By Dr. Marc Bernstein, gastroenterologist at Gastroenterology Associates of Sarasota
Intestinal gas is comprised of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen from swallowed air, as well as methane and hydrogen from food being broken down by colonic bacteria. If you’re experiencing more than normal gas, here are a few possible explanations:
1. Your sleep pattern is messed up
Getting a restful sleep can certainly help your GI system. Unusual sleep patterns can cause dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut flora. When this happens, levels of methane and hydrogen can surge and lead to increased gas. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule and consume a diet full of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables for smoother stool passages.
2. You have sleep apnea
Many people who suffer from sleep apnea breathe through their mouth at night. Mouth breathing causes the body to swallow more air and can lead to feeling bloated. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, for those with sleep apnea, can also cause the stomach to fill with air and increase gassiness. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing excess flatulence, burping or discomfort; you may need to try a different approach to treating sleep disturbances.
3. You’re on medication
Certain medications, especially antibiotics, can wipe out your intestinal microbiota. While antibiotics can be lifesaving, they will also negatively affect the beneficial bacteria in your GI tract and possibly lead to excess gas and bloating. Make sure you work with a gastroenterologist to ensure you’re consuming a gut-healthy diet and taking the appropriate probiotics to help fortify the intestinal wall, increase the mucous layer and rebuild your stomach’s population of healthy bacteria.
4. You talk while you eat
Similar to mouth breathing at night, swallowing air between bites of food may lead to excess gas. This is called aerophagia, which literally means excessive or repetitive air swallowing. It turns out it’s not only good manners to keep your mouth closed when chewing, it’s also beneficial to your gut!
5. You’re stressed
Stress can lead to shifts in hormone regulation, which may slow down digestion. When you’re constipated, the digestive process becomes sluggish, food remains stagnant, more gas is produced, and less gas can pass. It’s a one-two punch and to make matters worse, it leads to even more stress. Break this vicious cycle by eating even more plants during stressful times and ensure you’re exercising regularly, which also aids in digestion.
You should see your doctor if your gas is persistent or leads to severe symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, bloody stool or extreme weight loss.