Priyanka Chugh, MD, is a board-certified gastroenterologist in practice with Trinity Health of New England in Waterbury, Connecticut.
Passing gas is as normal and necessary as breathing. In fact, according to an oft-cited study from 1991, the average adult passes gas eight times during the course of a day. Yet even though everyone does it, passing gas can be a source of embarrassment, sometimes even discomfort.
Many over-the-counter medications can be used to reduce gas. In some cases, they’re not meant for long-term use, though. Fortunately, there’s another approach: Just a little physical activity can help move gas and ease any discomfort you have with it.
This article looks at ways you can use your own body to help relieve gas, and when medical help may be needed instead. It also offers some ideas on how to reduce gas in the first place.
Get on Your Feet
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Taking a walk can sometimes be all that's needed to relieve gas and bloating in the short term. According to a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, light physical activity can help move intestinal gas and reduce bloating in the abdomen.
At least 30 minutes of exercise, three or four days a week, should be plenty to help keep the bloating and burps at bay.
Lie on Your Side
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This simple move may work especially well for releasing gas trapped in the lower intestine. Follow these steps to see if they bring relief:
- On a bed, sofa, or the floor, lie on your side.
- Gently draw both knees toward your chest.
- If you don't get relief after several minutes, try slowly moving your legs down and up a few times.
- Try using your hands to pull your knees closer to your chest, if you can do this comfortably or without causing more pain.
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Squats are good for more than building strong thighs and gluteal (butt) muscles. Here's how to lower yourself into this position to help relieve gas:
- Start with your feet hip-width apart and facing forward.
- Put your hands on your hips or hold on to the back of a sturdy chair. Then, slowly bend your knees until your rear end is close to the floor.
- Place your hands on the tops of your thighs (or continue to hold onto the chair). Stay in this position until you feel the gas start to move.
This position may cause the need to have a bowel movement so make sure you can easily get to a bathroom if necessary.
When to See a Doctor
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Intestinal gas is rarely a sign of a medical problem. Again, it's a normal by-product of digestion. But there are a handful of conditions that are associated with an increase in gas.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) advises seeing a doctor about gas if there are other symptoms along with it. These may include:
- Weight loss
Otherwise, try changing your diet to exclude foods known to cause gas. They include milk, beans, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, and wheat bran.
There are other changes you can make too. Avoiding smoking will help, as will limiting the use of chewing gum and drinking straws. They both cause you to swallow air, which can lead to more gas.
There are ways to relieve gas by changing your body position. Being physically active can help keep gas moving. Lying on your side or squatting can also help it pass.
Changing your diet also may help. In most cases, gas is not a serious issue, but you may wish to see a healthcare provider if excess gas persists.
All bodies produce gas as part of their normal, day-to-day functioning. As we eat, we swallow some air. Plus our digestive tracts produce additional gas as bacteria in the colon breaks down certain foods.
As long as gas moves through the body, intestinal gas is not generally painful. However, when a bubble of gas gets trapped inside, the pain can range from mild to intense. Stomach pain and gas can result from a number of different things. Some of the most common causes of stomach pain and gas include:
Gas pain is often described as generalized or as cramp-like. More localized pain or pain that comes in waves may indicate a different cause.
In addition, some women experience more gas during certain times of their cycle. Hormones may affect both digestion and a person’s sensitivity to gas.
Remedies and Treatments for Stomach Pain and Gas
Most stomach pain and gas will go away on its own, but there are steps you can take to ease discomfort and prevent future gas pain. Gas-related stomach pain remedies include:
The only way to get rid of gas is to pass it. Don’t hold it in. If you’re worried about odor, try reducing foods that contain sulfur-producing compounds such as broccoli, cabbage, and beer.
Many gas-relieving products are marketed, but scientific evidence of their effectiveness is limited. Many people claim to experience relief, so they may be worth trying. The most common medications that claim to relieve immediate symptoms are activated charcoal and simethicone (Gas X, Gas Relief).
