Air in the stomach or meteorism

An accumulation of air in the abdomen (gases in the stomach and intestines) can cause discomfort, but the formation of gas is a physiological phenomenon and not pathological.
Intestinal gases are a byproduct of digestion.

On average, a person can produce from half a liter to 2 liters of gas a day.
As gas rises, it creates pressure in the opposite direction to the flow in the gastrointestinal tract.
The largest amount of air in the body escapes by belching.
The rest is absorbed through the small intestine and released through the rectum.
Various problems arise when the gases do not leave the body correctly or when excessive production and accumulation of gases takes place in the intestine.


Causes of air accumulation in the abdomen

The accumulation of air in the stomach can have many causes.

Swallowing air
In most cases, belching is the result of swallowed air (aerophagia).
The following activities increase the likelihood of swallowing air:

  • Smoke
  • Chewing gum
  • Drink with a straw
  • Drinking carbonated drinks
  • fast food and drink
  • Wearing dentures

Other causes of gases in the stomach and intestines

  • Undigested food – the slow digestion of food can cause the production of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane, which lead to gas formation in the stomach and intestines.
  • Malassimilation problems
    The main disorders are related to the malassimilation of lactose and gluten:

    • Lactose intolerance – associated with the absence or deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which causes the maldigestion of lactose found in milk and dairy products.
      The lactose is not digested and ferments in the large intestine, where gases are formed.
    • Sensitivity and intolerance to gluten – caused by the maldigestion of gluten found in cereals (especially wheat and rye).
      The malassimilation problems can lead to air accumulation in the abdomen and other symptoms, such as:

  • Indigestion.
  • Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Food poisoning.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
  • Anxiety and stress – stressed and anxious people eat in a hurry and without chewing the food well.
    The result is that a lot of air is swallowed.

Air in the child’s abdomen

Every child develops gases in the stomach during digestion, regardless of whether they are breastfed or drink from the bottle.
While the accumulation of air in the intestine is a physiological phenomenon in children of any age, gas-induced colic more often affects newborns and babies under four months, because the digestive system is still developing.
The intestine has yet to learn to crush the food and effectively form the stool.

Together with the colic, the following are revealed:

  • sudden, insatiable crying attacks (more than three hours a day at least three days a week),
  • bloated and hard abdomen,
  • pale complexion,
  • Curvature of the legs to the abdomen.

What provokes the colic can not be determined with certainty, but among the possible causes are:

  • Allergy to cow’s milk, which may also be found in the mother’s milk when she eats dairy products. In this case, vomiting and diarrhea should also occur in the newborn;
  • intestinal hypermotility;
  • family stress and anxiety;
  • lack of intestinal flora,
  • Carbohydrate metabolism.

The child’s diet must always be composed as follows:

  • Milk
  • Fresh fruit in summer
  • Dried fruit in winter (raisins, dates and figs)

Breast milk does not contain starch, but only simple sugars, since the child is unable to digest complex carbohydrates at least until the age of 2.

Some foods can not be digested by the child:

  • Cereals (pasta, rice, bread, etc.)
  • Potatoes
  • Meat and other animal protein

What are the causes of meteorism in children?

If the infant is not well placed on the breast or does not enclose the bottle correctly with his mouth, he may swallow too much air during meals.

Allergies and intolerances
Breast milk contains traces of the foods that the mother eats.
Some children may be intolerant to such foods.

A maternal diet that contains allergenic foods, such as:

  • Milk and dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Nuts

can cause symptoms of indigestion and colic in the infant.

A digestive disorder can become a problem.
Feeding too quickly can cause overloading with lactose and an increase in lactose breakdown, leading to increased intestinal gas formation.

New foods
New foods can lead to intestinal air accumulation in the infant as long as he has not yet learned to process the food.
An excess of high-sugar foods, such as fruit juices, can cause watery stools and intestinal gases.

Balance of bacteria Digestion is facilitated by thousands of “good” bacteria
(probiotics) that work together with digestive enzymes to effectively break down and digest food and nutrients.
Changes in the bacterial intestinal flora can lead to an increased amount of intestinal gases.

Meteorism during pregnancy

Pregnancy increases progesterone and estrogen levels in the body.
Progesterone is a hormone that relaxes the gastrointestinal tract along with other body muscles.
The increased elasticity during pregnancy is required to prepare the pelvis for the expansion required during the act of childbirth.
Unfortunately, this causes:

  • a slowing of digestion, caused by the relaxation of the intestinal muscles;
  • heartburn, because the muscles of the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach are relaxed, the acidic contents thus rise again into the throat;
  • Gas formation in the stomach.

This happens especially at the end of pregnancy.

Meteorism during the menstrual cycle

The increase in progesterone causes a slowing of the contraction of smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.
The main symptoms caused by the increase in progesterone (and estrogens) are:

Symptoms of meteorism

Belching – Belching is the most common way to allow gas to escape from the stomach.
This occurs especially after eating.
Excessive ingestion of air is generally the cause of belching.
Violent expulsion due to gases in the stomach can occur in people who consume large amounts of carbonated drinks.

Feeling of fullness – this symptom causes great discomfort.
A feeling of fullness occurs when a large proportion of air is trapped in the abdomen.
A feeling of fullness arises after opulent dishes.
Protein-containing foods can delay gastric emptying. Thus, air accumulates in the stomach, which causes a feeling of fullness.

Acid belching – Burps can cause a sour taste in the throat or a bitter mouth.
This is the case when acids rise from the stomach and enter the mouth via the esophagus. People with reflux oesophagitis often suffer from foul-smelling regurgitation.

