Flatulence refers to excess intestinal or stomach gas. It results in symptoms such as bloating, belching and the passage of gas through the rectum. Flatulence is not a serious condition, but can lead to discomfort and embarrassment. This is the main reason for which people seek to address the problem, but it also explains why most are reluctant to discuss the problem with a doctor.
Symptom of Flatulence
The main symptoms of flatulence include gas, belching, abdominal pain and bloating. Here is a description of the common flatulence symptoms:
- Everyone passes some amount of gas daily. There is gas present in the stomach and colon and it is normal to pass gas every day. However in some cases it becomes excessive.
- Belching occurs usually while eating or soon after eating. It is done to release gas when the stomach is full. Belching may also be a sign of underlying medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or peptic ulcers.
- Bloating may occur due to an excessive intake of fatty foods. This may interfere with digestion and prevent timely emptying of the stomach. Bloating may also occur due to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. Some individuals become oversensitive to gas because of internal hernias or adhesion's from abdominal surgery.
- People with excess gas in the gastrointestinal tract often complain of pain and discomfort in the abdomen. Pain in the lower right abdomen may sometimes be confused with appendicitis while pain in the lower left side may seem similar to symptoms of heart disease.
Causes of Flatulence
Flatulence may be attributed to poor digestion of foods.
- Gas also occurs when certain foods are not digested by the body. Carbohydrates such as fiber, starches and sugar sometimes remain undigested because the enzymes that are needed for digestion are not present. The food that remains undigested moves into the large intestine where it is acted upon by bacteria. This process results in the formation of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and in some people, methane. These gases are eliminated from the body through the rectum. The same foods that lead to flatulence in one individual may not lead to flatulence in others. There are also certain bacteria present in the colon that can destroy the gases produced by the other bacteria. An imbalance of these bacteria may be the cause of flatulence in some people. Gas is mostly caused by foods high in carbohydrates. Some of the common foods that lead to a buildup of gas include:
Individuals with lactase deficiency may also experience frequent bouts of flatulence. This deficiency affects lactose digestion. Lactose is a sugar present in milk and dairy foods. Poor digestion of lactose may lead to symptoms such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Certain ethnic groups have this enzyme present in small quantities. The enzyme levels also diminish with age.
There are certain conditions that affect the absorption of foods in the gastrointestinal tract. These include:
- Beans contain raffinose which is a complex sugar. This sugar is also present in broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts.
- Starches contained in wheat, potatoes and corn may lead to gas formation.
- Onions contain fructose, a natural sugar which is also present in foods such as wheat and pears.
- Sorbitol is a sugar found in fruits and is also used to artificially sweeten many products.
- Red wine
- Soluble fiber is present in foods such as oats, beans and fruits. It passes undigested into the large intestine, where it is broken down. Insoluble fiber present in certain vegetables does not produce much gas because it is remains unchanged in the intestines.
- Conditions of the gallbladder or reduce enzyme production by the pancreas may lead to malabsorption syndromes.
- Improper bowl functioning or constipation can cause the food to move slowly through the large intestine. This allows for increased bacterial activity, leading to gas formation. Bowel movements may be affected due to various factors such as parasites, problems of the thyroid gland, drug use, low intake of dietary fiber, obstructions in the intestine and diverticulitis.
Remedies for Flatulence
There are several natural remedies for flatulence, but not all of these are subjected to scientific investigation. As a result, the effectiveness of these remedies can vary greatly and they may not always be the best option. Here are some of the most common home remedies for gas trouble:
- Citrus fruits are thought to help in treating flatulence. Instead of taking vitamin C tablets boost your vitamin intake through the increased consumption of citrus fruits. Vegetables that are rich in vitamin C include sweet peppers and potatoes.
- Yogurt containing live bacterial cultures help in alleviating problems of digestion. Look for yogurt that contains the bacteria acidophilus.
- Pumpkin is one of the most beneficial home remedies to stop gas. You can make pumpkin soup or eat it steamed or baked.
- Home remedies for flatulence also includes cardamom. You can add cardamom seeds to vegetable or rice dishes. You can also boil cardamom seeds in boiling water or chew them whole.
- Cloves are one of the most effective natural gas remedies for adults as they improve digestion and remove gas from the body. Add a couple of cloves to rice or sprinkle powdered cloves on cubed fruit. You can even make clove tea by steeping some cloves in boiling water. Sugar may be added to sweeten the tea.
- Home remedies for gas relief include coriander. It aids in digestion and reduces abdominal cramps. Crush a handful of coriander seeds into a powder and add to dishes.
- Fennel seeds are a popular remedy for indigestion and flatulence. Steep half a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a cup of boiling water and sip throughout the day. You can also chew on fennel seeds after meals. Crushed fennel seeds may also be added to foods while cooking.
- Add half a teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of lemon juice to a cup of water and drink after meals. This helps to ease spasms of the intestinal muscles.
- To alleviate abdominal pain and cramps, use herbal oils such as ginger, clove or fennel oil to massage the abdomen. You can even use warm sesame or olive oil.
- Add a small amount of rosemary, sage or thyme to starchy or other gassy foods before eating.
- Herbal teas are highly beneficial for reducing flatulence. Add half a teaspoon of chamomile, peppermint, aniseed, basil or sage leaves to a cup of boiling water. Add some honey to sweeten the tea and drink twice daily.
- Turmeric is another effective home remedy for digestion trouble. You can add turmeric powder to foods while cooking.
Diet for Flatulence
The flatulence diet should consist of foods that are easy to digest and beneficial for proper functioning of the bowels. Here are some dietary tips to prevent flatulence:
- Dietary fiber is necessary for proper functioning of the digestive system. However an excessive intake of fiber may contribute to flatulence and bloating. Regulate your intake of foods that contain soluble fiber such as beans, carrots, peas, barley and apples.
- Certain sweeteners used in sugar-free foods may trigger flatulence when consumed in high amounts.
- Flatulence arises due to food intolerances in some people. Most common food triggers include dairy products, gluten and fructose. Try to identity the foods which cause flatulence and avoid them as much as possible.
Suggestion for Flatulence
In addition to making changes to your diet it would also be a good idea to make changes to your eating habits. Eat smaller meals through the day instead of the traditional large lunch and dinner. This helps to ease digestion and reduces the risk of flatulence. Also, try and maintain a disciplined and regular routine with specific timings for meals.
- Levitt MD. Follow-up of a flatulent patient. Dig Dis Sci. 1979 Aug;24(8):652-4. PubMed PMID: 467218.
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