Gas Pain: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes, & Treatment

Gas pain from accumulated air in the stomach or intestines is a relatively common finding. This condition is associated with symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, excessive flatulence with or without a foul smell, chest pain or constant belching.

These symptoms may appear after consuming carbonated drinks or from swallowing a lot of air, from talking while chewing, for example. Gas pain typically resolves once the gas has been eliminated. It can also be a sign of another conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance. Learn more about what causes excessive gas.

To eliminate gas naturally, you can use home remedies such as lemon balm and anise tea, or adhering to a diet and regular exercise plain. Severe gas pain can be treated with medications like simethicone or dimethicone. .

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Main symptoms

The main symptoms associated with gas pain are:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence, which may have a foul smell
  • Pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest
  • Frequent burping
  • Feeling of heaviness in the stomach
  • Feeling of shortness of breath

Additionally, intestinal or stomach gas can also abdominal spasms as way for the intestines to try to eliminate excess gas.

These symptoms can vary in intensity, depending on each person's sensitivity and the volume of gas present in the digestive system.

What does gas pain feel like?

Gas pain typically happens when air are trapped in the digestive system, causing the intestines to dilate. This pain usually appears suddenly, causing a cramping or pins and needles sensation in the belly that can vary from mild to intense.

Gas pain can appear in the middle or lower belly. the belly. This pain tends to decrease when the gas is released, either through belching or flatulence.

Foul-smelling gas

Stinky gas can be caused by excessive intake of protein-rich foods (like eggs, red meat and cheese), or fiber and sulfur, present in broccoli, cauliflower, garlic and turnips. These foods favor the production of hydrogen sulfide, a substance with an odor similar to “rotten eggs” that is produced by intestinal bacteria. Read more about what causes smelly farts and what to do.

Gas during pregnancy

Excess gas during pregnancy is common, and is typically caused by a number of factors, including relaxation of the body's muscles, a decrease in digestion, and reduced bowel movements or constipation. These factors are usually related to by changes in progesterone levels, which promote gas production and elimination.

Gas during pregnancy can cause symptoms such as severe bally pain, excessive burping, bloating or abdominal discomfort.

Also recommended: Gas During Pregnancy: Symptoms & 12 Ways to Treat It

Diagnosing gas pain

To confirm whether pain is related to gas, you should monitor the pain and the symptoms that present after eating specific foods, drinks, supplements, activities and medications. This will help to evaluate whether certain factors are contributing to gas pain.

However, if you are unsure, or if your gas pain is accompanied by symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and bloody or fatty stools, yu are advised to follow-up with a family doctor or gastroenterologist for assessment.

To confirm a diagnosis, the doctor evaluates the person's symptoms and health history. He or she may also order additional tests, such as a food tolerance test, colonoscopy and bloodwork, which will help rule out other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, intolerance or food poisoning.

Main causes

The main causes of gas pain include:

  • Use of medications, such as antibiotics and antacids
  • Consumption of foods rich in protein, fiber and/or sulfur, such as beans, red meat, eggs, cauliflower and chickpeas
  • Swallowing air when eating quickly, drinking, talking or smiling
  • Constipation
  • Reflux
  • Food poisoning
  • Intestinal worms
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Gas can also be caused by the consumption of carbonated drinks, such as soft drinks, sparkling wine and sparkling water, the use of sweeteners, or by conditions like indigestion, celiac disease or an intolerance to lactose, fructose or gluten.

Also recommended:

Can excess gas be a sign of cancer?

Excess gas does not normally indicate the presence of cancer. However, when it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as dark or bloody stools, constant diarrhea or constipation, a feeling of heaviness or pain in the anal region, even after having a bowel movement, it may be a sign of colon cancer.

Foods that cause gas pain

Some foods, such as beans, sweet potatoes and oats, cause gas build-up and pain because they are rich in fiber and carbohydrates. These nutrients are fermented by gut bacteria during digestion, and can cause flatulence. 

Cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, in addition to causing gas, can also make gas stinkier, as they contain glucosinolates. These are a phytonutrient that contain sulfur, a compound that is responsible for the production of strong-smelling gases.

Read more about foods that can cause gas and see which foods you should avoid.

Treatment options

Some ways to eliminate gas include the use of home remedies, diet, exercise and, in some cases, medication.

1. Home remedies

Some home remedies such as lemon balm, anise or mint tea can help to eliminate gas. These teas contain natural antispasmodic and carminative properties, which promote bowel movements and prevent the formation of gas. Check-out other teas for bloating and gas, and how to prepare them.

2. Diet

A diet that is aimed at reducing gas pain should be easy to digest, and promote balanced intestinal flora and functioning.

Foods that should be avoided include legumes, such as beans, peas and chickpeas; some vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli; fried foods, such as french fries and fried chicken; and sweeteners, such as sorbitol, maltitol and xylitol.

Also recommended: Home Remedies for Gas: 8 Natural Treatments

3. Exercises

Some exercises, such as walking, yoga and cycling, can help to eliminate gas, because they stimulate the muscles responsible for bowel movements. They can promote the elimination of built-up gases and prevent new accumulations.

You can compress the abdominal region by lying on your back and hugging your knees, pressing your thighs into your belly. Check-out other ways to get rid of gas using simple tips.

4. Medications

In cases of severe pain and discomfort, the doctor may prescribe medications such as simethicone, dimethicone, activated charcoal and probiotics to help eliminate gas. 

Be sure to also read-up on how to relieve gas in babies.