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Pregnant and struggling with gas issues? Well, gas is a common problem during pregnancy, occurring more often than anticipated. Blame the changing hormones or your body, some amount of gas during pregnancy is indispensable.

Although it is fairly common to pass gas even when not pregnant, gas production and escape are witnessed more common in pregnancy, which is why it can be a cause of discomfort.

It has been estimated that an average person passes gas typically 18 times a day, with the number increasing during pregnancy.

This gas is not essentially in the form of flatulence or farting; it can also be witnessed as burping or belching.

Whatever may be the pathway, gas formed due to several body processes is just looking for some escape. This is why it is important to let it pass without holding back at any time to avoid excessive bloating.

Two of these common issues during pregnancy, that is, gas and bloating will be discussed in this article. It will include the causes, symptoms, treatment and remedies to get rid of these pregnancy concerns. So, let’s begin.

  1. Symptoms of gas during pregnancy
  2. Gas during pregnancy: Causes
  3. Prevention and home remedies for gas during pregnancy
  4. Treatment of gas during pregnancy

The problem of gas during pregnancy begins well within the first trimester and stays throughout. As pregnancy progresses and the size of the baby grows bigger, it exerts more and more pressure on your abdominal muscles causing digestion to further slow down. Following are the symptoms you may observe in different intensities across trimesters:

  • Passing wind often
  • Frequent burps
  • Loud and smelly flatus
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Stomach distension
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Rumbling sounds in the abdomen

Most of the gas released during pregnancy is in the form of burps, with the remaining amount being passed down to the intestines and released as a flatus. Excessive flatulence usually occurs when undigested foods from other parts of the alimentary canal are broken down by the bacteria present in the large intestine.

The causes of gas during pregnancy are either diet-related, which are the same for every individual or are a consequence of your changing hormones. Other than these, there are some habits, which can lead to an increased gas production in the body. Let’s discuss these separately:

Hormonal changes

Your body goes through a bundle of hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy, which causes a plethora of symptoms, gas being just one.

During pregnancy, the levels of the hormone progesterone are significantly raised. Progesterone is involved in the relaxation of muscles throughout the body and has similar actions on your intestinal muscles causing them to relax.

As this happens, digestion takes longer and food stays for a prolonged time in your intestines increasing the transit time.

Scientists suggest that this increase in transit time can be as much as 33% additional to the time spent when you were not pregnant.

As food spends more time in your intestines, there are more interactions and a longer time for gas to build up.

This will be manifested as bloating, burping, belching, farting and other digestive symptoms that you experience during pregnancy.

Diet-related causes

Of course, hormones are not all to blame as all pregnant women do not experience gas equally. There sure is an involvement of dietary factors. Some foods which cause more amount of gas to build up within the body are:

Foods high in fibre

During pregnancy, it is suggested to have a high-fibre diet for a healthy nutrition and to avoid excess weight gain. While having a diet rich in fibres is essentially important, it is recommended to not go overboard as this can lead to the symptoms of gas.

This is because fibres are dense foods, which generally take longer to digest in your body. They are known to have a long transit time, which causes gas symptoms. Add to that your changing hormones and relaxed intestinal tract, the problem becomes worse.

So, while you are pregnant, as much as eating fibres is important, it is always suggested to have a balanced diet for a better digestion.

Some of the foods high in fibre, which cause you to bloat are:

  • Brocolli
  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Sprouts
  • Artichokes
  • Cauliflower
  • Prunes
  • Asparagus

Since these are otherwise healthy foods, instead of removing them from your diet, you can just limit their intake.

Drinking less water

Water is the healthiest beverage and is essential for the process of digestion. Drinking water aids in a quicker digestion thereby reducing the risk of gas and bloating caused due to slow-down of the digestive process. This is why it is always recommended to increase your water intake when on a high-fibre diet. Further, drinking water before meals helps you feel full and prevents you from overeating during meals. So, while you are pregnant, it is highly essential to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water each day.

Foods that increase air production

Certain foods when ingested introduce some amount of air in your digestive tract, which then adopts a similar pathway to release. Foods which cause air to trap in the digestive tract are:

  • Carbonated beverages like soda, sparkling water, cola and other cold drinks, which cause air bubbles to enter the digestive tract.
  • Soybean and other soy products like soy milk increase intestinal gas during the process of digestion.
  • Chewing gums cause you to swallow excess air.
  • Milk and milk products like cheese, cream, icecreams and sweets may lead to increased gas production especially in those who are lactose intolerant.
  • Other than lactose, some women may be intolerant to other types of carbohydrates like fructose. So, the intake of fresh fruits like apples, mangoes and bananas and that of honey, corn syrup or fruit jams can also cause bloating and gas in them.
  • High carbohydrate foods like pulses, rajma, chana and other beans also increase gas production in the body.
  • High fat and deep fried foods cause intestinal flora to produce more gases.
  • Individuals allergic to a particular food item must avoid its consumption to prevent bloating.
  • Processed and ready to make food items have been recognised to increase gas production in the body.

