woman with upset stomach
Food Allergies & Intolerance

Home Remedies: Gas, Bloating and Belching

According to an article on the Mayo Clinic News Network, bloating, burping and passing gas are usually caused by swallowed air or the breakdown of food through digestion. Here’s what causes them, and how to remedy them:

Bloating is a gas buildup in your stomach or intestines, the article says, building up in your stomach and intestines. As a result, you can have abdominal pain that can range from mild and dull to sharp and intense. The bloating may be relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement.

Bloating may be related, the Mayo article says, to eating fatty foods, which can delay stomach emptying and make you feel uncomfortably full;  drinking carbonated beverages or eating gassy foods; or eating too quickly, drinking through a straw, chewing gum or sucking on candies, resulting in swallowing air.

Other possible causes, the Mayo article says, include stress or anxiety; smoking; a gastrointestinal infection, blockage or disease; irritable bowel syndrome (a condition characterized by abdominal pain or cramping and changes in bowel function); and conditions such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance in which the intestines aren’t able to digest and absorb certain components of food.

To reduce bloating, it may help to avoid or reduce the amount of gas-producing foods you eat. Many carbohydrates cause gas, and the following items are common culprits: beans; broccoli; brussels sprouts; cabbage; carbonated drinks; cauliflower; chewing gum; fruits (apples, peaches, pears); hard candy; lettuce; milk and milk products; onions; sugar alcohols found in sugar-free foods (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol); whole-grain foods.

Belching: According to the Mayo News Network article, belching or burping is the body’s way of expelling excess air from your stomach. It’s a normal reflex caused by swallowing air. You may swallow excess air if you eat or drink too fast, talk while you eat, chew gum or suck on hard candies, drink carbonated beverages, or smoke.

And acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can have the same effect, Mayo says: If stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, you may swallow repeatedly to clear the material. This can lead to swallowing more air and further belching.

Some people swallow air as a nervous habit, the Mayo experts say, even when they’re not eating or drinking. In other cases, chronic belching may be related to inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) or to an infection with Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible for some stomach ulcers.

The Mayo experts recommend the following strategies to reduce belching:

Eat and drink slowly. Taking your time can help you swallow less air.

Avoid carbonated drinks and beer. They release carbon dioxide gas.

Skip the gum and hard candy. When you chew gum or suck on hard candy, you swallow more often than normal. Part of what you’re swallowing is air.

Don’t smoke. When you inhale smoke, you also inhale and swallow air.

Check your dentures. Poorly fitting dentures can cause you to swallow excess air when you eat and drink.

Treat heartburn. For occasional, mild heartburn, over-the-counter antacids or other remedies may be helpful. GERD may require prescription-strength medication or other treatments.

Making lifestyle changes may help reduce or relieve excess gas and gas pain:

Try smaller portions. Many of the foods that can cause gas are part of a healthy diet. So, try eating smaller portions of problem foods to see if your body can handle a smaller portion without creating excess gas.

Eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly and don’t gulp. If you have a hard time slowing down, put down your fork between each bite.

Avoid chewing gum, sucking on hard candies and drinking through a straw. These activities can cause you to swallow more air.

Check your dentures. Poorly fitting dentures can cause you to swallow excess air when you eat and drink.

Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking can increase the amount of air you swallow.

Exercise. Physical activity may help move gas through the digestive tract.

If the odor from passing gas concerns you, limiting foods high in sulfur-containing compounds — such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or other cruciferous vegetables, beer, and foods high in protein — may reduce distinctive odors. Pads, underwear and cushions containing charcoal also may help absorb unpleasant odors from passing gas.

Editor’s note: If bloating, belching and passing gas seem especially severe or persist despite making lifestyle and dietary remedies, consider seeing your doctor. You may have a more serious health condition.

The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies provides answers you need to take care of common health problems on your own. This reference covers 120 of today’s common health problems in an easy-to-follow, A-to-Z format. Learn what you can do for yourself and when to seek medical attention.

For more information on health issues, visit www.mayoclinic.org.


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