Gas and bloating often accompany gallbladder problems. Although there are many other symptoms experienced by patients with gallbladder diseases, this irritating, uncomfortable, and unsightly symptom is almost always present. What’s worse is that these symptoms may happen simultaneously!
While gas and bloating may not be as disconcerting as a gallbladder attack, it is still a digestive complaint that can significantly affect quality of life. There are a number of possible reasons behind it aside from what’s happening in the biliary system. As you read on, you will understand ten of the most common causes of gas and bloating. Knowing what these are may help save you from trouble.
Before that, let us understand how gas naturally goes in and out of our bodies.
Intestinal Gas: How does it End Up There?
The process of burping and passing wind is not as simple at it seems. There is a whole complex process behind this called the gas homeostasis. Between gas input and output, there are a lot of other steps like gas absorption and diffusion, bacterial consumption, and other chemical reactions.
Gas input results from the following:
- Chemical reactions
- Diffusion of gas from blood
- Gas production due to bacterial fermentation
Gas homeostasis starts when the digestive process begins. It happens in the small intestine where digestion and nutrient absorption take place. After this, gases and digestive residues pass into the colon and serve as substrates for the gut bacteria which release gas. Intraluminal gases tend to equalize with gases in venous blood. Excess gas in each compartment is propelled into the next until the final residue is released via the anus.
Gas production in depends on a lot of factors:
- volume of intake
- amount of available digestive components that aid in the fermentation or breakdown of food
- composition of the gut microbiota
- gas transit rate
- existence of other related gastrointestinal conditions
10 Causes of Excessive Gas and Bloating
- Too much air swallowing
Air ingestion, whether via inhalation or the consumption of food and drinks, is inevitable. The problem lies when there is excessive, unnecessary, or inadvertent air swallowing. Some possible causes include –smoking, drinking through a straw, using Ill-fitting dentures, drinking fizzy drinks, chewing gum, or eating and drinking too fast. The amount of excess air can be minimized by avoiding these sources.
- Incomplete Carbohydrate Digestion
Carbohydrate malabsorption or incomplete carbohydrate digestion plays an important role in non-specific abdominal complaints worldwide. Some of the symptoms commonly cited by these patients with undetermined gastrointestinal conditions include gas and bloating, pain, constipation, and diarrhea.
The most common carbohydrates that cause gas and bloating are lactose, fructose, and sugar alcohol. Examples of sugar alcohol are sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, and mannitol. Unlike regular sweeteners, these sugars are not completely absorbed or digested. Instead, they pass through the small intestine and get fermented when it reaches the large intestine. As for lactose intolerance, we will discuss it at greater length later on.
- Inborn or acquired gastrointestinal conditions
- Leaky gut
- Celiac Disease
- Chron’s Disease
Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance
Aside from simple sugar, complex carbohydrates from selected vegetables, legumes, grains, and nuts may cause gas and bloating because of complex carbohydrate intolerance (CCI).
Complex Carbohydrate Intolerance is a broad term that refers to the range of symptoms associated with carbohydrate intolerance. It is caused by a deficiency of digestive enzymes, specifically alpha-galactosidase, which results in the incomplete digestion of complex carbohydrates. Symptoms of CCI include gas and bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea.
Incomplete carbohydrate digestion or malabsorption may be detected through direct or indirect methods. The most frequently used method nowadays is the hydrogen exhalation test.
- Lactose Intolerance
Although this technically falls under carbohydrate digestion, lactose intolerance deserves to be mentioned separately since a deficiency in the lactase enzyme is the most common enzymatic defect worldwide.
Lactose intolerance causes gas and bloating since individuals with this condition lack the enzyme, lactase, needed to breakdown lactose in the small intestine. It is estimated that by adulthood, as high as 70% of people no longer produce enough lactase to process lactose ingested through various food sources like milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and more. When lactose is not broken down, it passes through the gut and reaches the colon where it is fermented and acted upon by bacteria. This process then releases acids and gases like hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide. These all contribute to stomach pain, flatulence, and bloating.
- Fat Malabsorption
Fats, also called lipids, induce various motor and sensory effects on the gut including intestinal gas transport, gut motility, and gastric emptying. When there are excessive fats present in the GI system, stomach emptying is slowed down, gas transit is altered, and the coordination of muscle activities within the gut necessary for digestion are also disturbed. All these contribute to increased food and gas retention in the gut.
To address this issue, it is important to watch what you eat. It is highly recommended that you try the Gallbladder diet together with gas and bloating supplements.
- Gastrointestinal and Biliary Conditions
Various GI conditions like Celiac Disease, Chron’s Disease, GERD, peptic ulcer, and gastroparesis (or impaired emptying of the stomach) may affect gut motility. Aside from increasing the risk of carbohydrate malabsorption or fat indigestion, GI irregularities result in abnormal gas distribution and propulsion. This leads to flatulence and bloating.
Out of all the gastrointestinal diseases, there is an abundance of studies associating gas and bloating with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Patients with IBS have an intestinal motor dysfunction. Because of that, they have an impaired capability to propel intestinal gas, delaying transit through the small intestine. IBS also alters the gut microbiota composition, disturbing the healthy balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This phenomenon is called dysbiosis. To make matters worse, patients with this condition also have visceral hypersensitivity or heightened pain sensation.