Habits that cause increased gas production during pregnancy

An increase in gas production can also be caused due to certain food habits, which introduce excess air into the body. These are:

  • Chewing food too quickly or not chewing it properly will increase the time required for digestion.
  • Always chewing on a gum introduces excess air in the digestive tract.
  • Frequent intake of coffee increases gas production in the body. A similar effect is observed by the use of artificial sweeteners.
  • Drinking from a straw instead of a glass introduces some amount of excess air within the alimentary canal.
  • Smoking also introduces excess air in your body.
  • Overeating and consumption of heavy meals will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the time required for digestion.
  • Talking while eating is another habit which allows extra air to enter your body.

Excessive gas during pregnancy can be prevented by the careful restriction of the aforementioned fibre sources from your diet. Other ways in which gas production can be prevented are:

  • Eat smaller portions throughout the day divided into 6 meals instead of 3 large meals. This will aid in a quicker digestion of food since smaller portions are easier to digest. Increase snacking.
  • Reduce the intake of fried foods, processed foods and food items rich in salt.
  • As much as possible, eat home-made healthy meals. When going out, prefer light food items.
  • Chew food slowly for a proper digestion and take your time while eating so that you do not gulp in excess air.
  • Sit up straight while eating or drinking anything so that your stomach is not squished which otherwise slows down the process of digestion.
  • Try to avoid heavy meals during the night.
  • Don’t skip breakfast as this will prevent you from overindulgence throughout the day.
  • When eating fibres, ensure to include other dietary components as well so that digestion is balanced. It is also advisable to not increase fibre intake all at once during pregnancy and gradually increase your portions. Also, make sure to up your water intake.
  • Reduce milk consumption and that of milk products as well.
  • Maintain a daily food diary to acknowledge the exact cause of excessive gas production in your body. Once known, remove this food from your diet.
  • Reduce sugar and coffee intake. If you need something to sip while working, make sure it is water.
  • It is advisable to go for a short walk after your meals. At all times, it is important to not lie down or sleep immediately after eating as this will slow down digestion.
  • There are some other foods you must consume in lesser amounts during pregnancy to reduce gas. These include prunes, raisins, seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, fruits like apples, apricots, peach and pear and vegetables like carrots and eggplants.
  • Consumption of artificial sweeteners like sorbitol must also be avoided.
  • Avoid smoking. It has damaging effects on your baby as well.
  • Avoid chewing gum and drinking carbonated beverages. You can instead increase water intake, which will also help to lower gas production.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing as tightly fitted garments squish your stomach and slow down the process of digestion.
  • Increase your physical activity. You don’t necessarily need to join a class, just a brisk 30-minute walk can aid in improving digestion.
  • Avoid sitting for prolonged hours. It has been recognised that sitting for long hours slows digestion. If you are at work, it is advisable to take a break every now and then and get out of your seat. You can go for a short walk or do small errands.
  • If you pass smelly flatus, it is advisable to limit the intake of onions, garlic, leeks and any other smelly foods or herbs.
  • If loud noise along with flatus is a problem, it is recommended to pass gas with a lesser force so that it gradually passes through your anal opening producing less noise.

It is important that you understand that an excess gas and bloating are common symptoms of pregnancy and it is not entirely possible to do away with these. While the above measures will certainly help in reducing the amount and severity of your problem, it is important to not be embarrassed about these and embrace pregnancy beautifully. These symptoms do not have any bad effect on the baby provided your diet and lifestyle is healthy. In case of an excess of these symptoms, change in toilet habits or immense discomfort, it is important to visit your doctor to determine the underlying cause.

An excess gas during pregnancy is easily diagnosed based on the symptoms of bloating, belching and flatulence. Usually, this requires no treatment other than dietary modifications and corrective measures. In case the symptoms are experienced extremely, your doctor will perform certain diagnostic tests to determine the cause. This can include tests for lactose intolerance or that to fructose sugars. Irritable bowel syndrome or constipation could be some other causes, which need to be ruled out by your doctor. The treatment of the condition will then depend on this cause.

Over-the-counter medications to improve digestion and relieve gas can be given. In case of heartburn or acidity, antacids will be prescribed.

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References

  1. American pregnancy association. Gas During Pregnancy. Skyway Circle ,Irving, TX
  2. BabyCenter. Wind and bloating in pregnancy. Johnson & Johnson; ‎San Francisco
  3. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Flatulence
  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Reproductive health and the workplace
  5. Office on women's health [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Staying healthy and safe
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