Why am I passing so much gas?

Monday April 05 2021
By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

I tend to pass a lot of gas in the morning but this does not happen during the day. Sometimes I have to run to the toilet to avoid embarrassment. Is it because of old age?     Ateenyi

Dear Ateenyi,
Passing gas is healthy with humans doing it 10-23 times a day. However, passing more than 23 times may indicate too much gas in the abdomen with a person then requiring to pass this gas more often.

Humans pass gas which is formed as a normal part of digestion and this not only reflects the activity of the gut bacteria on food in the gut but also the type of food eaten.

One can pass more gas when their diet contains foods such as beans and raw vegetables which are more difficult to digest, hence gifting big intestine bacteria with more food whose break up then produces more gas. Therefore, most people who report passing more gas than usual may have actually changed their eating habits.

Rarely, one may pass more gas because of a medical problem, including digestive disorders such as lactose intolerance, medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, stress and due to hormonal shifts.

Too much gas may require to be passed both day and night but why does this happen to you more in the morning than at any other time? This may be because of what you eat during lunch or dinner that creates lots of gas and the need for this gas to be passed in the night or morning.  


That said, when we sleep, some bodily activities are either suspended (eating, passing urine or passing stool) or slowed. Many of the automatic functions (controlled by the autonomic nervous system) such as digestion or movement of food through the alimentary canal may not stop but may slow down. As we age, these activities may slow down further.

The tightening of the anal sphincter during sleep to avoid passing stool in sleep means gas is also curtailed from passing except during change from one type of sleep to another (sleep is in cycles of what is called rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement sleep).

Slowing digestion or movement of food in the intestines gifts bacteria in the intestines more time to act on undigested food hence producing more gas and if one ate foods difficult to digest, there will be much more gas to pass in the morning given that passage of gas is also affected by sleep.

Suspension of passage of stool during sleep will also somehow block the normal passage of gas resulting in the need to pass lots of smelly gas in the morning (the smell of gas depends on what one eats, intestinal bacteria activity, medical condition and presence of stool in the rectum).

In a nutshell, you have too much gas in your alimentary canal. This gas requires to be passed to avoid bloating and abdominal discomfort. Since this is not done at night, you have to compensate by passing the gas in the morning to avoid complications.

You, therefore, need to minimise taking foods that may lead to lots of gas including dairy, beans, raw vegetables, carbonated drinks such as soda or beer, sugar-free drinks and fruit juices while taking more water. Also, treat any medical condition that may be responsible for the gas.

Ways to ease the symptoms of a ‘stomach upset’

Everyone experiences an upset stomach and indigestion, or dyspepsia, from time to time after eating or drinking. The condition is usually no cause for concern, and it is often possible to treat the symptoms using home remedies.

A cup of ginger tea is good after a meal when you feel unpleasantly stuffed or full of wind. Sip it throughout the day if you are feeling queasy. It may help ease indigestion and bloating. However, its spiciness may not suit everyone, the reason you should be careful if you suffer from an acid stomach.

Chamomile is used as a calming herb and may ease cramps and wind. It has also been found to help stop diarrhea or an upset stomach that is affected by nerves.

Bicarbonate of soda
Ever have heartburn but no medication? Your baking cupboard may hold the solution. Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in 125ml of water may give you fizzy, quick relief. Bicarbonate of soda is a common ingredient in many shop-bought antacids. It is a quick and short-term measure as it neutralises acid quickly. However, antacids such as this are not a good long-term solution. Its high sodium content will not suit you if you have a heart condition.

A glass of water
Water is needed to carry all the food, digestive secretions and waste products from the mouth to where they need to go. Much of our water is absorbed from the intestines and the colon as it acts as a lubricant for the intestines.

If taken with a meal, water can dilute digestive secretions, and absorb more slowly. This may slow down the rate of digestion too. Water taken between mealtimes will absorb quickly, the reason you should leave at least 30 minutes between eating and drinking.

Comfort stodge
Everyone has a default comfort food when ill. During illness, the digestive system may be tender and easily irritated. Simple, bland foods such as dry crackers are the best to eat. Starches in complex carbohydrates may help to bulk up any loose stool. It is better to avoid very sugary foods or fizzy drinks as these may worsen diarrhoea and wind. You should also avoid heavily-flavoured or spicy food.
Source: avogel.co.uk


What should I do when I get a toothache?

A toothache is one of those memorable pains that many people have experienced. Pain, whenever it comes, is the body’s way of informing you that something is wrong.

There are various causes of pain in the mouth region and pain can arise from the hard structures (such as the teeth) or the soft structures such as the gums. The pain can be dull, prolonged and mild but more often, this will progress to sharp and sometimes very intense pain.

Whatever the source of pain, it is necessary to have this problem checked out by a qualified dentist. Mild pain normally means only mild damage has happened to the tissues but when this escalates, it shows extensive damage is taking place.

The dentist will be able to recognise the source of the pain and give options which may include pain killers, tooth fillings and in severe cases, they may opt for root canal treatment (treating the nerves) of the tooth or removing the tooth.

In cases where you cannot easily access a dentist, a pain killer may help numb the pain but be advised, this is never the definite treatment for teeth/tissues that have become painful. It only buys one time till they can see their dentist.

Written by Dr Davis Ntulume
Dental Surgeon, Nakasero Hospital
Member of the Uganda Dental Association