Formula Medical Group
Apple Valley, CA
760-242-1234


James Krider, MD


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Abdominal Gas

When gas or air forms in the intestinal tract and is passed through the rectum it is called flatulence. When gas is expulsed from the mouth it is belching or eructation.

This is a normal process caused by intestinal bacteria Digestive systemwhich break down or ferment certain nutrients creating gas in the process. While much of the gas is absorbed back into the body the rest exits through the mouth or anus. Excessive gas can lead to abdominal pain and bloating.

Some foods are more prone to produce gas than others. These include beans, cabbage, onions, bran, and other high-fiber foods. In other cases, abdominal gas can be a symptom of a disease.

CAUSES OF ABDOMINAL GAS

Colic
This condition is common in infants and is characterized by chronic crying, sometimes lasting for hours at a time. Abdominal gas is one of many possible causes of colic, and some babies may pass rectal gas during bouts of colic. There is no specific cure, but a change of formula, burping, rocking, comforting, and placing the baby on his or her stomach may all help. Colic is not usually dangerous and always disappears in a few months.

Colon Cancer
Excess gas can be a sign of advanced cancer of the colon. Other symptoms may include blood in the stool, intestinal obstruction, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Any persistent change in bowel habits should be investigated by a doctor.

Esophageal cancer
The early symptoms of cancer of the esophagus, such as difficulty in swallowing and a vague feeling of fullness and pressure beneath the breastbone, are frequently ignored. They are usually followed by increased gas and flatulence, weight loss, dehydration, thirst, a cough, and difficulty swallowing.

Pancreatic Cancer
This is usually a silent tumor with no symptoms until an advanced stage. Most symptoms that do occur are not specific and include gas, indigestion, weight loss, weakness, back pain, and constipation.

Gallstones
Most people who have
gallstones have no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include flatulence, belching, indigestion, mild jaundice (yellowing of the skin), a rapid pulse, and in­tense pain.

Hiatus hernia
A hiatus hernia occurs when a small part of the stomach protrudes up through the opening (hiatus) in the diaphragm, the chest muscle. In most cases, a hiatus hernia produces no symptoms. When it does, there may be pain ranging from mild heartburn to a deep-seated ache behind the breastbone. The pain is likely to be associated with belching and flatulence. Symptoms usually occur immediately after meals, especially when lying down or bending over.

High-fiber diets
Excessive intake of dietary fiber, especially in the form of bran, pectin, and oat bran, can cause bloating and flatulence. High-fiber laxatives and fiber supplements used in weight loss diets can also cause excessive intestinal gas, which is formed by the bacterial action to ferment the fiber.

Indigestion
Indigestion is not a specific ailment but a group of related symptoms that can be due to gastrointestinal disorders or other unrelated diseases. One of the most common symptoms is the presence of an undue amount of gas or air in the stomach, which is relieved by belching. There also may be excessive gas in the colon, causing flatulence.

Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by painful spasms of the colon, bloating, and excessive gas production. Diarrhea alternating with constipation also is common. The condition often worsens during periods of stress.

Malabsorption syndromes

A variety of digestive diseases impair the body's ability to process or absorb certain nutrients. Lactose intolerance, in which a person lacks the enzyme needed to digest lactose (milk sugar) is one of the most common. People with other malabsorption syndromes may be unable to absorb fats and other nutrients, often because of an inherited disorder or intestinal damage. Symptoms may include bloating, excessive intestinal gas, flatulence, and recurrent abdominal pain.

Advice about abdominal gas

  • A change in diet often controls abdominal gas. Avoid foods that tend to cause it — bran, beans, onions, and cabbage are common offenders.
  • Stress often produces intestinal symptoms. Exercise, meditation, and other stress reduction strategies may help.

CALL YOUR DOCTOR if the gas is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss.

TELL YOUR DOCTOR about:

  • Eating habits: Do you chew fast, any change in diet, or have you increased your dietary fiber.
  • Aggravating factors: What makes it worse or better. Food, lying down, exercise, etc.
  • Relieving factors: What makes it better. Food, rest, mild, antacids.
  • MISC: What medications do you use. What other symptoms do you have, especially pain, diarrhea, easy fullness with food, bloating, or weight loss.

DIAGNOSTIC TESTS include a barium enema or swallow, blood tests, a sigmoidoscopy, abdominal ultrasound or CT scan, or an upper endoscopy.


This article was last reviewed October 16, 2005 by Dr. James Krider.

Colic
Colon Cancer
Esophageal Cancer
Gallstones
Hiatus Hernia
High-fiber Diet
Indigestion
Irritable Bowel
Malabsorption
Pancreatic cancer

 

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