Gas in the Digestive Tract

Belching is a normal process and results from swallowed air accumulating in the stomach. The air can either be belched back or can be passed out of the stomach into the small intestine and be subsequently passed as rectal gas (flatus).

Bloating refers to a sense of fullness in the upper abdomen. This can be influenced by gas and/or food accumulation in the stomach. Some patients experience the symptom with normal amounts of gastric gas.

Flatulence refers to the passage of rectal gas. The gas is generally a combination of swallowed air and gas produced by the action of colon bacteria on undigested carbohydrates.

Gas which accumulates in the right upper portion of the colon can lead to pain which could seem like gallbladder pain. Gas which accumulates in the left upper portion of the colon can radiate up to the chest and seem like cardiac pain.

Is Gas A Sign of a Healthy Gut?

Gas can be embarrassing, especially if you accidentally “fart” or belch in front of others, but it is also normal and natural. In fact, gas is a sign that your gut is working properly.

The human digestive system breaks down food into the vitamins and minerals it needs to function. Processing food in this way can produce gas. Swallowing air during eating, chewing and swallowing food can also introduce air into the digestive tract to produce gas.

This gas and air can build up in the digestive system. The body absorbs some of the gas and air naturally, but it must release the remaining air, through either “passing gas” or burping. Failure to release the air would cause significant discomfort and bloating.

The average person belches or passes gas up to 25 times each day. The body typically, but not always, releases gas in small amounts and usually at night. Many factors, such as the nature and frequency of a person’s diet, the amount of air someone swallows, the motility of his or her bowels, medication, and stress, can play a role in the amount of gas a person passes throughout the day.

While passing gas or burping can be awkward when in public, it is a sign of a healthy gut in a number of ways.

3 Ways in Which Gas is a Sign of a Healthy Gut

1. Gas may indicate a balanced diet

A balanced and healthy diet includes lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, digesting these foods does cause the digestive tract to produce gas.

The small intestine is responsible for digesting most of the food you eat. However, the small intestine cannot break down certain types of carbohydrates – these carbohydrates pass into the large intestine, where beneficial bacteria break them down in a process known as fermentation. Feeding the beneficial bacteria in this way maintains a healthy bacterial balance in the gut, but the fermentation process produces gas, also known as flatus.

In most cases, flatus is odorless because the main components of gas – carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen – do not give off an odor. However, flatus may also include sulfur-containing compounds that have a distinctive and unpleasant odor. Some people’s digestive tracts produce methane, which combined with hydrogen sulfide in the large intestine, can give flatus its smell.

2. Flatulence and belching may indicate a functional digestive system

It is perfectly normal to belch or pass gas. In fact, the complete absence of gas may be a sign of an underlying problem, such as an intestinal blockage or other abdominal obstruction.

3. Excess gas may be a sign of a health problem

Some people experience intolerance to certain foods. Eating a food to which someone has an allergy or intolerance can cause symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, bloating – and gas. If you experience gas after eating foods that do not normally cause you to have gas, you may have developed intolerance to those foods, or you may have another digestive issue triggered by the consumption of those foods.

If you have gas and have ever wondered, “is gas a sign of a of a healthy gut?” you can now rest assured that gas is normal and healthy. If you have excessive gas or flatulence accompanied by severe abdominal pain or changes in your bowel movements, consult with a doctor.

The physicians at Digestive Healthcare of Georgia are closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In the interest of everyone’s health and safety we ask all patients and their guests who have a fever (100° or above), symptoms of a respiratory infection, or who may have traveled to a restricted country or may have been exposed to a person with known COVID-19, the flu or any other communicable disease to reschedule their appointments or procedures. You will not be charged for canceling/rescheduling your appointment. We will be following CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health’s recommendations for screening and management of patients. If you are at all concerned you may have a serious infectious disease, your best course of action is to seek care at your primary care physician’s office or local hospital’s emergency department.

We have implemented a telemedicine visit for our patients who are unable to be in the office for their appointment. Please call our office to schedule a telemedicine visit with your provider.