Why does Gabapentin cause gas (abdominal bloating)?

Photo of author
Written By Dr. João Arthur Ferreira

MD, PhD. Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician from São Paulo - Brazil. Pain Fellowship in University of São Paulo.

You’ve probably heard of gabapentin, a medication often prescribed to treat nerve pain and seizures. But did you know it can also cause some unexpected side effects like gas?

Gabapentin (Neurontin) is an anticonvulsant medication that is structurally related to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). While its exact mechanism of action is not fully understood, gabapentin is thought to bind to the α2δ subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels in the central nervous system[1]Kukkar A, Bali A, Singh N, Jaggi AS. Implications and mechanism of action of gabapentin in neuropathic pain. Archives of pharmacal research. 2013 Mar;36:237-51.. This binding reduces calcium influx into neurons, thereby reducing excitatory neurotransmitter release.

Through this mechanism, gabapentin can inhibit seizures and neuropathic pain signaling. It is frequently prescribed for epilepsy, postherpetic neuralgia, fibromyalgia, and other pain disorders. However, like many medications, gabapentin use can also result in adverse effects. One of the more common side effects is increased gas or bloating[2]Sills GJ. The mechanisms of action of gabapentin and pregabalin. Current opinion in pharmacology. 2006 Feb 1;6(1):108-13..

In this article, we’ll delve into why gabapentin might give you gas and offer some effective strategies to alleviate your discomfort. We’ll also discuss lifestyle changes that could improve your overall digestive health while using this medication.

Understanding the Role of Gabapentin

It is hypothesized that gabapentin may cause digestive issues like flatulence by slowing gut motility. The vagus nerve helps regulate muscular contractions in the digestive tract that move food through the system.

By inhibiting calcium channels, gabapentin may disrupt signaling along the vagus nerve, leading to delayed gastric emptying and increased gas production as food lingers in the intestines[3]Russo M, Graham B, Santarelli DM. Gabapentin—Friend or foe?. Pain Practice. 2023 Jan;23(1):63-9.. Strategies like dietary changes, probiotic supplementation, and over-the-counter medications may help alleviate this troublesome side effect.

MechanismTechnical Details
Increased intestinal motilityGabapentin may increase the movement of food through the intestines. This can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Reduced gastric emptyingGabapentin may slow down the emptying of the stomach. This can lead to nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Increased permeability of the gut liningGabapentin may increase the permeability of the gut lining. This can allow bacteria and toxins to pass through the gut lining and into the bloodstream. This can lead to inflammation and abdominal pain.
Allergic reactionIn rare cases, gabapentin can cause an allergic reaction. This can lead to abdominal pain, bloating, and other symptoms.

As with any medication regimen, risks and benefits of gabapentin should be carefully weighed with a healthcare provider. Dosage adjustments or alternative therapies may be considered if gastrointestinal effects become intolerable.

Close monitoring and gradual tapering are imperative before discontinuing gabapentin to avoid potential withdrawal symptoms. Further research is still needed to fully elucidate the mechanisms behind gabapentin’s neurological and digestive actions.

Generic NameGabapentin
Brand NameNeurontin, Gralise, Gabarone
IndicationTreatment of neuropathic pain, epilepsy, restless legs syndrome, and hot flashes
Mechanism of ActionIncreases GABA levels in the brain by binding to the α2δ subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels
PharmacokineticsOral bioavailability: 60%, Protein binding: 3%, Metabolism: Minimal (90% excreted unchanged), Half-life: 5-7 hours
Adverse EffectsDizziness, drowsiness, ataxia, fatigue, nystagmus, weight gain, peripheral edema, and psychiatric symptoms
ContraindicationsHypersensitivity to Gabapentin, Children under 3 years old, and patients with impaired renal function

Now you may be thinking about the flipside – what about Gabapentin withdrawal? Well, quitting suddenly can lead to withdrawal symptoms which could be severe. So always consult with your doctor before making any changes regarding your treatment plan with Gabapentin.

