Trapped wind is a common condition that causes pain and discomfort in the stomach and abdomen. It’s caused by a build-up of gas in the digestive system that puts pressure on the stomach area and causes pain.
It’s perfectly normal to produce this gas. In fact, we all produce gas and need to pass wind to release it on average around 15 to 20 times a day. Holding it in can lead to painful trapped wind and noticeable bloating.
The symptoms of trapped wind can cause:
- a bloated stomach or abdomen
- pain or cramps in the stomach or abdomen that can move upwards as far as the shoulder
- loud gurgling noises coming from your stomach
- an uncomfortable feeling of fullness
Trapped wind isn’t dangerous, but the pain and bloating associated with trapped wind causes discomfort, and sometimes embarrassment. The key to easing the problem of trapped wind is to reduce the amount of gas produced by the gut
How to relieve trapped wind
Gas is created during digestion. When we eat certain foods, the sugars and other carbohydrates in them aren’t broken down by the stomach or the small intestine. By the time they reach the large intestine, they’re still undigested.
Our large intestine is home to millions of friendly bacteria, who thankfully relish the task of breaking down these sugars, starches and fibres. The problem is, by doing so, they create a lot of gas. If we can’t release this gas through burping or passing wind, it remains trapped in the abdomen, causing pain and bloating.
There are certain foods that are more likely to cause excess gas production, including:
- dairy products such as cow’s milk, cheese and yoghurts
- high fibre foods including beans and lentils
- high fibre, cruciferous vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts
- onions and garlic
- fruits containing high levels of fructose, a fruit sugar, such as strawberries, pineapples and bananas
- wheat, barley and rye (but not other grains such as oats, buckwheat and quinoa)
- high fat, fried and spicy foods
- fizzy drinks and alcohol
Everyone is different. Some of us may find dairy products cause excess gas, whilst others find beans and broccoli are the culprits.
The most effective way to help control trapped wind is by making changes to your diet. Often, this is trial and error, whilst you work out which foods cause you to have the most amount of gas.
Trapped wind can also be caused by:
- eating too much or too quickly
- taking in too much air when you eat
- chewing gum
Making changes to these habits can also help relieve your symptoms.
The following can also significantly help:
Tips to relieve painful trapped wind
Physically moving around causes the intestines to also move around, meaning that the little bubbles of gas caused by eating and digestion can be released.
You might not feel like jumping around after a meal but taking a walk soon after eating can really help to relieve any trapped wind pain.
If you still have trapped wind, you could try some gentle star jumps, touching your toes or running to help use gravity to force the trapped wind downwards.
2. Drink peppermint tea
Warm peppermint tea can help reduce the symptoms of trapped wind. It’s naturally caffeine-free and can, therefore, be drunk at any time of day.
Peppermint is a natural ‘anti-spasmodic’ which means it helps to prevent muscles from going into spasm, which is often the cause of stomach pain associated with bloating.
For the best results, drink a cup of peppermint tea before each meal. Chamomile tea is also a calming drink that many people drink before bedtime. It can also have a soothing effect on the digestive system and may help reduce the pain associated with trapped wind.
3. Reduce your dairy intake
Dairy products can be the cause of indigestion, bloating and stomach pain in many people. Most of the time, this is caused by a lactose intolerance. Lactose is a sugar found in dairy that many people cannot break down, resulting in digestive problems.
To see if dairy products, including cow’s milk, cream, cheese and yoghurts are causing your trapped wind, try reducing the amount of dairy you eat. If your symptoms ease, it might be a good idea to reduce or avoid dairy products on a long-term basis.
Soya, coconut, rice, almond and cashew nut milks are all free from dairy and are good alternatives to cow’s milk. It may be that you can tolerate butter and yoghurt if you replace your milk with a dairy-free alternative and avoid cheese.
4. Increase your fibre intake
Working towards a healthy gut can help to keep trapped wind and bloating to a minimum. Eating enough fibre helps to feed the good bacteria that live in the gut.
These bacteria help to break down our food and turn it into useful nutrients. They also help the gut absorb these nutrients and pass them into the bloodstream where they can be used around the body.
Fibre also bulks up our stools, which moves them through the gut more quickly, helping to prevent constipation. The quicker food and stools move through the gut, the less time it has to hang around, fermenting and producing gas.
High fibre foods include beans, legumes, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bananas and wholegrain cereals. Try to increase your intake of these foods. Introduce them slowly, as eating too many of these foods when you’re not used to them can have the opposite effect and cause flatulence and bloating!
5. Introduce supplements into your diet
If a lactose intolerance causes your trapped wind and bloating and you find it difficult to reduce your dairy intake, you could try taking a lactase supplement. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose. Taking it in supplement form can help breakdown lactose and may help your symptoms if you’re lactose intolerant. You should consider getting tested by your GP if you think you may be lactose intolerant, before making significant adjustments to your diet.
Peppermint oil also comes in supplement form, if you’d rather not drink peppermint tea.
You could also try a prebiotic supplement. Some prebiotics contain a fibre called galactooligosaccharide (GOS). They help to feed the beneficial bacteria in the microbiome called probiotics, leading to a richly diverse and flourishing microbiome.
6. Sip warm water slowly
Gastroenterologist Dr Jamile Wakim-Fleming suggests sipping on warm water throughout the day. This will help to reduce trapped wind in two ways.
Firstly, warm water helps move food along the digestive tract. The quicker the food moves, the less chance you have of gas building up.
Secondly, warm water helps to calm the gut. To move food through the gut, especially without the presence of warm water, the gut must constantly expand and contract, a process called peristalsis. Warm water causes the gut to contract less intensely, causing less gas.
What to do if you have persistent flatulence and trapped wind
If your symptoms do persist, even after trying these tips, then make an appointment to see your doctor. They may be able to do some medical tests to see if your trapped wind is due to an underlying medical condition.