The presence of intestinal gas, which is a buildup of air in the digestive tract, is usually not recognized until you burp or pass it rectally (flatulence). As a natural outcome of swallowing and digestion, intestinal gas can be found throughout the digestive tract, from the stomach to the rectum.
In fact, some foods, like beans, aren’t entirely digested until they reach the large intestine (colon) when microorganisms operate on them.
Everyone releases gas numerous times a day, and burping or belching on occasion is typical. Excessive intestinal gas, on the other hand, can suggest a digestive problem.
Causes of Excess Intestinal Gas
Swallowing more air than usual, overeating, smoking, or chewing gum can all cause excessive upper intestinal gas. Excess lower intestinal gas can be caused by eating too much of certain foods, not being able to fully digest certain foods or disruption in colon bacteria.
Common gas-producing foods and substances include:
- Beans and lentils
- Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts
- Dairy products containing lactose
- Fructose, which is found in some fruits and used as a sweetener in soft drinks and other products
- Sorbitol, a sugar substitute found in some sugar-free candies, gums, and artificial sweeteners
- Carbonated beverages, such as soda or beer
Conditions that can cause excess intestinal gas include:
- Eating disorders
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Lactose intolerance
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Dumping syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Ulcerative colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Functional dyspepsia
- Gastroparesis (a condition in which the muscles of the stomach wall don’t function properly, interfering with digestion)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Crohn’s disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease)
- Intestinal obstruction
- Peptic ulcer
When To See The Doctor
Intestinal gas rarely suggests a serious problem on its own. It can be inconvenient and embarrassing, but it’s usually just an indication that your digestive system is working properly. If you’re having trouble with gas in your intestines, try adjusting your diet.
If your gas is chronic or severe, or if it’s accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, accidental weight loss, blood in the stool, or heartburn, consult your doctor.