Gas and Bloating

Causes of gas

Gas and bloating are a concern for many people with Crohn’s disease and colitis. Bloating is when your tummy feels swollen after eating. Gas and bloating seem to go hand in hand. 

We all have gas in our intestines. In fact, we produce several litres of gas a day through digestion. Some of this is breathed out, some is reabsorbed into the bloodstream, and some is expelled as wind. Most of us pass wind 15 times a day. 

Some people take in too much gas by swallowing a lot of air through eating, drinking, or even by talking. Also, certain foods and carbonated drinks can cause gas build up. 

Foods containing complex carbohydrates such as beans, cabbage, and brussel sprouts are hard to digest. Instead, the body breaks them down using bacteria that produce gas.

In Crohn’s disease, food is sometimes absorbed poorly by the small intestine. This means more undigested food reaches the colon. The bacteria in the colon can digest it, but in turn produces more gas. 

Also, some people with Crohn’s disease are more likely to be lactose intolerant, which means they have difficulty digesting a sugar in milk called lactose. When they eat something with lactose in it, the lactose is broken down by bacteria in the colon that produce gas. 

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Causes of bloating

Gas can become trapped in your stomach and intestines, which leads to bloating. This in turn can lead to passing wind. Some causes of bloating include constipation, scar tissue (adhesions) from surgery, and eating a lot of fatty food.

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Managing gas and bloating

If you are concerned about your gas and bloating, make sure to speak to your healthcare provider and IBD specialist.

Here are some tips for reducing gas, which in turn should help reduce your bloating:

  • Eat small, regular meals. An empty bowel rumbles and produces more wind.

  • Eat dinner earlier in the day. Some people find eating a large dinner later gives them discomfort.

  • Avoid gulping your food. Eat slowly and chew your food well.

  • Avoid certain foods that could produce gas, such as beans, onions, cauliflower, whole grains, eggs, high fat foods, sugary or refined foods, spicy food, high-fibre foods, or raw vegetables.

  • Cook vegetables to break down the fibres, which helps in digestion, reducing bloating and gas. 

  • Talk to your healthcare provider to check if you are lactose intolerant.

  • Track your food using a mobile app or diary, to see if any particular foods might be causing your bloating and gas. Write down everything you eat and drink for a week and how you feel after eating them.

  • Try cutting out certain foods for four to six weeks and see if there is any difference in your symptoms. Make sure when doing this to maintain a balanced diet. Talk to your dietitian about excluding certain foods and how to replace any lost nutrients.

  • Drink two litres of water a day and avoid caffeine. 

  • Avoid carbonated drinks and alcohol.

  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time. 

  • Get regular exercise to keep the food in your digestive system moving around.

  • Ask your IBD team about anal sphincter exercises, which can help control the passing of wind.

  • Avoid tight clothes that put pressure on your abdomen as this makes it harder for gas to pass through your digestive system normally.

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