, how much?
  • Do any
    other symptoms occur along with burping, gas, or bloating, such as a change in
    your bowel habits, heartburn, vomiting, or abdominal pain?
  • Have you
    had any recent illness or changes in your health?
  • Have you lost or
    gained more than a few pounds in the past month?
  • Did you drink lake
    or stream water or untreated well water?
  • Have you recently visited
    a foreign country or taken a ship cruise?
  • Does anyone in your
    family have
    celiac disease,
    inflammatory bowel disease, or
    intolerance to lactose or other food
    products?
  • Do you have any
    health risks?

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine

Current as ofMarch 20, 2017