Gas is a normal byproduct of what you eat. When your digestive system is doing its work, it produces gas. The most common ways of eliminating the gas are burping (through the mouth) or flatulence (through the anus). Humans can produce gas about 20 times a day. It is very typical to have gas, but it can leave you with embarrassment and sometimes pain.
There are two ways of making gas. It is formed when you swallow air or when the bacteria in the large intestine helps in the digestion of food. The undigested food gets transferred from the small to the large intestine. On reaching there, it is acted upon by bacteria which make hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. These gases need to leave your body. The food that causes gas is not the same for everyone. Swallowed air is generally released via burps, but when it fails to do so, it is transported to the small or large intestine and released as flatulence.
While flatulence is a medical term used to address the gas released from the digestive system via the anus, it is commonly referred to as farting, passing wind, or gas. You need to know that it is natural for the gas to accumulate inside the digestive system before releasing it. It consists of odourless gases like carbon dioxide, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and in some cases, methane. The bacteria in the large intestine release a tiny amount of gas containing sulphur, leading to the foul smell of gas.
Even though it is normal to have gases, it causes embarrassment and discomfort. Here it becomes essential to understand the causes, solutions and treatment to deal with gases.
The general signs of gas include-
- Visible increase in the size of your abdomen (distention)
- Fullness or pressure in your abdomen (bloating)
- Passing gas
- Pain, cramps or knotted feeling in the abdomen
When should I see my doctor regarding flatulence? The following are the alarming symptoms. If you experience any, visit your doctor-
- Swollen abdomen
- Persistent and severe gas
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bloody stool
It is natural for a person to pass gas about 20 times a day and burp during or after a meal. If you experience severe persistent gases or gas pain that disrupt your daily routine, seek medical help. Gas accompanied by other symptoms might point to a more severe issue.
Additional symptoms include-
- Change in the consistency of stool
- Changed frequency of bowel movement
- Weight loss
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Persistent vomiting or nausea
- Chest or abdominal pain
It would be preferable to seek immediate medical help if you experience any of the above mentioned or out of the ordinary symptoms related to gases.
Though flatulence is expected, some people might experience it more than usual. It is known as excessive flatulence and could be caused by various reasons.
It is very common to swallow air throughout the day while eating or drinking. You only swallow a small amount of air. However, swallowing excess air frequently can lead to excessive flatulence. It can cause burping as well. Reasons that cause excess swallowing of air are-
- Chewing gum
- Sucking on objects (pen tops)
- Carbonated drinks
- Fast eating
Flatulence is a natural process, but it may or may not be a symptom of a condition affecting your digestive system. Sources that come from outside are exogenous. Sources that are inside the gut are endogenous.
Undigested food from the small intestine on reaching the large intestine can cause flatulence. Food with a high content of polysaccharides, especially oligosaccharide (insulin), lead to flatulence. Insulin comes from a dietary fibre class known as fructans. Flatulence is worsened by some foods like artichokes, leeks, onions, turnips, cereals, pulses, dairy and yeast.
Beans contain complex carbohydrates, difficult to digest. Instead, microorganisms in the gut called gut flora digest them. Food containing lactose is digested by bacteria feeding on it, but it can produce large amounts of gas in lactose-intolerant people. Intolerance to protein gluten and artificial sweeteners are some other foods that can cause flatulence.
Rapidly adding fibre supplements to a diet can cause flatulence. Carbonated drinks buildup gas in the intestinal tract. So if you are worried about your diet causing flatulence, you can always ask your doctor for help.
Conditions worsening flatulence
Following are the conditions that worsen flatulence-
- Underlying conditions
Conditions like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis are some chronic conditions resulting in flatulence. Certain cancers also cause blockage in the intestines leading to gas.
- Gallbladder issues
Gallstones and cholecystitis lead to excess flatulence.
- Intestinal infections and gastroenteritis
Various viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections can affect your digestive system and build up gas. Even food poisoning is the cause. For example, E.coli, amebiasis, etc.
You can reduce flatulence by dealing with these health conditions.
The doctor will first analyse your symptoms and discuss the time when the flatulence started. Then, they will try to figure out the triggers and do a physical exam. Finally, the doctor might suggest a blood test to check for any present infections. It can also help understand food intolerances and make sure there is no underlying condition.
As the primary treatment, your doctor might suggest some dietary changes and keep a list of what you eat. A dietitian can help if your flatulence is caused by specific food or diet.
If a specific condition is causing flatulence, you will receive medication for that. The doctor will treat the underlying problem first instead of flatulence. Some other additional tests might be required to get a conclusive diagnosis for excessive flatulence.
Excessive accumulation of gas in the abdomen leads to flatulence. The breakdown process of food and malabsorption in the intestine is mainly responsible for flatulence. Belching is when the gas is released from the mouth, and flatus is passed from the anus. Flatus can be noisy and might have an odour. A bloated stomach is commonly seen when you have flatulence.
Obstructed flatulence can cause abdomen pain. Headache is also possible. It can be seen in people of any age but more commonly in older people. Consuming starchy food like cabbage and beans can lead to flatulence. In addition, there are gastric disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and some allergies that can result in excessive flatulence. Getting flatulence post-surgery is very common.
Homoeopathic medicine used for flatulence consists of natural ingredients and focuses on stopping the recurring frequency of gases. It is an effective alternative for treating flatulence. Since the medication has natural substances, there are no side effects. Homoeopathy can help you with the symptoms of flatulence as well as treat the root cause of it.