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The Digestive System and Gas

How Are Gas-Related Illnesses Diagnosed? continued...

If bloating is a problem, your health care provider may examine your abdomen for the sound of fluid movement to rule out ascites (buildup of fluid in the abdomen) and for signs of inflammation to rule out certain diseases of the colon.

The possibility of colon cancer is usually considered in people 50 and older and in those with a family history of colorectal cancer, particularly if they have never had a colon examination (sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy). These tests may also be appropriate for someone with symptoms including unexplained weight loss, diarrhea, or blood in the stool.

For those with chronic belching, your doctor will look for signs or causes of excessive air swallowing. If needed, an upper GI series (X-ray to view the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine) may be performed to rule out disease.

What Are the Treatments for Gas?

Gas problems are treated by changing your diet and by training yourself to swallow less air. There are also prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can help reduce gas.

Changing your diet will mean eliminating the foods that cause gas. Unfortunately, this may also result in the elimination of nutritious foods. Ask your health care provider or a dietician to help you construct a diet that is healthy but doesn't cause excessive gas. 

Over-the-counter medications can also relieve gas symptoms, including:

  • Antacids -- especially those that contain simethicone
  • Probiotics -- used to help kill bad bacteria and add good bacteria to the digestive tract
  • Lactase products such as Lactaid and Dairy Ease -- may help people with lactose intolerance
  • Beano -- contains the enzyme that helps digest sugars in beans and many other vegetables

Some people have a digestive disorder in which the normal movement of the gastrointestinal tract is limited (motility disorder), such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Your doctor may prescribe certain drugs to help move food through your digestive system. Drugs that improve the motility of the digestive tract, such as Reglan, may move gas through the digestive tract more quickly.

What Can I Do to Swallow Less Air and Reduce Gas?

In order to reduce the amount of air that you swallow and reduce gas, you can try the following methods:

  • Don't chew gum or eat hard candy.
  • Slow down when you are eating.
  • If you wear dentures, check to be sure they fit properly.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on July 06, 2012

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