Peppermint and peppermint oil have the best record as digestive aids, but there are many other foods that may help. In one study, Chinese herbal formulae outperformed placebos in soothing IBS symptoms. Commonly included ingredients are:
Working out can help prevent constipation and gas pain. Even just getting up and walking about can help. The body retains more gas when supine (lying face upwards).
A gentle self-massage can help ease pressure and cramping associated with gas and may even help relieve constipation. Rub your fingers in a small circular motion, moving clockwise and traveling up the right side of your stomach and down the left.
The following foods are known to produce gas, so consume them with care:
- High-fiber foods
- Fruits and sweets rich in fructose
- Dairy products, which contain lactose
- Cruciferous vegetables
Habits that can make you swallow more air and lead to more gas include:
- Eating too quickly
- Chewing gum or sucking on candy
- Consuming a lot of carbonation
- Drinking through a straw
- Wearing ill-fitting dentures
Enzymes Before Eating Certain Foods
Taking enzymes before you eat can help you better digest your meal. Most enzymes are only available for those with a medical condition that prevents them from producing their own. However, two widely available enzymes for problematic foods are:
supplements (such as Lactrase or Lactaid) can help those who are lactose intolerant.
- Alpha-galactosidase supplements (such as Beano or Bean Relief) can help people digest legumes.
When to See a Doctor
While most cases of stomach pain and gas can be treated at home, you should talk to your doctor if you are worried. You should also consult your doctor if:
- Your pain lasts more than a couple days
- Stomach gas and pain remain well after an immediate cause, such as constipation, is relieved
Potential causes of more enduring gas pain include celiac disease and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). If you suspect you may have celiac disease, pay attention to your gluten intake to discover whether pain changes accordingly.
SIBO is generally seen in people who have:
- Had abdominal surgeries
- Systemic diseases
- Compromised immune systems
- History of narcotic abuse
- Long-term use of acid-suppressive medications
Call your doctor to discuss frequent stomach pain and gas if your medical history includes any of the above issues.
While gas pains do not usually require emergency treatment, there is some danger that more serious conditions could present as gas pain. If you also experience chest pain or pressure, call 911 immediately.
The following symptoms also could indicate an emergent situation. You should visit an urgent care center or emergency room if your stomach pain is accompanied by any of these symptoms:
In addition, severe abdominal pain can also be an indicator that something more is wrong. If your pain is extreme and debilitating, seek treatment immediately.
Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics: “Systematic review: Complementary and alternative medicine in the irritable bowel syndrome.”
Gastroenterology & Hepatology: “Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating: Hope, Hype or Hot Air?”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Gas, flatulence.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Gut reaction: A limited role for digestive enzyme supplements.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “How to relieve gas.”
John Hopkins Medicine: “Gas in the Digestive Tract.”
John Hopkins Medicine: “How to Get Rid of Gas Pain.”
Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility: “Abdominal Bloating: Pathophysiology and Treatment.”
Gas is a normal part of how your digestive system functions. In fact, most people pass gas around 14 times per day. But in some cases, too much gas can build up in your intestines and you may experience bloating or have stomach cramping.
Most of the time, gas will clear up without treatment, but if you’re looking for faster relief there are several methods you can try at home to ease your symptoms. Here are some of the science-backed methods to relieve gas.
How do you get gas?
There are three main ways that gas enters your digestive system:
- Basic digestion: Gas is created when the bacteria that live in your large intestine break down certain foods. Carbohydrates, in particular, take longer to break down and can reach your large intestine without being fully digested. These partially digested foods sit in your large intestine and go through a fermentation process that produces air bubbles, which come out as gas.
- Swallowing air: Gas can also get into your digestive tract when you swallow air while eating and drinking. You may swallow even more air than normal while chewing gum, drinking carbonated drinks like soda, or smoking.
- Food intolerance: You may also have more trouble with gas if you have any type of food intolerance, says Kyle Staller, MD, MPH, Director of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Motility Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “A good example of this is when people have lactose intolerance,” Staller says. “Part of the milk sugar doesn’t get completely absorbed so it is happily used by bacteria to make gas.”
