Gas and gas pains

Gas and gas pains can strike at the worst possible moment — during an important meeting or on a crowded elevator. Although passing intestinal gas (flatus) usually isn't serious, it can be embarrassing.

Anything that causes intestinal gas or is associated with constipation or diarrhea can lead to gas pains. These pains generally occur when gas builds up in your intestines, and you're not able to expel it. Most people pass gas at least 10 times a day.

The good news is that although you can't stop gas and gas pains, a few simple measures can help reduce the amount of gas you produce and relieve your discomfort and embarrassment.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors

For most people, the signs and symptoms of gas and gas pain are all too obvious. They include:

  • Voluntary or involuntary passing of gas, either as belches or as flatus.
  • Sharp, jabbing pains or cramps in your abdomen. These pains may occur anywhere in your abdomen and can change locations quickly and get better quickly.
  • A 'knotted' feeling in your abdomen.
  • Swelling and tightness in your abdomen (bloating).

Sometimes, gas pains may be constant or so intense that it feels like something is seriously wrong.

Gas can sometimes be mistaken for:

  • Heart disease
  • Gallstones
  • Appendicitis

When to see a doctor

It's considered normal to pass gas as flatus between 10 and 20 times a day. That amount varies from day to day, however.

Call your doctor if your gas is accompanied by:

  • Prolonged abdominal pain
  • Bloody stools
  • A change in stool color or frequency
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent or recurrent nausea or vomiting

In addition, talk to your doctor if your gas or gas pains are so persistent or severe that they interfere with your ability to live a normal life. In most cases, treatment can help reduce or alleviate the problem.

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