Anastasia Smith | 20 Dec 2019 | Dysbiosis

How To Relieve Trapped Wind – 8 Natural Remedies

Trapped wind is no fun. It can be both embarrassing and uncomfortable, and often comes with other annoying symptoms such as cramping and bloating.

These symptoms are commonly associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, trapped wind and other IBS symptoms regularly affect between 10 and 20% of us [1].

This article covers what causes trapped wind—and what you can do about it.

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What are the symptoms of trapped wind?
How long does trapped wind last?
What causes trapped wind?
How to get rid of trapped wind

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What are the symptoms of trapped wind?

Aside from the obvious symptom—having to pass wind—you might feel trapped wind in your back or in your chest, where the pressure of air against the rib cage can cause pain.

Other symptoms that go hand-in-hand with trapped wind are nausea, a gurgling stomach and feeling uncomfortably full after eating.
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How long does trapped wind last?

Trapped wind can last from an hour up to a day at a time, depending on the circumstances. Despite the embarrassment that trapped wind can cause, passing wind is completely normal. The average person will break wind up more than 20 times a day! [2].

But if you’re experiencing trapped wind for long periods of time and it’s causing you discomfort, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP.
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What causes trapped wind?

During digestion, the bacteria that live in your intestines break down undigested food. They particularly like to feed on carbohydrates and starches, releasing gas as a by-product. It’s this gas that can lead to trapped wind.

The amount of gas produced will depend on both what you’re eating and the type of bacteria you harbour. Unbalanced gut bacteria (dysbiosis) are more likely to contribute to trapped wind. Foods that are readily fermentable also lead to more trapped wind: these include vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, as well as beans and grains.

Other causes of trapped wind include:

  • Lactose intolerance

    Some people lack the enzyme that helps to break down lactose in dairy products. This means the lactose passes through to the large intestine intact, where bacteria ferment it. As you learnt above, the gases produced as part of the fermentation process lead to trapped wind.

  • Rushed eating

    When you eat too quickly, you can gulp large amounts of air with your food without realising it. This is particularly common when eating hot food or chewing gum, or when drinking lots of liquids with meals.

  • Medical conditions

    Gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease can interfere with the digestion of food in the upper part of the digestive tract. This leads to more undigested food, more fermentation and more gas in the lower intestine.

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How to get rid of trapped wind

Try these quick and easy solutions to help relieve trapped wind:

1. Chew your food

It’s easy to underestimate the power of thorough chewing.

Not only does chewing mechanically break down food, but it also encourages the release of saliva. This is important because saliva contains amylase—an enzyme that begins breaking down carbohydrates.

Chewing well is the first step in good digestion. The more you break down your food further up your digestive tract, the less those gas-producing bacteria in the large intestine have to feed on.

2. Avoid eating in stressful environments

When we are stressed, the body’s main priority is to survive—not digest food.

Stress alters the rate of gastric emptying, either slowing it down or increasing it, which can lead to trapped wind and other IBS-related symptoms [3].

Eat your meals in a calm environment, or at least take five deep breaths before you begin to eat.

3. Drink before or after your meals

It’s a common misconception that drinking while eating helps to ‘wash food down’.

Drinking large volumes of liquids with food can actually make your digestion worse. The liquids dilute your stomach acid and digestive enzymes, making it more difficult for your body to break your food down effectively.

Aim to drink a glass of water 20 minutes before or after your meal.

4. Eat smaller, frequent meals

Eating smaller or lighter meals can lessen the burden on the digestive system, helping to prevent bloating and excess gas. Try eating small yet frequent meals and see if it makes a difference for you.

5. Get moving

Moving your body can help to mobilise bubbles of trapped wind. Don’t worry—it doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. Even just a short walk after eating can help to prevent trapped wind.

6. Try peppermint oil

A systematic review of four studies investigating peppermint oil concluded that it is superior to a placebo (a sugar pill) at alleviating symptoms of IBS, including trapped wind [4].

7. Experiment with eliminating dairy

People can experience indigestion due to an intolerance to lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products. Cohort studies have demonstrated positive outcomes people who avoid dairy, though these findings don’t necessarily apply to everyone [5].

If this is something you suspect may be the issue, try eliminating dairy for a few days and record your symptoms. Your GP can also arrange a lactose intolerance test for you, or you can take a food sensitivity test privately.

8. Consider a low-FODMAP diet

‘FODMAP’ stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly absorbed in the intestines, leading fermentation and excess gas. A low-FODMAP diet has been confirmed as an effective therapy for the management of IBS symptoms, alleviating that annoying trapped wind and other symptoms >[6].

Avoiding FODMAPs can give temporary relief if you have excess wind, but you shouldn’t follow a low-FODMAP diet for a long period of time because you’ll miss out on lots of healthy foods. The idea is to adapt the diet to a sustainable way of eating that works for you.

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Trapped wind is common, and it’s normal to pass wind up several times a day. But if your trapped wind is persistent and uncomfortable, it’s worth taking action.

Trapped wind is predominantly caused by bacteria in your large intestine, which release gases as they ferment undigested food. Taking steps to optimise your digestion and reducing readily fermentable foods can help to alleviate trapped wind.
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Anastasia Smith (BA (Hons) dipNT mBANT is a registered nutritional therapist and a member of the Complementary Natural Health Council. As a communications manager and writer, she seeks to empower people to improve their own health and wellbeing by delivering evidence-based, accessible information.

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