Originally posted on 4/10/2018
Updated on 6/9/2022
Belching, bloating, and flatulence: Any of these symptoms can be embarrassing, leading to unwanted noises, abdominal discomfort, and general malaise. Occasionally experiencing these symptoms is normal, but if symptoms become excessive or too frequent, they can negatively impact your life.
Symptoms and Possible Causes
Belching occurs when excess air is swallowed, causing the stomach to become too full. Flatulence may be a result of this swallowed air, or it can be caused by gas produced by bacteria in the colon. Bloating is a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen that may be caused by gas in the stomach or intestines.
Issues that can lead to swallowing excess air:
• Simply eating food
• Chewing gum
• Carbonated beverages
• Experiencing anxiety
• Poorly-fitting dentures
• Postnasal drip
Excess intestinal gas can be caused by:
• Gas-producing foods such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and beans
• Bran and other high-fiber cereals
• Dairy products including milk, some cheeses, and ice cream – especially those dairy products that lack the enzyme lactase, which is necessary to digest milk sugars
• Bacterial overgrowth – normal bacteria in the gut that produce intestinal gas
Carbohydrates that are not digested well in the small intestine travel to the colon where they are metabolized by bacteria into hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases. This causes cramping, bloating, and flatulence. In some people, these gases can accumulate in the right upper section of the colon, leading to pain similar to gallbladder pain. Gas accumulated in the left upper section of the colon can cause chest pain that feels like a cardiac episode.
Conditions That May Cause These Symptoms
• Those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be extremely sensitive to increased intestinal gases.
• Patients with altered anatomy from surgical changes or with poor intestinal motility can be at increased risk of bacterial overgrowth, leading to excess gas.
• If postnasal drip is suspected, your doctor may check for sinus problems.
Diagnosing for Belching, Bloating and Flatulence:
Our Granite Peaks Gastroenterology Specialists will meet with you to discuss your symptoms and determine what tests may be needed. They may recommend an upper endoscopy, depending on the frequency, severity, and location of your symptoms. If celiac disease is suspected, this may be detected during an upper endoscopy. If bacterial overgrowth is a possibility, it may be diagnosed with a breath test.
Some Options to Rule Out Dietary Influences:
• Withdraw dairy products from the diet to rule out lactose intolerance
• Eliminate carbonated beverages from the diet
• Eliminate gas-producing foods such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, beans, and bran from the diet—eliminate these ones by one and keep a diary of symptoms
• Avoid sugar-free gum and hard candies—the sweeteners can cause extra gas while chewing gum and sucking on candy cause one to swallow excess air.
Remember that everyone experiences belching, bloating, and flatulence at one time or another. It’s normal! However, if it is interrupting your life, causing you frequent, recurring discomfort; or causing you to feel generally unwell, it is time to seek professional help.