In some cases, gas may pass out of your system with no issue, but if you are struggling with bloating or gas pain, you can try one of the methods below for relief.
1. Take probiotics
Probiotics can help reduce gas and relieve stomach discomfort from excess gas. Though not all probiotics are created equal.
“There are so many different types of probiotics that it can be difficult to identify the right product for the right person,” Staller says. However, research indicates that the strain Bifidobacterium could be useful.
In a small study published in 2020 in Nutrients, researchers tested 63 healthy individuals. For the first three days, the participants consumed a high fiber diet to induce gas. Then for the next 28 days, they added a half cup of probiotic milk product containing Bifidobacterium animalis twice per day with their regular diet. They then ingested the same high fiber diet for three days at the end of the study.
Results showed that after four weeks of the probiotic food, participants had a much less severe reaction to the high fiber diet, feeling less bloated and passing gas fewer times during the day.
Stellar agrees that for people wanting relief from excess gas, probiotics containing Bifidobacterium are likely to be the most effective.
2. Get exercise
Research shows that exercise can help decrease the feeling of being bloated. This is because when your exercise, your intestines are stimulated to move gas more quickly through your digestive system.
Some of the most effective exercises to help relieve gas include:
- Lying on your back and moving your legs in a bicycle motion through the air. .
Certain yoga poses may help you pass gas and relieve your symptoms. More research is needed, but studies show that yoga can help with some irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Two examples of gas relieving poses are:
- Start by kneeling on the floor with your big toes touching behind you and your knees about hip’s width apart.
- Sit back onto your heels and fold forward over your knees, letting your head drop.
- Reach your arms forward to place your hands on the floor
- Start by sitting on the floor with your right leg bent in a cross-legged position.
- Cross your left leg over your right knee and place your foot on the floor so your left knee points upward.
- Gently turn your body toward the left side and hook your right elbow on the outside of your left knee.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- You can find a more comprehensive guide to helpful yoga poses for digestion here.
3. Try peppermint oil
There is evidence that peppermint oil can improve symptoms of IBS, like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and excess gas. This is because peppermint has antispasmodic qualities, meaning that it stops your colon from having involuntary muscle contractions that can contribute to gastrointestinal distress.
A review published in 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that across 9 studies, IBS patients who took peppermint oil saw a significant improvement in their stomach pains, compared with other participants.
You can get peppermint oil in capsules and take one about an hour before eating a meal.
4. Apply heat
There is evidence that using a heating pad can help treat stomach pain caused by gas. Researchers at University College London found that placing a heating pad of 104 degrees Fahrenheit on your stomach can help relieve pain for up to an hour. This is because when your body “switches on” heat receptors, some of your pain receptors are deactivated, which works similar to a numbing agent [if true].
Though this study did not evaluate gas pain specifically, Staller says that, “many of my patients with excess gas and bloating do feel better when placing a heating pad against their abdomen.”
The uncomfortable symptoms of excess gas can often be treated using home remedies. But if you find yourself having bloating or gas pains regularly, you should contact your doctor to discuss making changes to your diet and to make sure there is no serious underlying cause of your symptoms.
Ginger and peppermint may do more than add flavor to your food. These are just some of the natural remedies for gas, and chances are they're already in your kitchen.
Although everyone experiences gas, some people are troubled by it more than others. At times, excessive gas can become uncomfortable or even painful. But some simple changes to your diet can provide gas relief and also aid digestion. In addition to over-the-counter gas relief remedies, some items commonly found in the kitchen may double as natural gas relievers.
Herbs for Gas Relief
A number of herbs with so-called carminative properties may help ease gas and prevent bloating, according to Angela Lemond, RDN, a dietitian and nutritionist based in Texas and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "[A] carminative," she says, "is a substance that aids in the expulsion of gas."
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One of the herbs shown to have carminative effects is ginger, the subject of a review published in April 2015 in the journal European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Studies. It found that ginger helps speed digestion, which is important because if your stomach empties faster, gases can move more quickly into your small intestine to relieve discomfort and bloating.
