Trapped Wind- What is it and how to conquer it
We have ALL been there before… something doesn’t feel quite right and you’re not sure if it’s a burp coming up…if it’s a sudden bout of food poisoning.. or if it’s trapped wind! And when trapped wind rears its ugly head, it can leave you with sharp pains, bloating and of course at some point hopefully, a release of said gas… HOW embarrassing. HOW could your body do this to you? Is it the food you ate? Is there something more serious going on? What even is trapped wind?
Well, I am here to answer all your trapped gas questions today… read on.
WHAT IS TRAPPED GAS?
Flatulence, wind, trapped wind…the list goes on, and trapped wind can be extremely painful, even painful enough to think that something quite sinister is going on.
Producing and passing this gas is a normal part of digestion, but when a bubble of gas gets stuck, it can become EXTREMELY painful.
Trapped wind is usually caused by the build-up of pressure in the abdomen, and can result in painful cramps, uncomfortable stomach twinges or an ongoing stomach ache.
Air is often swallowed when we eat or drink, with any air that is not released by burping, passing through the small intestine and out of the rectum in the form of flatulence.
But, the gas which makes its way to the rectum may also be bacteria fermenting what you cannot digest – some fibres in your food that help our gut bugs produce by-products. If you find yourself producing great volumes of gas, this means your gut bacteria have something to ferment and are being fed, so it’s a healthy, natural process which we should not be ashamed off- plus, your gut bugs are happy!
Symptoms of trapped wind:
- Bloated stomach area
- Feeling extremely full
- Gurgling noises coming from the stomach
- Flatulence/ wind
- Burping regularly
WHY DO I HAVE TRAPPED GAS?
Trapped wind is extremely common.. And not surprising seeing as humans produce around 1.2 litres of gas every day! Different activities can contribute to the build-up of this wind and as we are each individual, we will all react differently to foods and drinks. The most common culprits often include:
- Carbonated drinks- carbonated drinks including sparkling water, release gas, which contributes to the air in the oesophagus
- Artificial sweeteners- some sugar alcohols can cause excess gas, as our gut can find digesting these alcohols quite difficult
- Dairy products- A lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body may struggle to digest lactose, the sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products, resulting in flatulence.
- High-fat foods- these slow down stomach emptying, causing food to spend long durations of time fermenting in the stomach.
- High carbohydrate foods- can come loaded with additional fructose and when they reach the colon, our gut bacteria ferment them. This results in the formation of gas.
- Certain types of carbohydrates such as beans, pulses and specific vegetables such as cabbage- these foods contain certain types of carbohydrates that are poorly digested by the body.
- Fructose- a type of sugar found in fruit, which is usually absorbed in the small intestine. However, some individuals have a fructose intolerance or sensitivity, which can cause some of this fructose to travel to the colon, where bacteria ferment it, resulting in bloating, flatulence and sometimes diarrhoea. Eating cooked fruit can help to break down some of its fibre, which can lead to less bloating as it’s easier to digest,
- High fibre foods- when we increase our fibre intake, we increase the population of healthy bacteria in the gut. These bacteria produce gas as a byproduct, which may result in flatulence and bloating.
- Chewing gum- When we chew gum we swallow more air.
- Eating too quickly- can cause air to get trapped in your stomach.
- Motility disorders such as IBS- characterised by abnormal movements and contractions of intestinal muscles. Slower motility can mean food ferments for longer in the gut, resulting in gas.
- Short-chain fatty acid production- SCFAs are produced by good gut bacteria. They are made when our friendly gut bacteria ferment fibre in the colon and are the main source of nutrition for the cells lining the colon. Eating a high fibre diet is known to increase the number of SCFAs.
TIPS TO AVOID TRAPPED GAS
REGULAR MEAL TIMES– Allowing and training your digestive system to get into a routine, can aid with the digestive process. Giving your digestive system a substantial break between meals will help with the breakdown of food, and aiming for a minimum fast of 12 hours overnight will ensure your body is ready for its first meal of the day.
STEER CLEAR OF GAS FORMING FOODS– Everyone has their own personal triggers, but common culprits often include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. Keep in mind that each person’s body will react differently, and quantity can have a big role to play. Keep portions mindful and if you feel as though certain foods could be your trigger, write a food and symptom diary to get to the bottom of what is the cause.
SLOW DOWN- Take your time when it comes to mealtimes, chew each mouthful thoroughly and fully enjoy your food and the whole experience. Satiety signals can take up to 20 minutes to reach the brain and ease your appetite, so overeating is commonly linked to eating quickly, which results in bloat and trapped wind.
COFFEE KICK- That morning latte could be the cause of your abdominal bloating and gas. Dairy from milk is a gas-forming culprit, along with caffeine often increasing the level of acid within the intestines. For some this can stimulate the digestive tract, leading to bloating and gas. Sadly decaffeinated coffee still won’t have you covered, as it still contains around 2-5milligrams of caffeine which can impact the gut.
AVOID STRAWS– When we drink through a straw, it can take air up with it into our mouth. This air then travels into the digestive tract, potentially causing increased gas and bloating. Try to avoid drinking from straws if you are prone to trapped wind…plus it’s better for the environment too!
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR TRAPPED GAS
FENNEL: Fennel is packed with antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. The oil compounds found in fennel seeds have digestive and anti-flatulence benefits. Try making a cup of freshly ground fennel tea.
PEPPERMINT OIL: Peppermint has antispasmodic properties which help to naturally relax sore muscles to prevent painful stomach spasms caused by trapped wind. It works by helping the muscle of the bowel wall to relax. I like to take peppermint oil capsules for when things get uncomfortable, my favourite is Viridian available here.
FRESH MINT TEA: A warm, cosy and effective drink to sip on after a meal. Mint is fantastic when it comes to aiding digestion, and contains a compound called menthol that helps to aid in the normalisation of intestinal contractions. The natural oils found in mint leaves help to break down gas and remove it smoothly from the digestive tract.
GINGER: Available in capsules or grated into tea, ginger is a warming option to calm stomach spasms. Ginger is also known to help speed up the movement of food through the GI tract, whilst protecting the gut. It may help to ease bloating, cramping and gas due to the phenolic compounds which can help to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes.