What Is Flatulence?

Flatulence is common, but can also be a problem. The key to reducing gas is to minimize the buildup of it. But if it’s excessive, it could be linked to a health condition, so it’s important to visit a doctor to find a cause. Here’s what you need to know.

9 minute read

Last Updated June 25, 2020

What Is Flatulence - Digestion - 1MD

It may be embarrassing at times, but the passing of gas or farting (or flatulence) is a natural digestive reaction. It is the term given to gas that moves through your digestive tract and is typically a normal part of the process.

Gas can collect in your digestive tract from swallowing air when you are eating or as a result of digesting foods when certain gases are produced. Both methods will cause you to have flatulence. 

Causes of Flatulence

Passing gas ten times a day is normal and considered healthy. If it occurs more frequently than this, you may have excessive flatulence, which could be caused by a number of things. 

Swallowing air: Typically, when you eat or drink, you will swallow small amounts of air. If you find you have excessive flatulence, then you may be taking in more air than is normal. This will also cause burping. The top reasons you take in more air than normal are chewing gum, smoking, drinking carbonated drinks, eating too quickly, and sucking on objects.

Diet: There are also certain foods that can cause excessive flatulence, including beans, cabbage, broccoli, lentils, prunes, and apples. These foods take longer to digest, which is also why they tend to have an unpleasant odor associated with the gas. 

Large intestinal digestion: Some foods can also not fully absorb, which means they pass directly to the large intestine. When the bacteria in the large intestine break these foods down, gases are released leading to flatulence. There may be cases where you have chronic flatulence, but you do not eat a large number of carbohydrates, and you do not swallow excessive air. In these instances, you may have excessive gas as the result of a medical condition, and these problems can range from temporary to more serious digestive issues.

Constipation: Constipation or the inability to pass stools, can clog the digestive tract. As a result, undigested matter sits in the intestines for longer. This can lead to the buildup of gas. With stools blocking the passage, gas will also be more difficult to pass and can be painful.

Gastroenteritis: The swelling and inflammation of the intestines are commonly associated with excessive gas, especially if the inflammation is caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

IBS: One of the main symptoms of IBS is gas and bloating, and this typically results from eating foods that you have trouble digesting. Foods you have an intolerance for as well as insoluble fiber can cause gas in the gut, which can lead to bloating and pain if it is not passed.

Diabetes: Diabetes can impact your digestive system, specifically causing a condition known as gastroparesis. This is the delayed emptying of your intestines, which causes the retention of undigested matter and excessive gas.

Eating disorders: Most eating disorders involve disrupted and uneven eating patterns, which causes the digestive tract to slow. This leads to food retention and the buildup of gas. Deprivation of food can cause a distended stomach as a result of gas and bloating.

Ulcerative colitis: Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation along the intestines, which leads to changes in bacterial colonies. As a result, small bacterial overgrowth can occur, and this will also produce excessive gas.

GERD: One of the leading causes of GERD is eating too quickly, and this causes you to swallow more air. As a result, flatulence and burping are commonly associated with GERD and acid reflux. Releasing gas right after a meal can cause more acid to rise through the esophagus, so it is best to eat slowly and avoid taking in excess air.

Autoimmune pancreatitis: This happens when the pancreas is attacked by the immune system causing chronic inflammation. This inflammation can also impact the digestive tract, which will increase gas and cause bloating and pain. 

You need to see your doctor right away if you notice flatulence combined with any of these more serious symptoms:

♦ Bloody stools
Abdominal pain
♦ Vomiting
Swollen abdomen
♦ Unintentional weight loss

Diagnosing Flatulence

Your doctor will need to discuss all your symptoms, when you noticed them, and how often the flatulence occurs. If you are aware of any triggers, you need to let your doctor know. 

They will also conduct a physical examination along with a blood test to make sure there is no infection. Blood tests also detect possible food intolerance that could be causing the flatulence.

Flatulence Remedies and Prevention

Depending on the cause, there are several things you can do to treat flatulence at home. 

Take a closer look at your diet: If you are eating a lot of carbohydrates that are difficult to digest, you need to replace these. Switch to bananas, rice, and potatoes, which are easier to digest. 

Eat less more often: Rather than three meals a day opt for five or six smaller ones to allow for more optimal digestive processing.

Keep a food diary: Keeping track of what you eat can help you identify triggers. This way, you can avoid them or eat less of them. Foods that are less likely to cause gas include grapes, berries, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, fresh fish, and poultry.

Chew properly: You want to reduce the amount of air that you swallow, so chew food properly, and limit or avoid gum chewing and smoking.

Exercise: Exercising is a natural way to promote healthy digestion, so this can eliminate and control excessive flatulence. 

Medications: Some over-the-counter medications may help you control flatulence. Charcoal tablets can absorb gas in the digestive tract, but the relief is only temporary. Be sure to discuss medications with your doctor first. 

Natural Treatment for Flatulence

Flatulence is often closely linked to bloating as excess gas in the gut contributes to both symptoms. The presence of excess gas is the result of undigested food. Those with food intolerance or allergy, as well as those that have a damaged gut, will often experience poor digestion.

There are natural ways that you can address these issues and prevent gas and flatulence.

Boost gut strength: The most natural way to promote gut health is through probiotics. S. boulardii is a yeast that functions like a helpful probiotic. This yeast prevents inflammation in the intestinal wall, prevents harmful bacteria from colonizing, and promotes digestion. In doing so, S. boulardii can prevent the discomfort and embarrassment of flatulence. A prebiotic supplement such as PreforPro is a great way to nourish S. boulardii, so it can more effectively protect the gut.

Promote digestion: Undigested foods create gas in the gut that increases flatulence. By adding digestive enzymes to your diet, you can maintain the optimal digestion of food. Alpha-amylase breaks down carbohydrates and works well for those with any carbohydrate intolerances. Cellulase helps to control the emptying of the stomach to make sure food continues to move and not cause blockages or gas.

Protect the liver: The liver supports digestion by making bile and detoxifying the body. Studies have found that diseases or damaged livers cause digestive symptoms such as flatulence and bloating. Protect your liver from disease with N Acetyl Cysteine, which replenishes antioxidants that protect the liver and preserve its function.

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

The need to flatulate is normal, so long as it is not excessive. In many cases, not treating chronic flatulence can lead to more serious issues as well as social discomfort. 

If you notice that flatulence is beyond the normal range and affects your lifestyle and eating habits negatively, then you need to speak with your doctor. Many times your mood can also be affected. The right doctor-approved dietary changes can make a difference and improve your life. 

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