Physicians have long recommended physical exercise for people who suffer from gas and bloating, with the assumption that movement helps gas passage. In 2005, a small study from Spain, reported in the American Journal of Medicine, demonstrated that this is good advice.

In the study, eight (very brave!) healthy adults had a gas mixture pumped into the small intestine and a catheter placed in their rectums to collect and measure the release of gas. The researchers measured how much gas passed while participants were resting and while they pedaled on a modified exercise bike.

Participants released 10% less gas than was pumped into them during a two-hour rest period, yet they released more gas than was pumped in while exercising. Since our bodies produce gas as a by-product of digestion, the extra gas released would have come from that source.

Although not certain why exercise helps, the researchers suggest that increasing pressure in the abdomen during exercise might be the contributing factor.

This study included only healthy adults and more research is needed to see if people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who have increased abdominal bloating, and increased sensitivity to intestinal pain, have the same response to exercise.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 153 – January/February 2006