Trapped gas can feel like a stabbing pain in your chest or abdomen. The pain can be sharp enough to send you to the emergency room, thinking it’s a heart attack, or appendicitis, or your gallbladder.
Producing and passing gas is a normal part of your digestion. But when a bubble of gas gets stuck inside you, you want to relieve the pain as fast as possible. And if you have other symptoms, it’s a good idea to find out what’s causing the pain.
Read on to learn how to relieve trapped gas, what the causes might be, and tips for prevention.
Fast facts about trapped gas
- About 5 percent of emergency room visits are because of abdominal pain.
- On average, your colon produces 1 to 4 pints of gas a day.
- Passing gas 13 to 21 times a day is normal.
Best home remedies for trapped gas
Certain home remedies for relieving trapped gas work better for some people than others. You may have to experiment to see what works best and fastest for you. Most of the evidence behind these home remedies is anecdotal.
Here are some quick ways to expel trapped gas, either by burping or passing gas.
Walk around. Movement may help you expel the gas.
Try gently massaging the painful spot.
Specific yoga poses can help your body relax to aid the passing of gas. Here’s a pose to start with:
- Lie on your back and extend your legs straight up with your feet together.
- Bend your knees and put your arms around them.
- Pull your knees down to your chest.
- At the same time, pull your head up to your knees. You can also keep your head flat, if it’s more comfortable.
- Hold the pose for 20 seconds or more.
Drink noncarbonated liquids. Warm water or herbal tea helps some people. Try peppermint, ginger, or chamomile tea.
Use prepared teabags, or make your own herbal tea by steeping ginger root, peppermint leaves, or dried chamomile.
A traditional Persian remedyTrusted Source advises mixing 10 grams each of ground cumin and fennel with 5 grams of ground anise, and steeping them in a cup of boiling water for 20 minutes.
Natural kitchen remedies for gas include:
Mix one of these ground herbs or seeds into a glass of warm water and drink.
Bicarbonate of soda
Dissolve 1/2 teaspoonTrusted Source of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in a glass of water and drink it.
Be careful not to use more than 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Too much baking soda taken when you have a full stomach could lead to a stomach ruptureTrusted Source.
Apple cider vinegar
Dissolving 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drinking it is a traditional remedy for gas release.
Anecdotal evidence suggests this can be effective, but there’s no scientific evidence to support this claim. However, there aren’t any negative side effects to this method.
Best OTC remedies for trapped gas
Many over-the-counter (OTC) remedies exist for gas relief. Again, the evidence for effectiveness may be anecdotal only. You’ll have to experiment to see what works for you.
Here are some products to try.
Products for lactose intolerance may help if you have trouble digesting lactose. But these are usually taken as a preventive measure. These enzyme products include:
- Digest Dairy Plus
- Dairy Relief
Alpha-galactosidase is a natural enzyme that helps prevent gas from legumes. There’s some evidenceTrusted Source that it works to prevent gas and bloating. But again, it’s usually taken as a preventive measure.
Beano is a well-known version of this enzyme, available in tablet form.
You can find it at most pharmacies or online: Beano.
Simethicone products have possible benefits in relieving gas, according to some studiesTrusted Source. They work by breaking up bubbles in gas.
These products include:
- Alka-Seltzer Anti-Gas
- Mylanta Gas
Activated charcoal tablets, capsules, or powder may also help reduce gas. The charcoal is activated by heating it to make it more porous, which traps gas molecules in the spaces created. However, these products may have unwanted side effects, such as turning your tongue black.
These products include:
- Activated Charcoal
You can find simethicone and activated charcoal products at most pharmacies or order online by clicking the links below:
- Alka-Seltzer Anti-Gas
- Mylanta Gas
- Activated Charcoal
Symptoms of trapped gas
Trapped gas symptoms usually come on suddenly. The pain can be sharp and stabbing. It can also be a general feeling of acute discomfort.
Your stomach may be bloated and you may have stomach cramps.
Pain from gas that collects on the left side of your colon can radiate up to your chest. You may think this is a heart attack.
Gas that collects on the right side of the colon can feel like it might be appendicitis or gallstones.
Causes of trapped gas
There are many causes of trapped gas bubbles. Most are related to the process of digestion. But some may result from physical conditions that need treatment.
Your digestion and gas production are affected by:
- what you eat
- how fast you eat
- how much air you swallow when eating
- food combinations
Some people may be slower at processing and clearing gas in their intestine. This may be because they lack the enzymes required.
Your colon processes carbohydrates like beans, bran, cabbage, and broccoli into hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases. For some people, this can cause an excess of gas that may become trapped.
Some people do not have enough lactase, which is the enzyme required to digest some milk products. This is called lactose intolerance.
Others may not easily digest gluten, which is called a gluten intolerance.
Both these conditions may cause excess gas.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when bacteria that normally grows in other parts of the gut starts growing in the small intestine. This may cause more than normal intestinal gas.
One common symptom of constipation is the inability to pass gas.
Many habits can contribute to more gas production, especially behaviors that allow more air intake when you eat. Examples include:
- using a straw to drink
- drinking from a water bottle or a water fountain
- talking when eating
- chewing gum
- eating hard candy
- sighing deeply
- smoking or using chewing tobacco
Other factors that may cause excess gas
Other causes of excess gas include:
- persistent postnasal drip, which causes more air to be swallowed
- some drugs, such as OTC cold medications, used long term
- fiber supplements that contain psyllium
- artificial sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol
- previous surgery or pregnancy that altered your pelvic muscles
Health conditions that may cause excess gas
If your discomfort from gas is prolonged and if you have other symptoms, you may have a more serious digestive problem. Some possibilities include:
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- ulcerative colitis
- peptic ulcers
All of these conditions are treatable.
Tips for preventing trapped gas
You can lower your risk of getting a painful trapped gas bubble by watching what and how you eat.
It may be useful to keep a food diary. This can help you keep track of the foods and circumstances that lead to a gas bubble. Then you can avoid those foods or behaviors that seem to give you a problem.
Try eliminating foods one by one, so that you can pinpoint possible problems.
Here are some basic tips to start with:
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid carbonated beverages.
- Drink liquids at room temperature, not too hot or too cold.
- Avoid foods known to cause excess gas.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Eat slowly and chew your food well.
- Don’t chew gum.
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
- If you wear dentures, have your dentist check on whether they let in too much air when you eat.
- Increase your physical activity.
Try some of the home remedies or OTC remedies for gas, and see what might work for you.
When to see a doctor
It’s a good idea to see your doctor, if you frequently have trapped gas bubbles, if they last a long time, or if you have any worrisome symptoms.
Other symptoms to watch for include:
- unexplained weight loss
- bowel movement frequency changes
- blood in your stool
- nausea or vomiting
- loss of appetite
It’s a good idea to discuss the remedies that you’re already trying, especially any herbal supplements.
Trapped gas can be acutely painful. It’s usually not serious, but may be a sign of a food intolerance or an underlying digestive problem.
Watching what you eat and taking some preventive measures can help.
Getting rapid relief may take some experimenting with different remedies to see what works for you.
Author: Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH
Source: Health Line: Immediate Relief for Trapped Gas: Home Remedies and Prevention Tips