Trapped Wind

Gas production in the gut is, for the most part, a perfectly normal occurrence and has been reported as the most common digestive complaint.1

Our bodies produce gas when breaking down and digesting food and a little post-meal bloating can be expected.

It is when trapped wind and bloating become particularly prevalent or the symptoms experienced become pervasive that we seek to find relief.

What is Trapped Wind?

Trapped wind can be described as an uncomfortable or, less commonly, painful feeling of pressure from within the abdomen which causes the stomach to distend and may accompany abdominal cramping.2

Trapped wind is a build-up of gas and air in the digestive tract which may accumulate rather than move progressively through the tract and out through the colon.

Symptoms of Trapped Wind

Physical Symptoms

Symptoms can vary from:

- Notable distention of the stomach
- Increased flatulence
- An uncomfortable sensation around your ribs
Stomach gurgling
- Feeling uncomfortably full after eating
- Stomach cramps
- Clothes feeling tight
- Nausea

These physical symptoms can range from mild intermittent discomfort to (less commonly) debilitating; reducing the ability to function in daily life.

Irritability

From the symptoms shown above, it’s no wonder that irritability and general low mood can be experienced.

Our brain and our gut have shown to be intrinsically linked through the gut-brain axis, a series of interconnected pathways of communication between our gut and our brain. If gut function is impaired, it seems likely that this will impact general mood.3

What Causes Trapped Wind?

Chewing gum

It is common to take in air whilst eating and drinking, however chewing on chewing gum causes us to swallow more air than usual which then builds up in the digestive tract and may cause related symptoms.

Fizzy drinks

Artificial sweeteners found in fizzy drinks may be difficult for the stomach to break down, causing excess gas to build up within the digestive tract.

A High Fiber Diet

High fiber foods and those particularly high in soluble fiber are not broken down by human enzymes once they reach the stomach, therefore enter the intestines as food for bacteria and organisms living there.4

Fermentation occurs from this process as the live organisms feed on the fiber which produces gas and metabolites.5

Constipation

Slow gut motility can cause foods to sit in the digestive tract and putrefy. Decaying food releases excess gas and waste products from the toxins released and can be a major cause of stomach distention and gas.6

Lifestyle factors

Our lifestyle can have a significant effect on our digestive health. Alcohol, especially fermentable drinks such as beer can directly add excess gas to the gut whilst cigarette smoking causes more air to be sucked in through inhaling.

Stress can also impact how much air we take in, due to an increase in short rapid shallow breathing when we are in a state of panic or overwhelm.7

Digestive Disorders

Inflammatory bowel disease and IBS have both been shown to link to abdominal hypersensitivity which means if the gut lining is irritated or inflamed, this may cause the stomach to bloat.8

An overgrowth of bad bacteria in the intestines, named Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) can contribute to bloating and trapped wind.

It is thought that low gut motility, leading to over fermentation of food in the digestive tract can cause symptoms.9

How to Relieve Trapped Wind

Read on for a few tips on what to do to help relieve trapped wind.

Avoid Trigger Foods

It may be helpful to keep a food journal and track which foods cause bloating and trapped wind. Reducing or removing food triggers may reduce symptoms and bring relief.

Lactose and gluten are the most common food triggers studied for their link to gastrointestinal symptoms,10 therefore it may be important to record how these foods make you feel.

Gradually Increase Fibre Intake

As mentioned, foods that are particularly high in indigestible fiber can cause excess gas and trapped wind.

High fiber foods are an incredibly important part of our dietary intake, due to their role in satiety and keeping the gut (particularly the colon) healthy.11 It is important to slowly increase fiber intake in order for the gut microbiome to adapt to the dietary change.

Once the ecology of the microbiome within the gut adjusts to accommodate for the increase in fiber intake, then gas production will decrease to normal levels.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil has been shown to reduce excess gas and abdominal distention by soothing the gut lining and helping food to move through the gut effectively. Consider drinking peppermint oil tea and track whether symptoms improve after two weeks of daily intake.12

If however, you experience acid reflux, it may be best to avoid peppermint as it may aggravate symptoms.13

Increase Gut Motility

As mentioned, constipation and low gut motility can significantly contribute to excess gas and trapped wind.

A natural and functional medicine approach to helping foods move through the digestive tract is to introduce foods with prokinetic properties.14

Increase intake of:

- Ginger
- Bitter foods – dandelion, rocket, broccoli
- Globe Artichoke
- Garlic

If the above tips bring no relief or if your symptoms are particularly pervasive and impact daily life, it may be advised to contact your GP.

References

1. Review article: abdominal bloating and distension in functional gastrointestinal disorders--epidemiology and exploration of possible mechanisms - PubMed (nih.gov)

2. Bloating and Abdominal Distension: Old Misconceptions and Current Knowledge - PubMed (nih.gov)

3. Gut Microbiota-brain Axis - PubMed (nih.gov)

4. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health - PubMed (nih.gov)

5. Colonic health: fermentation and short chain fatty acids - PubMed (nih.gov)

6. Management of Chronic Abdominal Distension and Bloating - PubMed (nih.gov)

7. Physiology of the Autonomic Nervous System (nih.gov)

8. Gastrointestinal Physiology and Function - PubMed (nih.gov)

9. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: Clinical Features and Therapeutic Management (nih.gov)

10. Effects of gluten-free, dairy-free diet on childhood nephrotic syndrome and gut microbiota - PubMed (nih.gov)

11. A Dietary Fiber-Deprived Gut Microbiota Degrades the Colonic Mucus Barrier and Enhances Pathogen Susceptibility - PubMed (nih.gov)

12. Peppermint oil (Mintoil®) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial - Digestive and Liver Disease (dldjournalonline.com)

13. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.) - PubMed (nih.gov)

14. The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinalis) and artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) extract supplementation on gastric motility: a pilot randomized study in healthy volunteers - PubMed (nih.gov)

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