Why is stomach gas making me feel so terrible?
July 24, 2013 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Whenever I eat, I get a lot of gas in my stomach. It starts building up shortly after I start eating and makes me feel short of breath, extremely yawny, and tired - even dizzy sometimes. It lasts for hours. It takes dozens or hundreds of burps to clear this up, and when I can successfully burp enough it always resolves. Why might the gas make me feel this way?

The gas takes many hours to move through my digestive system unless I move around a lot and try to burp it up. It's getting to the point where if I'm sitting in my chair at work for more than a couple hours after eating, I start to feel terrible and have to spend the next few hours at home trying to burp the gas up to relieve the symptoms described above. If I eat a significant amount of food less than about 5 hours before bed, excessive gas remains in my system into the night. This seems to cause or worsen some kind of apnea and results in terrible sleep quality. So I'm left with a very tiny window of time where I can actually eat.

On days where I can be active most of the day, I still have to burp a lot but it doesn't become trapped as badly, and I never feel terrible as long as I don't eat within a few hours before bed.

I'm going to finally get to see a GI doc soon to try to find the cause of this, so that isn't my focus here. I would mostly just like to know if anyone has any idea why gas would cause these problems so I can make the most out of this appointment that I have waited so long for, and give me more things to try to feel better.

For the record, I am male, 5'9", 173 lbs, I lift at least a couple times a week, and I just turned 30. Tested negative for pylori. The gas has been happening for years but either I'm getting more fed up with it or it's a bit worse than before.
posted by Earl the Polliwog to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a pretty good description of my gallbladder attacks, though I have to struggle quite a bit, lay on my side, etc to get the belching going.

It's unlikely that the gas is "causing these problems". You have a problem, one of the symptoms of which is extreme amounts of gas.

Have you tried any sort of elimination diet to rule out common causes of digestive problems? Have you prepared several weeks' of food and activity logs to show the GI doctor at your appointment?
posted by Lyn Never at 8:34 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

You may have a food intolerance. Lactose and gluten intolerance often have stomach problems as main symptoms. Dizziness and tiredness also goes along with an intolerance. When I was on a medication that made me have a yeast intolerance, anytime I had it I was so tired I couldn't stop yawning and had a migrane level headache, including stomach aches. (Caffeine intolerance can do that too.) It could also be a chronic issue such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Start keeping a food journal now. Record everything you eat, when you eat it, the symptoms you experience, and how long they last. This may also be something that a doctor may suggest you do after doing blood tests as many problems are caused by foods.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:35 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the mean time - I find a good headstand (or handstand) for 1-2 minutes helps relieve this. Once the body is inverted.... well gas rises right?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:44 PM on July 24, 2013

I think it's highly unlikely that the gas isn't causing the bulk of the problems. There were times when I didn't feel the gas pressure, but felt very dizzy, and knew that I had to burp. I did, and instantly the dizziness resolved. The symptoms always get better exactly when I am able to burp or (more rarely) pass gas.

The gas happens with all foods, though on a calorie-for-calorie basis perhaps slightly more with some uncooked fruits or vegetables and milk. Still happens with pure meat, so I don't think it's a FODMAP issue. Genetic testing indicates that I am probably lactose tolerant. I eat a fairly restrictive diet already - basically Paleo with rice and dairy, for health reasons in addition to my several severe food allergies.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:45 PM on July 24, 2013

I think anyone with gas as bad as you describe would probably feel the same way -- it sounds miserable, and I hope there's a remedy for you. (In other words: I think a big problem is that you have gas this bad at all.)

Assuming your diet agrees with you and you're going to see a GI doc to rule out any other causes, maybe make sure to have your teeth checked out. Perhaps you're swallowing air. (You may want to avoid chewing gum and carbonated beverages for this reason.)

You don't say whether you've tried Gas-Ex, but could be worth a try if not. Lying on your left side's more likely to help matters, and you can try an anti-gas position somewhat easier to do than a handstand: chest on the floor, butt in the air.
posted by asperity at 8:56 PM on July 24, 2013

This is a normal reaction to severe buildup of gas. Gas pain can be incapacitating; it can be severe enough to mimic a heart attack. Your most useful focus with the doc will be to find what's causing this severe and unusual gas, so that you can address that. The symptoms caused by the gas pain are not going to be a useful focus point unless you want advice on how to decrease the symptoms, and to get those all you need to do is describe the symptoms to your doc.

Personally, when I have severe gas I have to lie down and breathe shallowly, massage my abdomen, and basically do nothing for hours. But it's a very rare occurence for me. Daily is absolutely not normal so I'm glad you'll be seeing soneone.
posted by windykites at 9:31 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I meant to say "unless you want advice on how to decrease the symptoms of discomfort... which will probably include generic pain advice, as in OTC pain pills..."
posted by windykites at 9:36 PM on July 24, 2013

It is very rare for mine to cause pain, other than minor and transient pressure discomfort. On rare occasion, it is quite painful, but that's no more than a couple times a year.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:43 PM on July 24, 2013

I get this, but only if I eat too fast. My solution, other than slowing down, is pushing on my abdomen, along my ribs, below where they separate, sort of moving down the line. I did it now, not having a problem currently, and it still made me fart. So maybe that can help!
posted by dame at 11:01 PM on July 24, 2013

An ultrasound (fairly quick, non-invasive) can check for gallstones. Don't wait - I suffered similar discomfort and it only gets worse. Next up if its gallstones: chest pain, odd pains in your sides, acid reflux, throwing up, and really awful bathroom experiences. I had my gallbladder removed and I wish I'd had that done 5 or more years ago.
posted by meepmeow at 12:21 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Until you find out the cause and treatment, two tablespoons of baking soda in a glass of water can help bring on "The Big One".
posted by lobstah at 4:43 AM on July 25, 2013

Could it be a dysbiosis issue? If so, try some HCL betaine.
Maybe digestive enzymes will help. Usually gas = inability to properly digest something. If that's the case, enzymes should help.
Or do both.
posted by Neekee at 6:53 AM on July 25, 2013

I have gotten that three times and for me it was punctuated with sulfuric burps, and a feeling I couldn't digest properly. Also, my burps were kind of frequent, but underwhelming, if that makes sense. As in, they were weak and offered little relief. If I stood up, I found I digested much better, but sitting or lying down I felt terrible. I never felt bloated per se.

