Belching, gas and bloating: Why it happens & how to reduce it
23 Apr 2023
Excess gas can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, especially in a situation where you really can’t afford to let one go. In a meeting or on a date, sometimes you really don’t want to be burping or farting all over the shop.
We’ve all suffered from too much gas at some point in our lives for one reason or another! It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and is generally pretty preventable. Here, we will discuss belching, gas and bloating, the many reasons they can happen to us and how to reduce them.
What are belching, gas and bloating?
Let’s start with passing wind. Farting is a normal biological process; on average, we pass wind 5 to 15 times daily. You take in small amounts of air simultaneously when you eat or drink. This needs to be expelled from the digestive system and will come out either through your mouth with a burp or through the anus with a fart.1
During digestion, stomach acid is neutralised by secretions of the pancreas, which creates carbon dioxide as a by-product. When food is fermented in the stomach by bacteria, this also creates gas. These gases must be removed from the body, some of which will be absorbed by the bloodstream and breathed out by the lungs, and some will come out as a fart.2
Although passing wind frequently is normal, farting more frequently than is normal for you or with foul odours can signal that something is wrong. If your body is struggling to digest food, it will create excess gas to push the food through your body.
These excess gases, such as sulphur, can create the bad smell associated with farting. Although some smell is normal, and you shouldn’t expect a fart to smell like roses, you will often know if a smell isn’t quite right.
When your body creates excess gas as it struggles to digest your food, this can cause bloating before the gas is expelled from the body in a burp or a fart. Bloating can make your stomach swell, feel firm, rumble, and is often a bit uncomfortable.3
Burping is just when the excess gas comes up from the upper gastrointestinal tract through the oesophagus and out of the mouth rather than passing through the lower gastrointestinal tract and out of the anus. Burping is a perfectly normal process and can happen up to 30 times daily within a normal, healthy person.4
All three of these bodily processes can happen simultaneously or be a singular problem at any one time. Excessive bloating, burping and/or farting can be a sign that your body is struggling to digest food properly, and all of these symptoms will be caused by excess gas being produced in the body.
Common reasons for excess gas and bloating
Some foods are harder for the body to digest, so they can cause excess gas to build up, leading to burping, farting and bloating. Avoiding or limiting these foods can help to reduce excess gas, particularly in situations where you don’t feel comfortable releasing the gas!
Each individual will tolerate foods differently. If you have a particular food intolerance, this is likely to cause excess gas when consumed. For example, if you are lactose intolerant, your body cannot break down and digest lactose. Excess gas will be created as your body struggles to complete its normal digestion process.2
Foods high in fibre are great for promoting healthy digestion as they are a fantastic food source for the good bacteria in the gut. Still, they can lead to excess gas as the small intestines can’t digest fibre, leaving it to the bacteria to break down.
The bacteria will create extra gas to digest the fibre, which must then come out of the body somehow! High-fibre diets should be introduced slowly to ensure the gut has time to adjust.2
High-fibre foods include most fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, seeds, whole grains and nuts. These foods are full of important nutrients so they should not be avoided altogether; just up your intake slowly so your body can adjust, or reduce your intake if you have a particularly high fibre intake that is causing you gassy issues.
Laxatives can cause excess gas, created to help you to pass stools when you are backed up. Excessive use of laxatives can damage the body as you may not be absorbing nutrients properly when using laxatives, and they should only be used under medical supervision when consumed long-term.2
Gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), could cause excess gas and therefore belching, farting and bloating. Those with gastrointestinal diseases often have more harmful bacteria in the gut and less of the good ones, making successful digestion harder to achieve.5
Particular harmful bacteria found in the gut of those with gastrointestinal diseases can release certain toxins that lead to excess gas. The disease can mean that the person finds it more difficult to tolerate gas within the gastrointestinal tract, making them uncomfortable.5
Taking probiotics can help to balance the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and help to reduce the need for excess gas to be produced as digestion is easier for the body. Check out our article Can Probiotics Help with IBS? to learn more!
Your diet has a lot to do with how your digestive system functions, so finding foods that your body digests with ease can be crucial for stopping excessive belching, farting and bloating. Don’t forget that air escaping the body is a normal bodily process; it’s something everybody does, even your idols.
Only be concerned if you are experiencing pain or discomfort, releasing really unpleasant smells or passing gas more than is usual for you. As always, contact your medical provider or a pharmacist for advice on your specific circumstances if you are worried about your gas habits.