Diagnosis of Gas in the Digestive Tract

How do doctors diagnose the cause of problems with gas symptoms?

Doctors may diagnose the causes of excess gas or increased gas symptoms with a medical history and physical exam. In some cases, doctors may order medical tests.

Medical history

For a medical history, your doctor will ask about

  • your symptoms
  • your diet and eating and drinking habits
  • prescription and over-the-counter medicines and supplements you take
  • current and past medical conditions

Your doctor may ask you to keep a diary of the foods and drinks you consume and when your gas symptoms occur. Your diary may show specific foods and drinks that are causing gas. Reviewing your diary may also help your doctor find out if you have excess gas or are more sensitive to normal amounts of gas.

A pen and an open journal sitting next to a bowl of strawberries and cereal.Your doctor may ask you to keep a diary of the foods and drinks you consume and when your gas symptoms occur.

Physical exam

During a physical exam, a doctor typically

  • checks for swelling or enlargement of your abdomen, also called distention
  • listens to sounds within your abdomen using a stethoscope
  • taps on your abdomen to check for tenderness and pain, or to listen for tympany, a drum-like sound, which is a sign of gas in the digestive tract

A physical exam may include a digital rectal exam.

What tests do doctors use to diagnose the cause of problems with gas symptoms?

Doctors may order medical tests such as blood tests, stool tests, or x-rays to check for signs of health problems. If your doctor suspects that a specific health condition could be causing your gas symptoms, he or she may recommend additional tests.

Last Reviewed June 2021
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.