Gastroenterologists Share 9 Things to Do When You Have Painful Gas

When people talk about gas, they often focus on embarrassing sounds and unappealing odors. Those are definitely annoying, but gas pain is probably the worst part of the entire experience. Even among the preschool and elementary school set—the folks most likely to be charmed by gas as a health phenomenon—actual pain isn’t a fun part of the experience.

The good news is that having gas is a normal part of having a body, so you’re not alone in dealing with it. In fact, most people pass gas around 20 times a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. But while gas can be normal, dealing with severe gas pain isn’t. You don’t have to just suck it up and try to forge onward. Instead, it’s best to try to get gas pain sorted ASAP so it doesn’t disrupt your life.

Just to be super clear: What are the symptoms of gas?

Since you probably have a hunch, let’s start here. When you have a meal or snack, your food passes through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Your GI tract is made up of your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (which includes the colon and rectum), and anus, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) explains.

Since you take in air as you eat, drink, talk, chew gum, and all of that fun stuff, that air has to pass through your GI tract as well. As it goes through your body, gas can cause a series of not-so-pleasant symptoms, including:

  • Burping
  • Farting
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain

What about the symptoms of gas pain in particular?

So, about that last symptom on the list up there. “For the most part, your GI tract is efficient at getting rid of gas,” Kyle Staller, M.D., M.P.H., a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells SELF. Sometimes you might not even notice it, or it might make its presence known with a harmless burp or fart. But other times, gas can cause spasms and distension in your GI tract during the digestive process, which can be pretty painful, Jamile Wakim-Fleming, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF.

Pain can obviously come in a lot of different forms. Gas pain in particular, however, can include abdominal cramps and the feeling of knots in your stomach, the Mayo Clinic explains. Depending on the location, it can even be easy to mistake gas pain for other health conditions. For instance, Johns Hopkins Medicine says gas pain that shows up on your right side might feel similar to gallstones or appendicitis.

What even causes gas pain?

Why does gas sometimes hurt so bad that you want to cry and check yourself into the ER? Good question. There are a few main causes of gas (and gas pain) to keep in mind:

1. You’re swallowing a lot of air: We touched on this above, but it’s worth emphasizing as a gas pain cause. While it’s unlikely that you’re actually trying to suck down a bunch of oxygen, certain habits like regularly using a straw, drinking a lot of carbonated beverages, eating too quickly, and chewing gum can cause you to take in more air than normal. When this causes gas, it’s typically via burping, since the air comes back up before it can go all the way to your stomach.

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