The term stomach gas is often used to describe the presence of gas in the upper gastrointestinal tract. This includes the esophagus (gullet) and first portion of the small intestine (duodenum). Stomach gas differs from gas in the lower bowel and colon in that it has a higher quantity of air swallowed during eating and by mouth breathing.
A host of signs and symptoms are attributed to excess gas in the stomach and upper gut. However, the volume of gas associated with excess belching, bloating and flatulence is rarely more than normal. These symptoms may often be associated to underlying gastrointestinal disorders, of which stomach gas is one of the many symptoms.
Causes of Stomach Gas
Anywhere between 1 to 2 liters of gas are passed out of the gastrointestinal tract as belching and flatulence. Only about 200 milliliters of gas remains in the gut at any one time. In the upper gut this is a combination of gaseous byproducts as a result of chemical digestion, the action of bacteria but mainly due to the swallowing of air. Consuming carbonated beverages are another major source of gas in the stomach.
Excess gas in the upper gut is almost always due to air swallowing and carbonated drinks although it may also be seen with conditions like :
- Gastritis, especially due to H.pylori infection
- Non-ulcer dyspepsia
- Gastroenteritis – food infection or food poisoning
- Delayed gastric emptying – obstruction or paresis
- Excessive use of antacids
- Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Food intolerances
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Pancreatic insufficiency (pancreatic enzyme deficiency)
In terms of stomach gas due to air swallowing (aerophagia), which is the most common cause, a number of factors may contribute to this :
- Nasal congestion or obstruction leading to mouth breathing
- Poorly fitting dental prosthetics like dentures
- Constant gum chewing
- Excessive talking and talking while eating
- Eating quickly
- Cigarette smoking
Signs and Symptoms
The most prominent symptoms of excessive stomach gas include :
- Excessive belching
- Bloating – sensation of feeling full
- Upper abdominal distension
- Gastric pain or stomach ache
- Stomach cramps
However, many of these signs and symptoms may not be directly related to the presence of excess stomach gas but rather as a result of the causative condition as mentioned above. Flatulence, generalized abdominal bloating and intestinal cramps may be experienced with gas in the lower gastrointestinal tract (jejunum and ileum of the small intestine and the large intestine).
Prevention of Stomach Gas
Preventing a buildup of gas in the stomach depends on the cause. With pathological causes like infectious gastritis, medical treatment is necessary. With other more common causes of stomach gas related to air swallowing and carbonated beverages, avoiding the causative factors will prevent or at least significantly reduce stomach gas.
Tips to Avoid Stomach Gas
- Eat slowly, chew carefully and swallow food that is throughly chewed.
- Avoid carbonated beverages like fizzy sodas, sparkling bottled water, beer and sparkling wine.
- Do not chew gum repeatedly throughout the day.
- Do not use high doses of antacids, especially over a prolonged period. Always see a doctor about any stomach condition that is persisting rather than self-medicating.
- Consult with an otolaryngologist (ENT specialist) with regards to any persistent nasal congestion.
Persistent stomach gas should be investigated by a medical doctor, especially if it is associated with stomach pain, abdominal swelling, loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss.
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Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on November 9, 2010