At the moment, there is no definitive cure for IBS. However, there are natural ways and supplements that may help ease the pain and other symptoms.
Patients with gallbladder and liver disease may also exhibit similar symptoms. Since these conditions affect the bile, they are closely linked to digestion and elimination. One of the early symptoms of gallbladder disease is gas and bloating. To learn more about gallbladder symptoms and biliary details, visit our Gallbladder 101 and Gallbladder Symptoms pages.
- Abnormal Gut Microbiota and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Composition of the microbiota within the different colonic segments affects bacterial fermentation and gas metabolism. The abundance of harmful bacteria like enterobacteria, fudobacteria, and clostridia in patients with SIBO may cause inflammation and leaky gut. This is followed by malabsorption of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. In patients with other GI conditions, the microbiota contributes in the expression of other symptoms. Over time, the leakage of bacteria from the colon to the small intestine may lead to mucosal injury, systemic sepsis, or worse, intestinal failure.
To learn more about SIBO, click here.
- Poor Diet and Gut Intolerance
Aside from gastrointestinal diseases, the biggest contributor for the gas and bloating symptoms are the food we eat. A large percentage of the population has unknown food intolerances. With gas and bloating symptoms (and for many other reasons) it would be greatly beneficial to do an allergy provocation diet in order to identify them so that you can steer clear of them. Aside from those food selections, some seemingly healthy choices can also contribute to gas and bloating.
Below are some of the foods that you should avoid:
- Vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, onions, and broccoli
- Fruits like apricots, prunes, apple
- Salty foods
- Carbonated drinks
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains
- Sweeteners (like fructose and sorbitol)
- Role of Sex Hormones
We can blame our hormones for a lot of things, including gas and bloating! Both estrogen and progesterone receptors are present in the lining of our digestive tract. That’s why the rise and fall of these hormone levels during monthly menstrual cycles, menopause, or pregnancy can really make our digestion go crazy.
Increased progesterone hormone in women can cause slow gut motility or sluggish gut. On the other hand, when it plummets, erratic bowel movements or diarrhea may happen. Either way, gas and bloating may be a result of these fluctuations.
Estrogen also plays a crucial role in the development of different gastrointestinal symptoms as it is closely related to bile production which helps in the breakdown of fat and stimulates peristalsis in the gut. If estrogen levels are too low or erratic, this may result in indigestion, malabsorption, and bloating, among others.
Lastly, water retention associated with bloating, is also related with changes in the levels of sex hormones.
- Lack of Physical Activity or Exercise
Poor posture, poor abdominal tone, and overall lack of physical activity or exercise may also contribute to gas and bloating. Various experiments have shown that mild physical activity has the ability to improve or hasten the gut transit of intraluminal gas. It also helps prevent retention of intestinal gas among healthy subjects.
Abdominal expansion or distension, one of the visible manifestations of bloating, also depends on the muscular activity of the abdominal wall. This is greatly influenced by exercise. Therefore, regular light or intense levels of exercise can really have a significant impact on abdominal symptoms and gas transit.
- Stress and other Psychological Factors
There is a clear link between the brain and the gut and if you have been following us for some time, you may have already come across a lot of our mind-gut connection blogs. This link is also called the gut-brain axis.
Stress, anxiety, depression, and many other psychological conditions affect gastrointestinal health. In the same way, a bad gut can cause foggy brain, impaired memory, and is also linked to neurodegenerative disorders. To further understand the mind-gut connection, read our blog on brain fog here.
Stress and other psychological factors cause spasms in the colon and abdominal discomfort. This may bring about various gastrointestinal symptoms or aggravate existing ones like gas and bloating.
Given this relationship between the brain and the gut, experts believe that hypnotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or simpler measures such as relaxation and meditation can help normalize digestive and overall gastrointestinal function.
Natural Supplements for Gas and Bloating
Given the number of possible reasons for gas and bloating, there is no definite solution to that uncomfortable and painful feeling of gassiness and bloating. Thankfully, there are a few safe and natural supplements that anyone could try to help alleviate the symptoms and address common causes.
- Digestive Enzymes
To get relief from gas and bloating, it is important to support the digestive process. One way is by making sure the body has all the enzymes it needs to breakdown the food we eat. Supplemental Digestive Enzymes that include lactase and lipase, as well as Betaine HCl that help boost the body’s natural enzyme production may significantly help in this aspect.
- Bile Salts
If you haven’t tried taking bile salts, then you may be surprised at the number of digestive benefits this supplement can give. Included in the long list is its ability to help in overall digestion and metabolism. If you are suffering from fat indigestion or malabsorption, or if you are experiencing gas and bloating as an effect of your gallbladder disease, try Bile Salts Booster.
- Bentonite Clay
In the olden times, bentonite clay was used internally and externally for various health reasons. It is most famous as a detoxifying agent and may help those with gas and bloating to expel the excess gas. Bentonite clay also helps improve gut motility and liver function. In an experiment with IBS patients, bentonite clay had a positive effect on stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. We recommend Medi-Clay FX.
If flatulence cannot be helped, the use of activated charcoal or prokinetic agents can at least be an option for some patients suffering from noxious odors. The charcoal cushion may also improve other gastrointestinal symptoms.
When gas and bloating occur as a result of faulty fat metabolism, this kit can be invaluable as these two products work very well to break down fats.
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