The passing of intestinal gas is a normal process, but it can become unpleasant, uncomfortable, or embarrassing. Intestinal gas has two primary sources: bacteria in the intestines and air swallowed by mouth (aerophagia). Certain foods greatly increase the production of gas in the intestines by providing nutrients to gas-producing bacteria. Common gas-increasing foods include beans, beer, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, fructose, onions, prunes, red wine, and sorbitol. In general, high-fiber foods cause more gas than low-fiber ones, and, for this reason, people who switch to a whole foods diet frequently experience more gas.
Certain medical conditions can also increase gas-related symptoms, including celiac sprue, colon cancer, Crohn’s disease , fat malabsorption, irritable bowel syndrome , lactose intolerance , and ulcerative colitis . Finally, some people may experience significant gas discomfort without actually producing more gas than other people.
Treatment of excess gas begins with treating the underlying disease, if there is one. Beyond that, general steps include avoiding gas-producing foods and minimizing habits that cause aerophagia (such as gulping of beverages). Medications such as simethicone, metoclopramide, and antibiotics may also help, although the supporting evidence to indicate that they are effective remains incomplete.
Proposed Natural Treatments
There has been little meaningful scientific investigation of natural treatments to reduce gas in people who are otherwise healthy. However, some evidence supports the use of natural treatments for reducing gas production among those with irritable bowel syndrome (a cluster of nonspecific intestinal complaints) or dyspepsia (a cluster of nonspecific stomach-related complaints). It is likely, although not guaranteed, that the benefits seen in these studies would carry over to people without these conditions.
Certain herbs called carminatives are traditionally believed to aid the movement of gas. These include anise, caraway , cardamom, chamomile , coriander, cumin, dill, fennel , garlic , ginger , parsley , and spearmint.
In addition, numerous alternative therapies are said to help improve digestion and reduce gas, including Chinese herbal medicine , intestinal cleansing , and food allergen identification and avoidance. However, there is little supporting evidence for these approaches.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -