What is Intestinal Gas?
During the process of digestion, food is broken down into molecules that the body can use to fuel itself. However, sometimes food does not break down completely and food remnants make its way into the large intestine in a semi-digestive state where it then ferments.
Billions of hungry bacteria (the natural "intestinal fauna") that we all have in our large intestine then produce a variety of gases such as methane, hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide as by-products of this fermentation process. These vapors are known as intestinal gasses, and can cause stomach bloating until they leave the body as flatulence through the anus.
Symptoms of Intestinal Gas
Symptoms of intestinal gas may include:
What Causes Intestinal Gas?
The causes of intestinal gas vary, and may include:
Intestinal Gas in Babies and Children
Intestinal gas in babies and children is very common, and usually results from a combination of factors. All babies actually have some amount of gas, but some have an easier time passing it. However, excessive intestinal gas can lead to discomfort, which many parents associate as the underlying cause of colic.
Nursing or bottle feeding produces intestinal gas in the digestive tract, which is created naturally as a result of the digestion of lactose, protein and other nutrients in breast milk or formula. In addition, many babies gulp air during feedings, thus leading to gas. Burping the baby during feedings can greatly alleviate this problem.
A mother’s diet may also contribute to intestinal gas in her baby, passed through breast milk. Excessive acidity and dairy products may result in dairy intolerances. Many children also have food sensitivities, which can cause intestinal gas. Try eliminating certain foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, soy and peanuts, and slowly reintroduce them. Also avoid feeding your child foods highly recognized to cause gas, such as beans and broccoli.
Crying can also cause excessive intestinal gas as a result of gulping air. While babies cry due to a lack of ability to communicate in any other way, young children are prone to crying often as well and experience gas.
Both babies and children can be very sensitive to their environments, which can lead to distress if overstimulation occurs, leading to intestinal disturbances, bloating and gas. Try to minimize your baby or child’s activity levels and see if the problem is alleviated – for example, limit visitors, taking your child along on errands, and eliminate background noise like a T.V. or radio, which can disrupt comfort levels.
Help for Intestinal Gas
Many herbal and homeopathic treatments have been formulated with specific ingredients to promote digestive function and combat intestinal gas. Zingiber officinalis (Ginger) has a long history of use in relieving the symptoms of indigestion, flatulence and nausea. Foeniculum officinale (Fennel) also helps to relieve the symptoms of gas and bloating while the homeopathic ingredient Carbo. veg. is excellent for absorbing excess gas and toxins in the body and is particularly effective for individuals who suffer from sporadic constipation and diarrhea.
Foods for Intestinal Gas Relief
As intestinal gas may result from the breakdown of certain foods, it is helpful to know which are likely to produce more sensitivity and limit consumption. In addition, eating or drinking any food too rapidly can lead to swallowing excessive air, which can lead to gas.
- Lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy products, is a very common cause of intestinal gas. Limit intake of milk, cheese, dressings, ice cream, and other dairy to see if the condition improves. Many packaged foods may also contain lactose, so check ingredient labels on breads and cereals.
- Raffinose is a complex sugar that is known to produce gas, with beans containing a very high amount. Other foods with raffinose include cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and whole grains.
- Fructose, a simple sugar, is also a common contributor to gas, so limit onions, artichokes, pears, and wheat.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, found in dietetic foods, sugar free soda and gum. Sorbitol is also naturally present in certain fruits like apples, peaches and prunes.
- Many carbohydrates and starches, such as potatoes, noodles, and breads contribute to gas when they are digested.
- Foods high in soluble fiber may also cause gas, such as oat bran, beans, barley, nuts, seeds, lentils.