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:
- Lactase 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 such as Crohn's, End-Stage Renal Disease, and diabetes
- 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:
- Blood in your stool
- Nausea and vomiting that persist over several days
- Yellowish skin
- Abdominal swelling
- Severe tenderness when your abdomen is touched
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.