Additionally, a study published in April 2015 in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that in people with functional dyspepsia, a condition of chronic or recurring pain in your upper abdomen, ginger combined with artichoke extract stimulated gastric emptying.
Other herbs and spices that may provide gas relief include:
A combination of caraway and peppermint oils is the active ingredient in FDgard, a nonprescription formulation designed to help manage functional dyspepsia; some doctors recommend it for gas and bloating.
Lemond notes that you should always get approval from your doctor before taking an herbal supplement. She suggests trying to gain the benefit of carminatives from the food you eat rather than by taking supplements, which she says should be taken with caution. "Some people think of herbal supplements as natural or straight from the earth, so they may be taken at will, but a lot of them have pharmaceutical effects and could interact with medication."
Probiotics for Gas and Bloating
Probiotics may also help aid digestion and reduce excessive gas. Probiotics are live microorganisms, mostly "good" bacteria, similar to the bacteria found in the human gut. They're available as dietary supplements, but Lemond notes that a number of foods also have natural probiotics, including:
And according to a review published in March 2015 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, patients with irritable bowel syndrome have experienced improvement in bloating and flatulence when taking probiotics.
The Link Between Gas, Stress, and Probiotics
Gas can be worsened by stress. "There are nerves up and down the GI tract," Lemond says. "People who have a tendency to be nervous can develop gas, diarrhea, or constipation." When dietary changes aren’t effective, other treatments, such as relaxation therapy, may help.
Life stress can cause spasms in the colon and abdominal discomfort, according to a review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Reviewers noted that progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga, counseling, or changes to daily stressful situations can help reduce stress and have a positive effect on digestive health.
Researchers are devoting more and more time to exploring the direct connections between the gut, brain, and probiotics, what’s called the gut-brain axis. For instance, a report published in April 2015 in the journal Annals of Gastroenterology looked at the way that microbiota, the bacteria in the gut, interact with the central nervous system, by “regulating brain chemistry and influencing neuroendocrine systems associated with stress response, anxiety, and memory function.”
More studies are beginning to explore the role of stress and psychological factors, and their impact on irritable bowel syndrome, according to a review of studies published in January 2015 in the journal Gastroenterology Research and Practices. Reviewers noted that hypnotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mind-body therapy may improve IBS symptoms. They added these therapies could provide a more cost-effective alternative with fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.
Over-the-Counter Gas Remedies That May Help
If gas doesn't move quickly enough through the digestive system, it can cause bloating and discomfort. A few changes to your daily routine and habits can bring relief from gas and bloating. The Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston suggests these behaviors to help decrease bloating:
- Eating slowly, and chewing your food thoroughly
- Eating smaller meals, more frequently
- Sitting up straight after a meal
- Walking after a meal
- Drinking room temperature beverages
Products you can buy at your local pharmacy to reduce gas and bloating generally contain simethicone, activated charcoal, or a food enzyme known as alpha-galactosidase (the active ingredient in Beano) to help break down hard-to-digest foods, like beans and certain vegetables. Although some people find these drugs to be effective, others don't.
Alpha-galactosidase contains the enzyme that the body lacks to digest certain carbohydrates in beans and certain vegetables, but the enzyme has no effect on gas caused by fiber or lactose. But lactase tablets or drops may provide gas relief for those with lactose intolerance. The tablets are taken right before consuming milk or milk products.
"Occasional excessive gas is normal," Lemond says. But when gas continues to be a problem despite dietary adjustments and home or over-the-counter gas remedies, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.
We all have gas. Yet, we’re embarrassed to mention it to health-care providers and friends in social conversation. Ten percent to 20 percent of adults have the digestive complaints of belching or flatulence. Here’s the good news: bloating or gas doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with digestion. But to minimize gas and its embarrassment, the first areas to focus on are diet and eating habits.
The Passing Of Gas
The three most common ways of expelling gas are burping, abdominal bloating, and flatus. Swallowed air, which may stay in the stomach for a period of time, is released by belching. Bloating typically occurs with air that is trapped in the colon or small bowel. Air passed through the bowel is typically passed as flatus. A normal individual emits flatus from 12 to 25 times per day, with more gas in the intestine later in the day than earlier.
