All you need to know about this unpleasant problem
All About Flatulence: Its Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
What is flatulence?
Flatulence (also called as farting, or passing wind), is the passing of gas out of the back passage (rectum/anus) through the digestive system.
Passing wind is a normal process for everyone, when odourless and limited between 5-15 times a day. However, frequent and foul smelling flatulence can be socially embarrassing, especially so in a crowded elevator or at an important meeting.
What are the symptoms of flatulence?
Symptoms of excessive flatulence include:
- Passing wind frequently
- Smelly and loud passing of gas
- Abdominal swelling and discomfort
- Rumbling in the lower abdomen
What causes flatulence?
The gas is produced in our digestive system (stomach and the intestines) by different means, such as:
Swallowed air: Along with swallowing food and drinks or saliva. Excessive air is swallowed by:
- Chewing food fast
- Swallowing large chunks of food
- Chewing gum
- Sucking on objects like pencils, pen tops, or hard candies
- Wearing dentures (artificial teeth) that are loose-fitting
Digestion and intestinal fermentation:
Gases are produced in the digestive tract as a side product of digestion and fermentation of food and are pushed along the bowel.
Food and drink:
Intake of foods containing unabsorbable carbohydrates, such as high-fibre diets, carbonated drinks, artificial sweetners, some vegetables (beans, cabbage, onions and broccoli), fruits (apple, apricot and pear) and dry fruits like raisins and fructose-containing fruit juices may cause flatulence.
Certain conditions of digestive system can also cause excessive flatulence, such as:
- Malabsorption – inability of the intestines to absorb nutrients properly
- Indigestion and constipation
- Infections of the digestive system such as gastroenteritis and giardiasis
- Coeliac disease commonly known as gluten intolerance, or wheat allergy
- Lactose intolerance (intolerance to dairy products)
- Irritable bowel syndrome – disorder of the digestive system with symptoms like recurrent stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation
Flatulence can be a side effect of some medications such as antifungal medicines, laxatives, pain medications such as ibuprofen and cholesterol lowering drugs like statins.
When to consult a doctor for flatulence?
Since normal flatulence varies from person to person. A person himself can observe any abnormal flatulence. In case, flatulence is excessive and particularly troublesome (foul-smelling), one should seek medical consult from a doctor.
In addition to flatulence, some additional symptoms should also prompt reaching out to a doctor:
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Blood stained stools
- Bowel incontinence
- Frequent diarrhoea or constipation
- Signs of an underlying infection, like fever, vomiting, chills, pain in joints, etc.
- Weight loss without any reason
How is excessive flatulence treated?
Excessive flatulence can usually be treated by making changes to diet and lifestyle.
- Reduce use of dairy products: Try using low-lactose dairy foods, such as yoghurt, instead of milk.
- Observe and avoid flatulence-causing foods from daily routine.
- Cut back on fried foods and carbonated drinks.
- Temporarily reduce the intake of high-fibre food.
- Try small portions of a healthy diet
- Eat slowly, chew food thoroughly, and do not gulp
- Avoid chewing gum, sucking on hard candies, and drinking through a straw
- Dentures should be firm and well set
- Quit smoking
- Regular physical exercise
Your doctor will suggest you the best medication, if required, to treat excessive flatulence. While many over-the-counter products are available to control excessive flatulence, always consult a doctor before taking any such medications.
Some supplements may help improve the digestion of food and prevent flatulence. Probiotics encourage the growth of friendly bacteria in the digestive system, which help in digestion and reduce symptoms of flatulence.
Some wearable products (carbon fibre underwears) to deodorise gas may also be considered. While these appear to be effective, they may not be easily available and are expensive.
To know more about flatulence and its treatment, you can request for a call back and our experts will call you and answer all your queries.
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- NHS choices. Flatulence. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Flatulence/Pages/Treatment.aspx. Accessed on 27th October 2017.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Treatment for Gas in Digestive Tract. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gas-digestive-tract/treatment .Accessed on 27th October 2017.
- American College of Gastroenterology. Belching, Bloating, and Flatulence. Available at: http://patients.gi.org/topics/belching-bloating-and-flatulence/ . Accessed on 27th October 2017.
- Mayo Clinic. Symptoms. Intestinal gas. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/intestinal-gas/basics/definition/sym-20050922. Accessed on 27th October 2017.
- Mayo Clinic. Gas and gas pains. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gas-and-gas-pains/basics/definition/CON-20019271?p=1 . Accessed on 27th October 2017.
- UpToDate. Patient education: Gas and bloating (Beyond the Basics). Available at: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/gas-and-bloating-beyond-the-basics?source=search_result&search=flatulence&selectedTitle=2~150. Accessed on 27th October 2017.