Excessive gas can cause a variety of symptoms including pain and bloating. The successful treatment requires determining what is causing the gas. Then implementing the appropriate treatment is key to reducing gas-related symptoms.
A food diary can help identify problem foods and guide treatment.
Enzymes such as alpha-galactosidase and lactase can help with the digestion of sugars that can lead to excessive gas.
Simethicone can reduce the symptoms of excess gas but does not reduce the overall amount of gas.
Activated charcoal can reduce the amount of gas but has side effects and interactions with medications.
Talk with your doctor before starting any new medication and if you experience any warning signs.
What causes gas?
The presence of gas within the digestive tract is normal and is caused by the swallowing of air during chewing and eating. It is also produced by bacteria in the colon as they digest carbohydrates such as fiber, starches, and sugars. However, excessive gas can be a component of gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and lactose intolerance.
Certain foods are associated with excessive gas. These include beans, lentils, cruciferous vegetables (ie. broccoli and cabbage), and dairy products containing lactose. Additionally, carbonated beverages can lead to an increased amount of air within the stomach and an increase in burping.
Non-pharmacologic treatment of gas
Dietary modifications can be a quick and effective way to reduce gas pains and the production of excessive gas. However, it is important to start a food diary to help identify foods that result in excessive gas.
Once these foods have been identified, avoidance is the best way to improve your symptoms. Although, there may be foods that you do not want to give up. For these foods, planning ahead and taking medications to reduce gas can give you relief without sacrificing your favorite foods.
Best medications to reduce gas symptoms
The best medication depends on the cause of your gas and is based on the active ingredient in the medication.
Simethicone — this over-the-counter medication works to decrease the surface tension of gas bubbles within the GI tract making them easier to pass. The actual amount of gas produced is not reduced with this medication.
Alpha-galactosidase — this enzyme breaks down non-absorbable sugars that are common in cereals, legumes, and vegetables before they are metabolized by bacteria in the colon. This reduces the amount of gas produced in the colon.
Lactase — supplements containing lactase work to break down lactose in dairy products and reduce excessive gas production. These work best in people who are lactose intolerant.
Activated charcoal — charcoal supplements work by binding excess gas and preventing it from causing symptoms of bloating and flatulence. This medication can inhibit the absorption of other medications and has more side effects than the other options. Also, these supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.
Best options by active ingredient
Simethicone — Gas-X Extra Strength Gas Relief Softgels and Phazyme Ultimate.
Alpha-galactosidase — Beano Ultra 800.
Lactase — Lactaid Fast Act caplets or chewable tablets.
Activated charcoal — USP Medical Grade Activated Charcoal Tablets by Charcoal House.
On its own, gas is not concerning. However, if it is associated with severe pain, constipation, vomiting, weight loss, or blood in your stools you should seek medical attention.
Always discuss starting any new medication with your doctor or pharmacist to prevent drug-drug interactions. This is especially true with the use of activated charcoal as it can reduce the absorption and effectiveness of medications.
The most effective treatment for excessive gas depends on the cause of the gas. Therefore, keeping a food diary can identify problem foods and aid in finding an effective treatment. However, if any warning signs are present it is important to discuss your condition with your doctor or seek immediate medical attention if needed.
- National Library of Medicine. Efficacy and tolerability of α-galactosidase in treating gas-related symptoms in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial.
- National Library of Medicine. Simethicone.
- National Library of Medicine. Efficacy of activated charcoal in reducing intestinal gas: a double-blind clinical trial.