Identifying Common Side Effects

You might notice a bit of bloating or flatulence as a common side effect when taking this particular medication. Gabapentin’s side effects prevalence shows that gas isn’t uncommon.

The risk factors for experiencing such symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on individual tolerance and dosage.

If you’re constantly feeling gassy, it may be tempting to discontinue the medication abruptly. However, gabapentin discontinuation should only be done under medical supervision due to potential withdrawal symptoms and overdose risks.

Remember, while these side effects are uncomfortable, the long-term implications are relatively minor compared to gabapentin’s benefits in managing nerve pain or seizures. But if your symptoms persist or worsen over time, seek immediate medical attention.

Exploring the Link Between Medication and Digestive Disturbance

Now, it’s essential to delve into understanding how certain medications can indeed disrupt your digestion and lead to a bit of wind. Specifically, let’s examine why gabapentin may cause gas.

  1. Medication absorption: Drugs like gabapentin are absorbed in your gut. This process can interfere with the normal function of your digestive system, leading to gas.
  2. Digestive flora: Medications can alter the balance of bacteria in your gut or ‘digestive flora’. This imbalance often results in excessive gas production.
  3. Stress influence & Drug food interactions: Stress from illness, combined with drug-food interactions, could also contribute to digestive issues like gas.
  4. Intestinal motility: Finally, some drugs, including gabapentin, might slow down intestinal movements (‘motility’), causing food to remain longer in the system and thus trigger more fermentation and gas creation.

Strategies to Alleviate Discomfort

Feeling overwhelmed by bloating and discomfort? Don’t worry, there are plenty of strategies to help alleviate these symptoms.

Here’s a handy table that outlines some effective methods:

StrategyHow it Helps
1Dietary AdjustmentsAltering your diet can reduce gas production. Avoid foods known to cause gas such as beans, broccoli, or carbonated drinks.
2Probiotic SupplementsThese boost your gut health by promoting good bacteria which aids digestion and reduces bloating.
3Regular ExercisePhysical activity encourages the passage of gas through the digestive system more quickly.
4Hydration & Stress ManagementDrinking water eases digestion while managing stress prevents stomach upset caused by anxiety.

Remember, everyone is different so you may need to experiment with these strategies until you find what works best for you.

Lifestyle Changes to Improve Digestive Health

Adopting healthier lifestyle habits can significantly enhance your digestive health, leading to less discomfort and improved overall wellbeing. Here’s a three-step plan to ensure you’re taking the right measures:

  1. Diet Modifications: Include more fiber-rich foods in your meals for better digestion. Avoid food triggers that may cause gas or bloating.
  2. Exercise Regimes: Regular physical activity aids in moving foods through the digestive system, reducing chances of constipation and promoting overall gut health.
  3. Hydration Importance: Drinking plenty of water is crucial for healthy digestion as it helps break down food so that your body can absorb nutrients smoothly.

In addition, stress management techniques such as yoga or meditation can aid digestion indirectly by reducing anxiety levels. Lastly, consider adding probiotics into your diet; they offer benefits by improving the balance of gut bacteria, thereby enhancing digestive health.


So, you’ve learned that gabapentin can cause gas due to its impact on your digestive system. It’s a common side effect, but don’t worry! There are strategies like diet changes and over-the-counter remedies that can alleviate discomfort.

Don’t forget – simple lifestyle tweaks can also improve your overall digestive health. Always talk to your doctor about any concerns or if symptoms persist.

+ posts

Physiatrist, M.D. Pain Center of University of São Paulo


1Kukkar A, Bali A, Singh N, Jaggi AS. Implications and mechanism of action of gabapentin in neuropathic pain. Archives of pharmacal research. 2013 Mar;36:237-51.
2Sills GJ. The mechanisms of action of gabapentin and pregabalin. Current opinion in pharmacology. 2006 Feb 1;6(1):108-13.
3Russo M, Graham B, Santarelli DM. Gabapentin—Friend or foe?. Pain Practice. 2023 Jan;23(1):63-9.

Leave a Comment