How to Deal With Gas and Bloating Related to IBD

Intestinal Gas And Abdominal Bloating Are Annoying But Very Treatable

Woman taking a bath
A hot bath may ease abdominal discomfort. Hero Images/Getty Images

Many people who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) also find that they have symptoms of abdominal bloating or distention. One cause of this uncomfortable problem may be gas in the digestive tract. Bloating can be painful, embarrassing, and might limit your wardrobe choices to pants with elastic waistbands. Fortunately, there are several ways to deal with gas and bloating.

Causes of Gas and Bloating

Bloating in the abdomen is commonly caused by gas in the intestines.

One reason for too much gas is from eating foods that create gas. Swallowing air while eating is often done unconsciously and may result in frequent belching during or after meals. To avoid swallowing air, slow down when eating, don't 'slurp' drinks, and don't talk while chewing. Also try to avoid chewing gum, eating hard candy, drinking carbonated beverages, and drinking liquids through straws.

Preventing Gas and Bloating

The best way to prevent gas that is caused by foods is—predictably—to avoid those foods that contribute to intestinal gas. Many people have an idea of what foods might cause gas (like beans) but might not know about some very common foods that can also contribute to gas. Avoiding one or two foods because they gas bloating and pain shouldn't cause too much of a problem with a healthy diet, but any drastic change in diet should only be done after consulting a physician and a nutritionist if possible.

Every person is affected by foods differently, but some foods that commonly cause gas are:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Fructose (fruit sugar)
  • Lactose
  • Potatoes
  • Sorbitol
  • Wheat

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a common condition that may also contribute to abdominal bloating.

Many people are unable to digest lactose, which is the sugar that is found in cow's milk. This condition is more common in adults, but some children (especially those over the age of 2) may also be found to be lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is different than a true milk allergy. Avoiding cow's milk and foods made with milk, such as ice cream or cheese, can help avoid the problem, but this is not always practical or desirable. Today several products are available which are lactose-free or can help lactose-intolerant people to digest the lactose that is found in milk products.

Treatments for Bloating

The ultimate goal is to prevent bloating from occurring in the first place, but once the problem is already present, there are a few ways to treat it. A heating pad placed on the abdomen (don't use it for too long or fall asleep with it on) or a hot bath may ease abdominal discomfort. Taking the supplement Beano when eating beans or legumes may help reduce the gas that is caused while digesting those foods.

 

To expel troublesome intestinal gas, try taking a brisk walk or getting some other form of exercise that gets the body moving. Frequent exercise can help keep the intestines working more efficiently and aids with digestion. If exercise fails, try laying quietly on your left side on a bed, couch, or the floor, and bring your knees up to your chest. This position, or a few other movements, such as squatting, can sometimes help release trapped gas.

Over-the-counter anti-gas remedies, which often contain polyethylene glycol or simethicone, may also help. Check with a doctor before trying an over-the-counter remedy, because they may be effective, but take care to read all the ingredients. Some brands contain sorbitol, a food additive which has been shown to irritate the digestive tract and cause diarrhea, cramps, and pain.

More Uncommon Causes for Bloating

If the abdomen is tender to the touch or hard, contact your physician to make sure that there is not some other underlying cause for the bloating. Although uncommon, bloating can also be caused by more serious conditions. Persistent, progressive, or severe bloating, especially when accompanied by other symptoms and an increase in abdominal girth, should be checked out by a doctor right away.

Sources:

Azpiroz F. Understanding Intestinal Gas. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Inc. 19 Mar 2015.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Gas in the Digestive Tract. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2 Jan 2013.

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