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Gas Pain vs Gallstones: How to Tell the Difference

Gas Pain vs Gallstones: How to Tell the Difference

It’s not uncommon to experience feelings of fullness and bloating after eating a large, rich meal. While this is often indicative of annoying gas pain, it could also mean you have gallstones. Because gas pain and gallstones have similar symptoms, it’s important for you to understand the difference between the two conditions so you can get the relief you need. 

At GastroDoxs, serving patients in Houston, Texas, and the surrounding area, our board-certified gastroenterologist Dr. Bharat Pothuri helps patients diagnose their abdominal pain and bloating. He recommends you consider the following when trying to determine what’s causing your symptoms.

About gas pain

Most people pass gas as often as 20 times per day. It usually doesn’t cause major symptoms, but it’s not unusual to experience gas pain as:

Gas pain may be uncomfortable, and passing gas is certainly embarrassing, but it’s not usually not anything to worry about medically. 

About gallstones

Gallstones can cause an attack of the gallbladder, the small, pear-shaped organ that stores bile produced by your liver. The stones form when you have too much cholesterol in the bile. The gallstones can cause blockages in the organ’s ducts, resulting in major pain and cramping.

Usually, you’ll feel gallstone pain in the upper right part of your abdomen. Sometimes, though, the pain may be more present in the upper center part of your abdomen or even your chest – which can make you think you have bad heartburn. Sometimes pain radiates to the right shoulder or to the right side of your back, mimicking a heart attack.

Symptom differences between gas and gallstones

Gas pain usually shows up as bloating and distension in the mid belly, rather than the upper right abdominal area. As you burp or pass gas, you get some relief. Indigestion or gas pains usually show up shortly after you eat. Changing positions can sometimes relieve gas pain. 

Gas pain indicates that you’ve eaten certain foods that are harder for your body to digest, like beans or other high-fiber foods. Frequent gas may be due to a digestive system disorder, like irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease. 

Gallstone pain doesn’t subside when you burp, pass gas, or change position. You don’t typically notice symptoms right after eating, either; it takes an hour or two for them to develop. The pain caused by gallstones can be accompanied by chills, fever, and diarrhea. The symptoms may last as long as a few hours, but usually go away on their own. 

You may notice pain in your gallbladder after eating a fatty meal, fasting, going too long between meals, or after rapid weight loss. 

Next steps

If you have gas pain, consider diet and lifestyle changes. We can help you keep a food diary to determine what may be causing trapped gas. Exercise and proper hydration are other ways to move food and gas through your system.

Frequent, particularly smelly gas deserves an evaluation at our office. Dr. Pothuri can screen you for digestive conditions and provide helpful treatment. 

If you have symptoms that suggest gallstones, set up an appointment at GastroDoxs. Regular attacks or particularly large stones may require surgery to relieve your recurring pain. Use this website to book an appointment online or call our office in Houston, Texas. 

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