What is flatulence?
Flatulence is the medical term for the collection of gas in the digestive system. The gas is released through the anus. It is a common process and is commonly called farting or passing wind.
Two types of flatulence can take place:
- Swallowing air while eating or drinking can lead to the collection of oxygen and nitrogen in the digestive tract.
- During the process of digestion of food, digestive gases such as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide get collected in the digestive tract.
Too much flatulence can cause abdominal discomfort. While flatulence can be a result of consuming certain foods, excessive flatulence can also be a sign of a more serious condition.
Excessive flatulence symptoms include:
- Passing wind often
- Passing smelly gas
- Loud flatus
- Abdominal discomfort or distress
- Rumblings in the lower abdomen
Who is at risk?
Flatulence risk factors include:
- Chewing gum
- Consuming carbonated drinks
- Unhealthy diet
- Consuming food that produces excess bowel gas
- Lack of exercise
Flatulence is common and intestinal gases are a part of the digestive system. Causes of flatulence include:
- Swallowed air: While small amounts of air are normally swallowed during eating and drinking, an excessive amount of air, if swallowed, can contribute to flatulence.
- Normal digestion: During digestion, stomach acid is neutralized by pancreatic secretions. This can create intestinal gases.
- Intestinal bacteria: Some food components are digested with the help of bacteria by the process of fermentation. This process produces gas as a by-product.
- High fibre foods: While fibre is essential for digestive health, it has the potential to create gas. The digestion of high-fibre means extra work for the gas-producing bacteria, resulting in flatulence.
- Lactose intolerance: The body digests the particular sugars in cow’s milk by fermentation. This can lead to the formation of gas.
- Intolerance of short-chain carbohydrates: Some people may be prone to gas production from fermentation of other carbohydrates like short-chain carbohydrate such as fructose which is present in many foods like honey, corn syrups, and some fruits.
One of the other reasons for flatulence is an underlying medical condition. Some of these conditions include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Eating disorders
- Peptic ulcers
- Ulcerative colitis
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
How is flatulence diagnosed?
If a person has unexplained flatulence or is experiencing additional symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, abdominal pain, etc. they should see a flatulence doctor.
Gastroenterologists will begin by discussing the symptoms, when they started occurring and the frequency of the occurrence. He may also do a physical examination of the abdomen.
For flatulence diagnosis, a doctor may order for a blood test to check for any infections, identify any likely food intolerance, and to rule out the possibility of an underlying medical condition.
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How is flatulence treated?
Flatulence is not a grave problem and, in most cases, flatulence cure is done by bringing about a change in the diet and lifestyle. Some of these remedies are:
- Look at your diet: Replace carbohydrates that are difficult to digest with carbohydrates that are easier to digest like potatoes, rice, and banana, etc.
- Keep a food diary: This will help in the identification of triggers and working towards avoiding and eliminating them.
- Eat less more: Instead of three large meals, try eating five to six small meals. This will help in the digestive process.
- Chew properly: Chewing the food slowly and properly is important because digestion starts in the mouth.
- Avoiding gum and carbonated drinks: Chewing gum and consuming carbonated drinks can increase the amount of air swallowed.
- Exercise: Exercising can help in enhancing the functioning of the digestive system and preventing flatulence while promoting healthy digestion.
If lifestyle and dietary changes are not enough, doctors may prescribe over-the-counter medicine for flatulence like charcoal tablets, antacids, and dietary supplements. These will help in the flatulence treatment.
If the flatulence is because of an underlying medical condition, it is important to treat flatulence.
How can flatulence be prevented?
Prevention of flatulence can be done by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Eating carbohydrates that are easier to digest
- Chewing properly
- Avoiding gum
- Exercising regularly