Flatulence is the passage of intestinal gas (flatus) through the rectum. Passing gas is normal, and every human being does it at least 14 times a day, consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes flatulence happens more often than expected, and this can become an embarrassing problem. Extreme flatulence can even interfere with a person’s ability to work and socialize comfortably with other people. Most cases of flatulence are related to factors that can be controlled. This is because intestinal gas usually comes from two sources — swallowed air or the work of intestinal bacteria on undigested food.
Symptoms for Gas
Gas symptoms vary from person to person. Common symptoms of gas in the digestive tract include belching, bloating and distention, and passing gas. Having some gas symptoms is normal, especially during or after meals.
Gas symptoms may be a problem if they occur often, bother you, or affect your daily activities.
Belching, or burping, is a release of gas from your stomach through your mouth. People typically belch up to 30 times a day.
Bloating and distention
Bloating is a feeling of fullness or swelling in your abdomen, or belly. If your abdomen becomes larger than usual, doctors call this distention. Only about half of people with bloating also have distention.
Studies suggest that people pass gas through the anus an average of 8 to 14 times a day.6However, some people may pass gas more often. Experts consider passing gas up to 25 times a day to be normal.
What causes gas?
Gas normally enters your digestive tract when you swallow air and when bacteria in your large intestine break down undigested carbohydrates. You may have more gas symptoms if you swallow more air or consume more of certain foods and drinks.
Everyone swallows a small amount of air when eating and drinking. Swallowed air that doesn’t leave your stomach when you belch may move into your intestines and pass through your anus. Swallowing more air may lead to more gas and gas symptoms. You swallow more air when you
Common foods that cause gas
Certain high-fiber foods may cause gas, including:
• Beans and peas (legumes)
• Whole grains
While high-fiber foods increase gas production, fiber is essential for keeping your digestive tract in good working order and regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Gas in the large intestines develops when normal bacteria breaks down certain types of undigested food. Some foods are more easily digested than others. Certain carbohydrates, such as sugar, fiber, and some starches, aren’t digested in the small intestines.
Instead, these foods travel to the large intestines where they’re broken down by normal bacteria. This natural process produces hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and sometimes methane gas, which is released from the rectum.
Inflammatory bowel disease.
This term describes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain that can mimic gas pains.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
This is a condition that affects the large intestines and causes a variety of symptoms, such as:
o bloating, gas
Infrequent bowel activity causes gas to build up in the abdomen, triggering gas pains and bloating. Constipation is described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Taking a fiber supplement and increasing physical activity can stimulate intestinal contractions and ease constipation.
Your doctor will likely determine what’s causing your gas and gas pains based on:
• Your medical history
• A review of your dietary habits
• A physical exam
During the physical exam, your doctor may touch your abdomen to determine if there is any tenderness and if anything feels abnormal. Listening to the sound of your abdomen with a stethoscope can help your doctor determine how well your digestive tract is working.
If your gas pains are caused by another health problem, treating the underlying condition may offer relief. Otherwise, bothersome gas is generally treated with dietary measures, lifestyle modifications or over-the-counter medications. Although the solution isn’t the same for everyone, with a little trial and error, most people are able to find some relief.
Dietary changes may help reduce the amount of gas your body produces or help gas move more quickly through your system.
Simethicone (Gas-X, Mylanta Gas Minis, others) helps break up the bubbles in gas and may help gas pass through your digestive tract. There is little clinical evidence of its effectiveness in relieving gas symptoms.
Activated charcoal (Actidose-Aqua, CharcoCaps, others) taken before and after a meal may reduce symptoms, but research has not shown a clear benefit. Also, it may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb medications. Charcoal may stain the inside of your mouth and your clothing.
Along with lifestyle and dietary changes, certain medications can help you manage symptoms.
For example, an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement containing alpha-galactosidase(for example, Beano) can help your body break down carbohydrates in vegetables and beans. Typically, you’ll ingest the supplement before meals.
Making dietary changes is an excellent starting point. Keep a food journal to identify foods that trigger gas. Write down everything you eat and drink, and then make a note of any gas symptoms.
• Drink fewer sodas, beers, and other carbonated beverages.
• Slow down when eating and drinking.
• Avoid chewing gum and hard candy.
• Don’t use drinking straws.
• Give up smoking.