Flatulence is a buildup of gas in the digestive system that can lead to abdominal discomfort. It often occurs as the result of eating certain foods, but it could also be a sign of a more serious condition.
Excessive flatulence can cause discomfort and distress.
Flatulence or farting is popularly called “blasting the butt trumpet” and an average human passes gas between 10 and 18 times a day although some often pass gas without noticing.
Causes of flatulence
There are two main sources of generating fart namely: exogenous and endogenous sources. The exogenous sources are those that come from outside.
For instance, we swallow air when we eat, drink, or swallow saliva, especially when excess saliva is produced, due to nausea or acid reflux. As we also swallow, tiny amounts of air go inside the stomach.
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This swallowed air accumulates in the gut. The gas within our digestive system consists mainly of nitrogen and oxygen.
The endogenous sources are inside the gut. Gas may arise as a by-product of digestion of certain foods, or when foods are not completely digested.
A medical Practitioner, Dr Adewale Ogunbadejo explained that flatulence can be the result of normal bodily processes, or it may stem from a condition that affects the digestive system.
He said: “Obviously, there is gas in anything we eat, and naturally, the body will release it either through belching or farting.
It often occurs without the person being aware of it. But when there is constipation for a period of time, the odour becomes offensive due to the accumulation of gas.”
Ogunbadejo noted that if food was not properly digested, flatulence could occur when it reaches the large intestine. “It starts to decompose, releasing sulfur.
Sometimes, there is an underlying medical condition that needs urgent attention, such as food poisoning or an intestinal blockade.
Infection can also cause flatulence.” Conditions that can worsen flatulence Some chronic conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or diverticulitis can cause flatulence.
Some types of cancer can lead to a blockage in the intestines. Anyone who experiences a sudden or worsening increase in flatulence should see a doctor.
Gallstones and cholecystitis can cause additional gas.
According to Ogunbadejo, Constipation, gastroenteritis and other intestinal infections, antibiotics regular and excessive use of laxatives can increase the risk of developing flatulence. Other causes include pregnancy, a hernia, pancreatitis, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, and others.
Why some foods cause more gas
Foods that cause flatulence tend to be those high in certain polysaccharides, particularly oligosaccharides, such as inulin. Foods that can worsen flatulence include vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, onions, beans etc.
The complex carbohydrates in beans are difficult for humans to digest.
They are digested by microorganisms in the gut known as gut flora, which produce methane. When the complex carbohydrates reach the lower intestine, bacteria feed on them and produce gas.
Cereals, such as wheat or oats, barley, pulses, dairy produce, yeast in baked products, such as bread and cashews can worsen flatulence.
Also, when people consume food that contains lactose, such as milk, and lack the enzymes to break it down, the bacteria feed on the lactose. In some people, this produces large amounts of gas.
Moreover, some people develop diarrhea, gas or both when they consume artificial sweeteners like Sorbitol and mannitol found in candies, chewing gum, and sugar-free sweet foods.
Further, carbonated drinks like some soft drinks and beer may cause a build-up of gas in the intestinal tract.
Health benefits of fart smell
Farts are necessary process of digestion. If you are not farting, this means your digestive system is not working well. Too much farting is definitely the signal of bad food intakes.
Take maximum fiber to digest the food and to retain the nutrients. The bad smell of farts is actually
good for health. It helps avoiding strokes and helps in longevity.
Ogunbadejo explained that persistent pain, discomfort, social embarrassment, and stress are the main complications of flatulence, which can also cause embarrassment.
He advised that if there is an odour, the affected person should seek advice if excess amounts of gas accumulate flatulence occurs frequently.
“When symptoms start to become more severe, gas is often released involuntarily and when there is a consistently foul smell, medical advice should be sought.”
“Additional symptoms indicate a possible underlying digestive condition, sharp, jabbing pains, or cramps that occur in the abdomen.
Also, severe and persistent flatulence can be a sign of an underlying condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.”
Remedies for flatulence
Flatulence is not usually a serious problem and in most cases, a change in lifestyle and diet is all that is needed.
It could be avoided by not eating foods that are likely to cause it, such as those containing high levels of carbohydrates that cannot be absorbed.
Foods containing carbohydrates that are easier to digest include bananas, citrus fruits, grapes, lettuce, rice and yogurt.
Ogunbadejo noted that people who are lactose intolerant should check with a nutritionist before changing diets.
“Remember, if you cut out certain foods, you need to make sure that what is left can meet your daily nutritional requirements.”
Other ways to reduce flatulence is by eating smaller meal and slowly.
It has been proven that flatulence symptoms often improve if the person eats four to six smaller meals each day, rather than three large ones. And, one needs to eat slowly as digestion starts in the mouth, so food should be chewed thoroughly before swallowing.
Peppermint tea may also help control excessive flatulence. Avoiding smoking, choosing beans that are fermented before cooking and doing exercise also helps in reducing flatulence.
The underlying cause of flatulence needs to be discovered, and then ways to relieve symptoms follows. The patient will be asked about their medical history and dietary habits. Then a physical exam will be carried out to determine whether there is any distension in the abdomen.
The medical personnel may check for gas by tapping the abdomen and listening for a hollow sound. They may ask about bowel movements, whether there is any straining when passing a stool, whether there is abdominal pain after meals, and how long the flatulence has lasted.
This can help decide whether the patient might have a condition that needs treatment. It may help to keep a food diary for a while before visiting the doctor. Unlike burping, farting causes are a little less straightforward.
Even if your tummy can handle milk and wheat like a pro, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and asparagus contain fructans, carbohydrates that are a little tougher to digest and can lead to more gas as your body tries to break them down.
If lifestyle and dietary changes are not enough to remove flatulence, over-the-counter (OTC) medications may help. Charcoal tablets, which absorb gas in the gut, and reduces the symptoms of flatulence can be used.
And, anyone on existing medications should first check with their physician, because charcoal may also absorb some of the active ingredients.
Not all health professionals recommend using charcoal, as the benefit is unclear. Other OTC remedies include Beano, a product that helps break down C. It may be useful after eating beans.