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What are the Most Common Causes of Gas and Bloating?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most common causes of gas and bloating are constipation and eating foods that result in high levels of swallowed air and intestinal bacteria. Some foods are more gaseous than others, especially dairy and others that are hard to digest. Sometimes constipation can also lead to excess gas and bloating, especially if fermented food waste has been in the colon for an extended period of time. Other times the opposite problem, diarrhea, can also cause bloating and abdominal discomfort.

Most frequently gas and bloating happen when one consumes foods that the body has a hard time digesting effectively. These can be anything, as each individual is different. Some types of food are more notorious for causing gas than others, including dairy products, beans, and cruciferous vegetables.

Bacteria in the colon are naturally present and help to break down food during digestion. Items that are harder to digest require more work to be done and result in more off-gassing during the process given off by these bacteria. This leads to excessive gas being trapped inside the intestines and can cause bloating and discomfort.

Similarly, gas and bloating can be caused by conditions like diarrhea, which are often also caused by digestive bacteria. When harmful bacteria become prevalent in the digestive system, diarrhea can result and is often accompanied by painful gas. This can generally be cured by either waiting until the body’s immune system kills off excessive levels of bacteria or by taking an anti-diarrhea medication.

Constipation can also cause gas and bloating because as waste materials sit in the colon, bacteria continue to try and break it down. This leads to gas, while the compacted stools may cause bloating. Taking an over the counter laxative usually remedies this problem, as does eating more high fiber foods and drinking adequate fluids throughout the day.

Gas and bloating can be embarrassing and uncomfortable problems. To avoid them, it is important to eat a healthy diet that is high in fiber, water, and other fruits and vegetables. If one isn’t used to eating much fiber, it should be added slowly, as it can cause excessive gas. There are also over the counter medications which may help the body break down foods more effectively, thus reducing gas production.

Occasionally, severe or chronic gas or bloating may signal a serious medical condition. If problems persist despite changes in dietary habits, it is a good idea to see a doctor for further tests. Very rarely, gastrointestinal upset may signal an underlying condition such as cancer or bowel obstruction, although this is rare.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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