Intestinal gas is made up of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane. The composition varies depending on the type of intestinal gas. Gas is caused by various factors, the most common of which are eating behaviors and the bacterial fermentation of certain foods.
The colon is filled with bacteria, yeasts and fungi, which break down the foods not digested by the small intestine, mostly different forms of carbohydrates. These bacteria particularly enjoy undigested carbohydrates, and the fermentation leads to gas production, hydrogen and methane expelled as flatus. Lactose is one of the most common sources of gas-causing carbohydrate, affecting people who are “lactose intolerant,” meaning they do not have the enzyme lactase needed to digest the carbohydrate. Typically, lactose is found in dairy products. Beans are the second most common carbohydrate implicated in gas production. The indigestible carbohydrate in beans that typically causes flatus is raffinose.
Behaviors, Food Choices And Activity
Eating behaviors and other habits such as gum chewing, gulping foods and drinking with eating can cause us to swallow air. Bulky foods such as lettuce, cabbage, and dense breads not chewed into small enough pieces increase swallowed air.
Typically, swallowed air contains oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It tends to not have a foul smell, but it does contribute to the discomfort associated with gas.
People vary widely in how sensitive they are to gas production. Keeping a food record to document incidences of gas in relation to foods eaten can shed light on whether food or behavior may be aggravating the situation.
Behaviors And Food Choices That Can Lead To Gas
- Talking while eating
- Eating when upset
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Using a straw or sports bottle
- Overloading your stomach
- Deep sighing
- Drinking very hot or cold beverages
- Chewing gum or eating hard candy
- Drinking from a water fountain
- Tight-fitting garments
- Long-term use of medications for relief of cold symptoms
- Carbonated beverages
- Spicy, fried or fatty foods
- Broccoli, cabbage, onions
- Apple or prune juice
- Dried fruits
- Anything containing sorbitol, mannitol or maltitol, found in many low-carb or sugar-free foods
Beat The Bloat
Bloating is a sensation that makes the abdomen feel larger than normal. The abdomen doesn’t get physically bigger until its volume increases by one quart, so the bloated feeling may occur, but the abdomen is not distended. Intestinal gas may cause the feeling of bloating.
Here are additional suggestions to decrease bloating:
- Eat slowly, and consume smaller, more frequent meals
- Chew your foods well
- Drink beverages at room temperature
- Have your dentures checked for a good fit
- Increase physical activity during the day
- Sit up straight after eating
- Take a stroll after eating
It is important not to completely omit foods from the diet that may cause gas. As we know, a high-fiber diet is important for bowel regularity and colon health, so it is well worth the patience it may take to slowly build up tolerance to these types of carbohydrates. Start by adding the offending high-fiber food in smaller quantities, such as a half cup or less. Be sure that fluid intake and activity levels are adequate, as they help to move foods through the digestive tract.
Natural And Other Remedies For Gas
Many advertisements tout medications or remedies that reduce gas and bloating. Some have been shown to be of value in clinical studies, others have not yet been proven scientifically but are anecdotally helpful. Before trying anything, you may want to consult with your physician.
Two products on the market can help with food-related gas and bloating. Both products are packaged forms of the enzymes needed to break down the problematic carbohydrates. Lactase, found in products such as Dairy Ease and Lactaid, can be taken with dairy foods to help break down lactose and lessen gas. Beano helps digest the indigestible carbohydrate in beans and other gas-producing vegetables.
Natural remedies for gas include:
- Peppermint tea
- Chamomile tea
Over-the-counter gas remedies include:
- Activated charcoal
- Lactase enzyme (Lactaid or Dairy Ease)
When To Be Concerned
In most situations, occasional gas and abdominal discomfort does not require medical attention. Over- the-counter products, or a self-assessment of habits and changes in eating behaviors can help remedy the situation. However, you should seek medical attention when there is an increase in frequency, location or severity of the symptoms, or if they are accompanied by weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting or heartburn.