Eventually I started getting other symptoms though (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting) so it wasn't just isolated gas. However, it always started off with consistent foul burps, for about 3-4 hours before other symptoms.

The doctor told me it could either be two things for me -- most probably giardia, or possibly a food allergy. (Two of the times, the trigger was par-boiled cauliflower.) We weren't sure which. He said that it may have possibly been an allergy to an enzyme or bacteria in raw cauliflower-- that is otherwise killed when it is cooked. He said it's possible that only when my body began to absorb the enzyme, did it react violently. I've not tested this theory for a third time by ingesting raw cauliflower again, because it was terrible to go through. The third time it happened, it was after I had taken a pro-biotic.

I am of the opinion mine was giardia, because of my sulfuric burps, but yours kind of sounds like food intolerance. (A food allergy would be much more severe).

Side note, I also got dizzy, but it was just before I was about to expel the contents of my stomach. In my case, it felt like all the blood was rushing to my digestion. Once I did so, I felt normal again.

Mine resolved itself-- in a few days I was fine, but my digestion was kind of funny for a while. I get a lot of borborygmi ever since, especially after I eat. IANAD (or Naturopath) but, someone suggested Oregon Grape Root, and though I take it pretty rarely, this has helped my digestion somewhat.
posted by Dimes at 9:14 AM on July 25, 2013

I don't know enough about this to be at all specific, but I would bet that the vagus nerve is involved in what you're feeling. The vagus nerves handle a lot of communication between your gut, heart, lungs, and brain. Perhaps the excess pressure caused by the gas in your stomach is telling your brain, via the vagus nerves, that something is constraining your breathing and you need to yawn yawn yawn.
posted by Corvid at 2:49 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saw the doc, who didn't seem to know as much as some of you fine people here :)

She has me going in for a upper GI test where I'll swallow something and they'll radioactively watch it go down. She's also prescribed omeprazole in the event the test doesn't turn anything up, which I really don't want to take because it can cause food allergies and I really really do not want more of those. She didn't seem to know that could happen.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:54 PM on July 30, 2013

Accidentally marked this as resolved, when it is very much not...

I am feeling much better this week, due to going without food for ~6 hours before sleeping, and when I have to eat at work I stand afterwards and also go outside for a burping session a few times. This is able to mostly stave off that "didn't sleep all night" feeling that crawls up on me when the gas is bad. I wind up with a little heartburn sometimes after belching, though (pretty much never otherwise). I have ascertained that it is gas at a specific point in the digestive tract a bit below the stomach that triggers the majority of the symptoms.

Still trying to figure out the actual source of the trouble. Funny, how digging through my old questions, I'm realizing that things like my failing to complete yawns and possibly the high systolic blood pressure (via poor sleep quality due to gas) are at least partially a symptom of the gas.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 2:03 PM on August 24, 2013

The story continues. I have one new data point and a bit of a happiness to report.

I was officially diagnosed with sleep apnea and given a CPAP, which isn't perfect but it helps quite a bit as far as feeling tired, and my blood pressure has improved.

In March, I initiated helminthic therapy. Specifically, I have 30 new pet hookworms, and my small intestine is their home. This was primarily for my severe food allergies, which they are demonstrably able to alleviate, but I had hoped that they might make a difference with my gut flora and reduce whatever causes my gas.

For a while, I noticed no change.

I got a blood oxygen sensor a few weeks ago so I could monitor whether my terrible feeling was a result of hypoxia. I waited for a chance to use it, at a moment when I felt my worst - gasping, yawning, feeling terrible. But that moment never came. I've still had times where I have been a bit yawny, but I've even felt fine after eating and then sitting for a couple hours. This would have wrecked me before.

The gas is reduced, but not totally gone. Still, even when I have the gas, the set of symptoms is diminished. I'm actually feeling good some days now - like, just existing can make me happy if I get good sleep.

A couple nights ago, I was struck dizzy after eating, but had no other symptoms. This would be a chance to use the oxygen sensor! My level was 98, so at least the dizziness was not hypoxia-related. I was able to burp several times and the dizziness resolved.

I'll try to fit in one more update before this thread closes in July. But my state is finally improving, and I think it's due to Dr. Worm.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 10:32 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had also tried an upper GI series / barium swallow a few months ago with no abnormalities found other than possible mild reflux one time I swallowed (I think I just didn't swallow the barium completely rather than it coming back up).
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2014

I had a period of close to a week where the gas returned, and boy was it awful. In contrast to the relative quality of life I've had for the last month, it really highlighted how demotivating the gas and related issues are. Not just like "this feels bad, so I don't want to do anything", it feels like the motivation center of my brain was directly affected.

The last couple days have been better, though. Not sure if anyone is still reading this, but I hope it helps someone at some point.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:55 AM on July 1, 2014

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