Digestive gases

author/s: Dr Mª Carmen Peña Cala

 

What discomfort accompanies gases?

    • Swelling (or distension) of the abdomen.
    • Excessive burping.
    • Excessive gases.

We must remember that both burping and gases are normal processes; however, when in normal amount and in the right place.

 

How does the gas enter the digestive tract?

    • The digestive gas comes from the gas that we intake with meals and with drinks. Some foods are especially flatulent, such as white beans, chickpeas, cabbage, etc. Some drinks contain gas, such as refreshments, champagne, beer, mineral water, etc.

    • Part of the total amount of gas is produced by the digestive tract during the reaction of the stomach acids with such substances.

    • Furthermore, in certain diseases, the intestine is unable to absorb some sugars and an important amount of gas is produced in the intestine. This would be the case of patients with celiac disease or with deficiency to absorb lactose (dairy products), or with a bad sugar absorption.

    • Nevertheless, the most common cause for the accumulation of intestinal gas is the excessive swallowing of air or medically known as aerofagia. Naturally, this swallowing of air goes totally unnoticed by the patient. We all swallow some air when we breathe, when we speak, or when we eat. When we are nervous or when we breathe with our mouth open, we also swallow more than required. Smoking, chewing gum, or eating candy dramatically increases the amount of accumulated air.

 

And, how is gas released?

The gas is not only released through the mouth as burping and as intestinal gas but it is also absorbed (in a large amount) throughout the digestive tract reaching the blood, being transported to the lungs and eliminated through respiration. Sometimes, the gas can be retained, resulting in blotting, because intestinal movements are too slow; which would in turn cause constipation.