The most common symptoms of gas are flatulence, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, and belching. However, not everyone experiences these symptoms. The type and degree of symptoms probably depends on how much gas the body produces, how many fatty acids the body absorbs, and a person's sensitivity to gas in the large intestine.
An occasional belch during or after meals is normal and releases gas when the stomach is full of food. However, people who belch frequently may be swallowing too much air and releasing it before the air enters the stomach.
Sometimes a person with chronic belching may have an upper gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, such as peptic ulcer disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying.
Sometimes people believe that swallowing air and releasing it will relieve the discomfort of these disorders, and they may intentionally or unintentionally develop a habit of belching to relieve discomfort.
Gas-bloat syndrome may occur after fundoplication surgery to correct GERD. The surgery creates a one-way valve between the esophagus and stomach that allows food and gas to enter the stomach but often prevents normal belching and the ability to vomit. It occurs in about 10 percent of people who have this surgery but may improve with time.
Another common complaint is too much flatulence. However, most people do not realize that passing gas 14 to 23 times a day is normal. Too much gas may be the result of carbohydrate malabsorption.
Many people believe that too much gas causes abdominal bloating. However, people who complain of bloating from gas often have normal amounts and distribution of gas. They may just be unusually aware of gas in the digestive tract.
Doctors believe that bloating is usually the result of an intestinal disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The cause of IBS is unknown but may involve abnormal movements and contractions of intestinal muscles and increased pain sensitivity in the intestines. These disorders may give a sensation of bloating because of increased sensitivity to gas.
Any disease that causes intestinal inflammation or obstruction, such as Crohn’s disease or colon cancer, may also cause abdominal bloating. In addition, people who have had many operations, internal hernias, or bands of internal scar tissue called adhesions may experience bloating or pain. Finally, eating a lot of fatty food can delay stomach emptying and cause bloating and discomfort, but not necessarily too much gas.
Abdominal Pain and Discomfort
Some people have pain when gas is present in the intestine. When pain is on the left side of the colon, it can be confused with heart disease, which sometimes causes abdominal pain. When the pain is on the right side of the colon, it may mimic gallstones or appendicitis.