Flatulence is passing gas from the digestive system usually from the back passage (anus). It’s more commonly known as farting.
Farting is normal and often laughed about, but excessive flatulence can be embarrassing and raise medical concerns. Some people pass wind only a few times a day, but the average is said to be about 5 to 15 times a day. Flatulence is a normal biological process, but excessive farting is often controlled with changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Burping and belching usually refer to gas that escapes from the mouth, while flatulence, or farting, is intestinal gas that escapes from the rectum, and bloating is used to describe the sensation of excess stomach gas that has not yet been expelled.
What Causes Flatulence?
Flatulence is very common, and it is estimated that most people pass gas about 10 times a day. If you pass wind more frequently than this on a regular basis or much flatulence at night, you could have excessive flatulence.
When you swallow food, water or saliva, you also swallow small amounts of air, which collects in the digestive system, and gases can also build up when you digest food.
Sometimes you may not notice you have passed wind, but flatulence usually only has a bad smell if it contains gases that smell, such as sulfur, and it is normal for the gas you pass to sometimes smell a bit.
Excessive flatulence can also be related to an underlying health problem affecting the digestive system, such as recurring indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Reasons that you may swallow more air than normal include chewing gum, smoking, sucking on objects, drinking carbonated drinks, eating too quickly, etc…
Your dietary choices could also lead to excessive flatulence, and some foods that increase gas include beans, cabbage, broccoli, lentils, prunes, apples, and foods high in fructose or sorbitol (such as fruit juices).
These foods can take a long time to digest, leading to the unpleasant smell associated with flatulence, and sometimes, the body can’t fully absorb them.
This means that they pass from the intestines to the colon without being completely digested first, and a large number of bacteria in the colon then break down the food, releasing gases as they do so, which then causes flatulence.
Potential Conditions Underlying Flatulence
Some of these conditions include:
- food intolerances (lactose intolerance)
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- autoimmune pancreatitis
- peptic ulcers
- celiac disease
- eating disorders
- ulcerative colitis
- dumping syndrome
Treatment Options And Home Remedies For Flatulence
Excessive flatulence can usually be controlled by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. Such changes include:
- avoiding foods known to cause flatulence
- eating smaller meals
- eating and drinking slowly
- regular exercising
- Keep a food diary to help you identify any triggers, and then you can learn to avoid them or to eat less of them.
- You can also use some over-the-counter medications that can help if your flatulence is troublesome, such as charcoal tablets or simethicone.
- In the case of lactose in milk, an alternative treatment is available, and some people have discovered that yogurt, in which the lactose has been broken down partially by bacteria, produces less gas than milk.
- Drink Before Meals, because, if you drink liquids with your meals, you lose stomach acids and can’t break down food as well. Try drinking about 30 minutes before a meal to help your stomach digest better.
- Avoid Artificial Sweeteners like Sorbitol and related sugar alcohols used in many sugar-free versions of foods. They can aggravate gas.
When Gas Is a Symptom of Something Else
If excessive gas is persistent or severe, it is recommended that you consult your doctor, as it could be a sign of a more serious digestive condition, such as:
- Lactose Intolerance: This is the inability to digest lactose. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and milk products. If avoiding milk reduces your symptoms you may be lactose intolerant.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Colon Cancer
- Upper Gastrointestinal Disorders: These include peptic ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying).
When to see your doctor for flatulence
If you suffer from the following symptoms along with flatulence, you should see your doctor immediately:
- unintentional weight loss
- blood in stool
- swollen abdomen
- abdominal pain
- gas is persistent and severe