Gas and Bloating Gastroenterologists (GI Doctors) NYC
You always have some intestinal gas within your digestive tract. Gas in your digestive tract (the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine) comes from two sources- swallowed air and the normal breakdown of certain undigested foods by harmless bacteria that are naturally present in the large intestine.
Gas and bloating symptoms can oftentimes be accompanied by and overlap with other symptoms and be difficult to identify as the cause of your symptoms. Patients should be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by a GI doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan as it may be a symptom of a serious illness or condition.
What Causes Bloating and Gas?
Air swallowing (aerophagia) is a common cause of gas in the stomach. Everyone swallows small amounts of air when eating and drinking. However, eating or drinking rapidly, talking while eating, chewing gum, smoking or wearing loose dentures can cause some people to take in more air. Burping or belching is the way most swallowed air leaves the stomach. The remaining gas moves into the small intestine where it is partially absorbed. A small amount travels into the large intestine for release through the rectum and expelled as flatulence. If you suffer from excess gas, either trapped in your intestines or passed as flatulence, it can become uncomfortable. Stuck gas can cause abdominal pain and bloating. In truth, everyone passes gas several times a day. Even stuck gas is a normal part of the digestive process.
Gases or trapped gas in colon are also produced as a by-product when certain food materials are digested by naturally occurring bacteria in the large intestine or colon. These bacteria are responsible for digesting materials like complex carbohydrates (sugar, starches, and fiber found in many foods) and cellulose, which are not normally digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract. The quantity and mixture of gases depend on the types of bacteria in the colon. Everyone has a unique assortment of bacteria from the time of birth. These gases include hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane. Trace gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, are responsible for the odor.
Symptoms and Other Causes of Gas and Bloating
The most common symptoms of gas are belching, flatulence, bloating and abdominal pain. The sensation of abdominal bloating can be a symptom of gas alone but can also be a symptom of several serious conditions such as ovarian cancer, diverticulitis and many other causes of abdominal pain in general which need to be taken seriously. If diverticulitis is suspected, you should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by a GI doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan as it may be a symptom of a serious illness or condition.
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can begin to experience symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain and motility changes to specific food components. Gi doctors agree that it may be due to the IBS condition itself which can cause a change in the gut microflora, potential small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and visceral hypersensitivity. Visceral hypersensitivity is the term GI doctors describe an experience of pain within the inner organs at a level that is more intense than normal. This means that there may be symptoms from a more intense than usual response to a normal amount of gas.
Celiac disease which (gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a digestive and autoimmune disorder that results in damage to the lining of the small intestine when foods with gluten are eaten. The condition can cause many gastrointestinal symptoms which including abdominal bloating but also can include painful gas, diarrhea, and weight loss. Non-celiac gluten intolerance may also play a role in patients with IBS. There is recent evidence that certain food components can contribute to symptoms through the effects of malabsorption of carbohydrates particularly lactose and fructose. Identifying components of the diet that may not be fully absorbed such as lactose and fructose in particular may be helpful in minimizing these symptoms. Further, identifying and treating patients with risk factors and symptoms of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can also help with symptoms of bloating. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) simply is a disorder of excessive bacterial growth in the small intestine.
Diagnosing Gas and Bloating
Gas and bloating is usually a temporary condition that resolves itself in a day or two. If gas and/or bloating become painful, however, you should see your doctor or a gastroenterologist like our doctors. If your gas and bloating are persistent or accompanied by other symptoms, such as diarrhea, bloody stools, vomiting, constipation, heartburn or unexplained weight loss, a visit to a gastroenterologist is recommended.
During your office visit, one of our GI doctors will give you a physical exam and review your medical history and any recent dietary changes. Since gas and bloating sometimes can be symptomatic of a more serious condition, one of our GI specialists may order laboratory tests.
Many gastrointestinal disorders exhibit similar symptoms. Fortunately, hydrogen breath tests now are available to uncover the source of some gastrointestinal disorders. This procedure makes it easier for one of our GI doctors to diagnose certain medical conditions, such as:
- Fructose intolerance
- Lactose intolerance
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
The above conditions result from your body’s inability to absorb a dietary carbohydrate or from a condition that promotes abnormal bacterial growth in your digestive tract. These disorders create a specific chemical response that can be measured in your breath, leading to an accurate diagnosis.
Why You May Need Hydrogen Breath Testing
All three conditions listed above can cause gas and bloating, cramping, diarrhea and even nausea or vomiting in some people. These symptoms aren’t by themselves dangerous, but they can make daily life unpleasant, and if left untreated — or worse, if you have it and don’t know it — you continually place stress on your digestive system.
Since the symptoms caused by these disorders are the same as from many other medical conditions, diagnosis can be difficult. The hydrogen breath test helps our GI doctors pinpoint a more accurate diagnosis. The hydrogen breath test is not a wonder drug or a new electronic gizmo; it’s simple chemistry.
How to Get Rid of Gas and Bloating?
Treating gas and bloating depends on the seriousness of the diagnosis. If you smoke cigarettes, quitting can help resolve your gas and bloating. Reducing your stress also may help. Often, treatment simply means avoiding certain foods or medications. Although everyone reacts differently to food, here is a list of basic foods that cause gas and bloating:
- Beans and other lentils
- Brussels sprouts
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Cabbage and lettuce
- Excessive bran and fiber
- Certain fruits, like apples and pears
- Chewing gum
- Hard candy
- Carbonated drinks, including beer
You also can try an assortment of over-the-counter products to reduce your gas and bloating, if it’s mild enough. These products can help you fully digest certain foods, especially if you know ahead of time that you’ll be eating them. Other products can help reduce the odor of your flatulence. These products are safe to use, but only address the symptoms, not the cause of your gas and bloating. Breath testing can be used to identify certain triggers of symptoms in the general population as well as patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only trained GI doctors or experienced gastroenterologists like our doctors can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
As best in class NYC gastroenterologists, our doctors provide highly personalized and comprehensive care. Their philosophies regarding the doctor/patient relationship is based on trust and has earned them some of the most respected reputations in NYC.
For more information about our gastroenterology services, including quick treatments for gas & bloating, or to schedule an appointment with one of our GI doctors, please contact our Upper East Side or Midtown NYC offices.