Trapped wind is a common complaint that’s caused by gas in the abdominal area that hasn’t released. Gas is part of the normal digestive process and it’s usually released through belching or flatulence, but when it doesn’t release properly it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort when it’s trapped. Some people experience more wind than others due to diet or eating habits. Mild wind can be treated with natural remedies such as peppermint, avoiding certain foods, and gentle exercises. If trapped wind is causing you a lot of pain there are some medicines available to help breakdown the gas and move it out of the body. Speak to your GP if trapped wind is a frequent problem for you.
Dr. Diana Gall
Our Health Care Team
Trapped wind is very common and usually nothing to worry about. It can cause discomfort and pain but it will usually pass on its own. However, some people may have more severe symptoms that may last longer. It’s important to try and release the gas whenever you can, holding in gas will only make it worse. Passing gas is a normal everyday process. You may need to change your diet and eating habits if you’re frequently getting bouts of trapped wind, but there are many over the counter remedies to help ease the short term symptoms.
What is trapped wind?
Trapped wind usually occurs when there is a buildup of gas in the abdomen or stomach. It’s normal to have some amount of gas in your stomach from swallowing air when we eat for example, and most of us will have experienced a bout of trapped wind from time to time. However, some people experience trapped wind frequently and are more sensitive to gas in the stomach. The symptoms can be uncomfortable and sometimes very painful.
Gas is a normal part of the digestion process, there are many ways gas can build up in the stomach but usually, your body will expel this gas either via the mouth through belching or via the anus through flatulence or ‘farting’ as it’s commonly known. Flatulence occurs when the gas has traveled to the intestines.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to pass gas and it can become trapped. This is when you can experience painful symptoms as the gas is having trouble moving through your digestive system.
What are the symptoms of trapped wind?
You may be familiar with the symptoms of wind as it’s normal to experience this daily. Belching and flatulence are all part of the digestive process, your body needs to release gas. Most people can pass gas up to 20 times a day, however, when it becomes trapped you may experience other symptoms such as pain in the abdomen, stomach cramps, it’s been described as a knotted feeling in the abdomen. You may also experience bloating particularly after meals, you may feel more full than usual. Some people also notice loud gurgling noises coming from their stomach.
Most of the time trapped wind can be felt in the stomach or abdomen area, but sometimes you can feel trapped wind pain in your chest, back, or under the ribs. It’s possible that the pain of trapped wind can move around the body and it may feel worse when you exercise or lie down.
Trapped wind in chest
While you can feel trapped wind pain in the chest, this is less common. It can also indicate a more serious problem as the pain can be similar to a heart attack with tightness in the chest and stabbing pains. It can be difficult to know whether this is just gas or something more serious. Pay attention to other symptoms you may be experiencing, if the chest pain is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, pain or discomfort in the arms, jaw, back, neck or stomach then you should get emergency medical help as it may be a sign of heart attack.
What are the causes of trapped wind?
Most of the time gas is caused by swallowing too much air when we eat and drink, particularly talking while eating and this is usually released through belching unless it becomes trapped. Gas is also produced inside the body by bacteria. This happens when food that can’t be broken down in the small intestine is moved to the large intestine where bacteria continue to digest this food which creates gas made up of carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane and sulfur. Sulfur gives the unpleasant smell when the gas is released through the flatulence.
There are certain foods that produce more gas in the body. High fibre foods such as beans, peas, fruit and vegetables (particularly broccoli and brussel sprouts), and whole grains can all increase gas production causing wind that can sometimes be painful when it becomes trapped.
Other causes of increased gas production and trapped wind symptoms include:
- Chewing gum
- Drinking carbonated drinks
- Eating too quickly
- Talking while eating
- Food intolerances - lactose intolerant, or intolerance to food sugars
- Certain medicines - wind can be a side effect of some medicines such as laxatives
- Medical conditions such as coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease
How long does trapped wind last?
Trapped wind can come and go, if you have a food intolerance then you may experience this more frequently. If you keep getting trapped wind or it’s lasting more than two days you may need to seek medical help as you could have an underlying condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Usually, trapped wind can last a couple of days, but if you’ve had abdominal pain for more than a week you’ll need to see your GP, and again don’t ignore any pain that is in the chest area, particularly if you’re showing symptoms of a heart attack, seek emergency medical help.
Trapped wind in pregnancy
During pregnancy, the body goes through many changes. Due to hormones the bowel and intestines are more relaxed which slows down the digestive process meaning it takes more time for food and gas to move through the body leading to trapped wind. It’s common to experience trapped wind in all stages of pregnancy due to hormonal changes and the pressure of the growing foetus on the abdominal area.
Trapped wind relief
There are many medicated and natural trapped wind remedies to help bring some relief from the discomfort and pain. Firstly, stay away from any foods that could aggravate your gas symptoms, although fibre is good for the digestive you should try an avoid these foods until your symptoms have passed. You can also try some gentle exercises, this will help to get the trapped air moving through the digestive system and out of the body.
Sip on water or peppermint tea to help get any undigested food moving through your body, peppermint can also help reduce bloating and cramps. Avoid any carbonated drinks as this will make it worse, and reduce or cut out dairy as this may be the cause.
Keep a food diary if you regularly suffer from trapped wind as you may be able to spot something in your diet which is causing a lot of gas.
Medications such as antacids can help to neutralise excess stomach acid, and any medicines containing Simethicone may help to break down gas bubbles and reduce stomach bloating.
If you have constipation try some remedies for this as passing a stool can help get rid of gas. However, be aware that some laxatives can cause wind.
If you’re pregnant, speak to your pharmacist or GP about whether these medicines are safe for you to take.