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Gas in the Digestive Tract

Part 2 - Symptoms and problems associated with gas.

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Updated April 09, 2014

What are some symptoms and problems of gas?

The most common symptoms of gas are belching, flatulence, abdominal bloating, and abdominal pain. However, not everyone experiences these symptoms. The determining factors probably are how much gas the body produces, how many fatty acids the body absorbs, and a person's sensitivity to gas in the large intestine. Chronic symptoms caused by too much gas or by a serious disease are rare.

Belching

An occasional belch during or after meals is normal and releases gas when the stomach is full of food. However, people who belch frequently may be swallowing too much air and releasing it before the air enters the stomach.

Sometimes a person with chronic belching may have an upper GI disorder, such as peptic ulcer disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or gastritis.

Believing that swallowing air and releasing it will relieve the discomfort of these disorders, this person may unintentionally develop a habitual cycle of belching and discomfort. Frequently, the pain continues or worsens, leading the person to believe he or she has a serious disorder.

Two rare chronic gas syndromes are associated with belching: Meganblase syndrome and gas-bloat syndrome. The Meganblase syndrome, which causes chronic belching, is characterized by severe air swallowing and an enlarged bubble of gas in the stomach following heavy meals. The resulting fullness and shortness of breath may mimic a heart attack.

Gas-bloat syndrome may occur after surgery to correct GERD. The surgery creates a one-way valve between the esophagus and stomach that allows food and gas to enter the stomach but often prevents normal belching and the ability to vomit.

Flatulence

Another common complaint is passage of too much gas through the rectum (flatulence). However, most people do not realize that passing gas 14 to 23 times a day is normal. Although rare, too much gas may be the result of severe carbohydrate malabsorption or overactive bacteria in the colon.

Abdominal bloating

Many people believe that too much gas causes abdominal bloating. However, people who complain of bloating from gas often have normal amounts and distribution of gas. They actually may be unusually aware of gas in the digestive tract.

Doctors believe that bloating is usually the result of an intestinal motility disorder, such as IBS. Motility disorders are characterized by abnormal movements and contractions of intestinal muscles. These disorders may give a false sensation of bloating because of increased sensitivity to gas.

Splenic-flexure syndrome is a chronic disorder that seems to be caused by trapped gas at bends (flexures) in the colon. Symptoms include bloating, muscle spasms, and upper abdominal discomfort. Splenic-flexure syndrome often accompanies IBS.

Any disease that causes intestinal obstruction, such as Crohn's disease or colon cancer, may also cause abdominal bloating. In addition, people who have had many operations, adhesions (scar tissue), or internal hernias may experience bloating or pain. Finally, eating a lot of fatty food can delay stomach emptying and cause bloating and discomfort, but not necessarily too much gas.

Abdominal pain and discomfort

Some people have pain when gas is present in the intestine. When gas collects on the left side of the colon, the pain can be confused with heart disease. When it collects on the right side of the colon, the pain may feel like the pain associated with gallstones or appendicitis.

Amber J. Tresca

Amber J. Tresca
About.com Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

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