Gas (flatus), burping, and bloating are all normal conditions. Gas is made in the stomach and intestines as your body breaks down food into energy. Gas and burping may sometimes be embarrassing. Bloating, which is a feeling of fullness in the abdomen, can make you uncomfortable. Although many people think that they pass gas too often or have too much gas, it is rare to have too much gas. Changing what you eat and drink can sometimes cut down on gas and relieve discomfort caused by gas.
Belching or burping (eructation) is the voluntary or involuntary, sometimes noisy release of air from the stomach or esophagus through the mouth. Burping 3 or 4 times after eating a meal is normal and is usually caused by swallowing air. Other causes of burping include nervous habits or other medical conditions, such as an ulcer or a gallbladder problem. In some cultures, a person may belch loudly after eating to show appreciation for the meal.
All people pass gas, but some people produce more gas than others. It is normal to pass gas from 6 to 20 times a day. Although this may embarrass or annoy you, excess intestinal gas usually is not caused by a serious health condition.
Common causes of gas and bloating include:
- Swallowed air. If swallowed air is not burped up, it passes through the digestive tract and is released through the anus as flatus. Excessive air swallowing may cause hiccups.
- Foods and beverages. The amount of gas that different foods cause varies from person to person.
- Lactose intolerance. A person who cannot easily digest lactose, a type of natural sugar found in milk and dairy products can have both gas and bloating as well as other symptoms.
- Constipation. This can cause bloating but generally does not increase gas. For more information, see the topic Constipation, Age 11 and Younger or Constipation, Age 12 and Older.
- Medicines or nutritional supplements. Both prescription and nonprescription medicines, as well as dietary supplements, can cause bloating and gas as side effects.
- A medical condition, such as a bowel obstruction or Crohn's disease.
- Changes in hormone levels. It is common for women to have bloating right before their periods, because their bodies retain fluid.
Dyspepsia is a medical term that is used to describe a vague feeling of fullness, gnawing, or burning in the chest or upper abdomen, especially after eating. A person may describe this feeling as "gas." Other symptoms may occur at the same time, such as belching, rumbling noises in the abdomen, increased flatus, poor appetite, and a change in bowel habits. Causes of dyspepsia can vary from minor to serious.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.