Flatulence – the leakage of gases from the rectum is called flatulence.
The gas trapped in the intestine may cause:

Due to indigestion or by eating certain foods, gases can become trapped in the intestinal area.

Nausea – Patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers may have gases in their stomach that cause nausea. This feeling may persist for some time until the gas has escaped from the stomach.

What are the signs and symptoms of meteorism in infants?

Belching is a natural process of expelling accumulated gas from the stomach and you should encourage the toddler to make his peasant immediately after eating.
If the child has hiccups or burps, this may indicate that he has swallowed a lot of air while eating.
Sometimes meteorism can be caused by:

  • the type of milk,
  • particles in breast milk,
  • too plenty of food,
  • too hasty food.

What is the therapy for meteorism?

Treatment for air in the abdomen provides for the following:

  • swallow less air,
  • change diet,
  • Drink herbal tea (for example, fennel tea) or take remedies from the herb shop.

Reduce air ingestion Swallowing less air can lead to
less gas accumulation in the stomach, especially in people who burp frequently.

It is recommended:

  • Eat and chew more slowly until the food is almost liquid.
  • Do not chew gum and sweets.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks.

What to eat? Diet and nutrition with air in the stomach

Dietary habits and diet can affect the amount of gastrointestinal air accumulation.

Correct food combinations

  • Protein-containing foods must not be combined with carbohydrate-containing foods.
    Proteins need a very acidic environment for digestion, while carbohydrates are digested in a slightly acidic environment.
    A serving of rice with beans slows digestion because the body processes one food first and then the other. Another extremely unfavorable combination is legumes along with dairy products.
  • Fruit must be consumed alone and at least 30 minutes before a meal because the body metabolizes it quickly. If you eat fruit at the end of a meal, it remains in the digestive system for a long time and ferments.
  • Take vegetables at the beginning of the meal.
  • It is recommended to eat only one type of food at a time; fatty foods (oil) should not be mixed with proteins or starch (grains).

Nutrition tips

  • If possible, do not drink anything at the end of the meal, because this would slow down digestion.
  • Do not eat anything until the previously consumed meal has been digested.
  • The food should be at room temperature; the body works correctly at 37°C, cold food thus leads to congestion.

Foods to avoid or restrict

Foods that can lead to the formation of gas during digestion contain:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Sugars (especially lactose, sorbitol, raffinose and fructose).

Foods that provoke air in the abdomen:

  • Legumes (beans, peas, soy, etc.) because they contain oligosaccharides (stachyose, raffinose, verbascosis). These substances ferment in the intestine because humans lack the enzyme α-galactosidase, which is necessary for digestion.
  • Fruit containing sorbitol (apples, pears, peaches, plums and mango).
  • Vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, artichokes, broccoli).
  • Garlic and onions.
  • Fast-growing yeast products, such as pizza.
  • Jerusalem artichoke – if consumed for dinner, abdominal pain may occur from the morning to the evening of the next day.
  • Whole grains except rice.
  • Dairy products – contain lactose.
  • Sweeteners (mannitol, sobitol and xylitol).
  • Fried.
  • Foods that absorb air during preparation, such as fruit shakes or ice cream.

The amount of gas produced by digesting food varies from person to person.

Even if fats do not cause gas production, limiting high-fat foods can help reduce feelings of fullness and discomfort.
Fewer fats in the diet help the stomach to empty faster and move the gas to the intestinal tract faster.

In case of nightly meteorism, you should eat dinner before 20 pm and avoid carbonated drinks.

Dietary supplement to avoid air in the abdomen

Some probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus reuteri, can decrease gut air.
Supplements containing L. reuteri are also available for children.
Yogurt is an important source of probiotics.
Several studies have shown that introducing oral probiotics or probiotic foods helps adults and children who suffer from air in the abdomen when administered over several weeks.

Activated carbon: supports the absorption of excessive intestinal gases formed during digestion.

This remedy helps with:

  • meteorism and flatulence,
  • inflammation of the colon (colitis),
  • Diarrhoea
  • poor digestion,
  • Inflammation of the gastric mucosa (gastritis).

Prolonged use of activated carbon is not recommended because it could lead to constipation.
In addition, the doctor should be consulted if other medications are taken, as the absorbent properties of activated charcoal could reduce and cancel out the effect of the drugs.

Natural remedies to prevent meteorism in children and infants

Nutritional techniques

1. Feed the baby in a horizontal position.
Put the nipple all the way into the infant’s mouth.
2. After feeding, provoke a peasant.
3. If the child is not breastfed, use the correct bottle and milk.

Physical therapies for air in the abdomen

Even with perfect feeding, the child may have discomfort due to air accumulation in the abdomen and get hiccups.
Belching is not always sufficient, as the gases form in the intestines and stomach. One can perform the following treatments about 30 minutes after the meal or if symptoms occur.

Belly down: Hold the child so that the belly lies on the forearm. Gravity acts with a slight pressure on the abdomen and favors the escape of air.
A gentle massage on the child’s back increases the pressure.

Infant in prone position: Lay the child on his stomach when he or she is awake. The gentle pressure of gravity can help trapped gases escape.

Abdominal massage: While the infant lies stretched out, gently massage the child’s abdomen clockwise.

Move the child’s legs: While the child looks up, both legs move up and down as if riding a bicycle.
The movements cause a gently circling pressure on the intestine, which favors the escape of air from the intestine.

Read more: