Relieve Symptoms

Flatulence

Flatulence, or gas, is air formed in the intestines as food is being digested. Gas is passed through the rectum and can make a person feel bloated or experience abdominal pain or discomfort. Everyone has gas, and on average eliminate it about 14 times a day. Gas is made of odorless vapors, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen and hydrogen. The odor of gas comes from the bacteria in the large intestine that release gases like sulfur. Gas can make a person feel bloated or cause cramping in the abdominal area.

Causes of Flatulence

Gas can be caused by a number of things. Gas in the digestive tract comes from two places: swallowed air and the breakdown of certain undigested foods, not broken down naturally. Foods that are difficult to digest and often cause flatulence are carbohydrates, for example sugars, starches and fiber. Undigested food passes from the small intestine into the large intestine. In the large intestine, harmless bacteria break down the food producing certain gases, like hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and in some people methane. These gases exit the body through the rectum. Those people who produce methane do not necessarily produce more gas, or have different symptoms related to gas.

Food containing carbohydrates causes more gas, and foods with fat and protein cause less. The sugars that cause gas include raffinose, lactose and sorbitol. Raffinose, a complex sugar, is found in many vegetables including beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus and whole grains. Lactose, found in milk products, is the natural sugar found in milk. Lactose can also be found in some processed foods like bread, salad dressing and cereal. Research has shown that lactose intolerance is found more commonly among the African, Native American and Asian ethnicities. These people have lower levels of the enzyme, lactase, which develops in childhood.

Fructose is found in onions, artichokes, pears and wheat. It is also used to sweeten fruit and soft drinks. Sorbitol, is a natural sugar found in some fruits including apples, pears, prunes and peaches. Sorbitol is also an ingredient used as artificial sweetener in “sugar free” candy and diet foods.

Starches also cause gas. Starchy foods that can cause flatulence include corn, pasta, potatoes and wheat. These food items are not easily digested in the large intestine. Rice, however, does not cause gas. Lastly, fiber also can be a key cause of gas. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. Water can easily break down soluble fibers, found in oat bran, beans, peas and most fruits. Soluble fibers are not broken down until the large intestine. The delay in digestion can cause gas. On the other hand, insoluble fiber produces little gas as it does not change in the digestion process through the intestines. This type of fiber can be found in wheat bran and some vegetables.

However, foods that cause gas in one person may not affect the other. Take notes on what causes you to have gas and avoid those foods. The bacteria in a person’s stomach which can destroy the gases, like hydrogen, vary from person to person. The balance of bacteria is a contributing factor to the amount of gas a person experiences.

Gas can also be caused by swallowing air while eating. Eating or drinking too fast, chewing gum and smoking are all ways to swallow more air. Certain foods and swallowing air are two common ways to have flatulence. However, some people experience gas because of other more serious concerns. Lactose intolerance, or the intolerance of dairy products, can cause one to have excessive gas. Persons with irritable bowl syndrome, or IBS, also suffer from excessive gas. IBS is a chronic stomach disorder, and can worsen with increased stress. IBS is a complex disorder of the intestinal tract that causes disruption in bowel habits often resulting in constipation and diarrhea. Another more serious cause of flatulence is malabsorption problems. This is caused by a body’s inability to absorb or digest certain nutrients properly. Malabsorption is usually accompanied by diarrhea.

Cures and Treatment of Flatulence

To avoid gas, keep these few remedies in mind. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Relax while eating. Avoid the foods that cause discomfort as mentioned earlier like beans and carbonated drinks. Also, try taking a walk after eating for 10 or 15 minutes to increase digestion. It also helps to drink a soothing tea like chamomile or peppermint after a meal to avoid gas. Changing your diet can be a key way to avoid gas as well.

Over-the-counter medicines work well to cure excessive gas and prevent gas as well. Antacids and digestive enzymes are the most common nonprescription, over-the-counter remedies. Antacids contain simethicone, which combines with gas bubbles in the stomach to remove the gas.

For those who have problems digesting lactose, the enzyme lactase, can help and is also available over-the-counter. Taking or chewing lactose tablets is recommended before meals to help digest those foods while eating. Lactose-free milk products are also available, and can be a good solution to avoid gas. Another recommended remedy is Beano, which contains an enzyme to help digest sugar found in vegetables and beans. Beano is taken before meals as well. If you are having more chronic problems, it could be attributed to a more serious problem, like IBS, and you should see a doctor. Prescription medicines are available to tackle the excessive gas sometimes caused by IBS. You should call your physician if you are having other symptoms in addition to flatulence, like heartburn, intense abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.

Remember, flatulence is very common, and it is not life-threatening. While it may be unpleasant and embarrassing, there are ways to reduce the symptoms and prevent gas. Altering your diet is the best way to avoid gas. It is also helpful to use over-the-counter medicines that aid in digestion and reducing the amount of air swallowed. Also, a person’s enzyme levels tend to decrease with age, so gas may be a more persistent problem as a person ages. But a close eye on diet choices can be successful in the prevention of flatulence.

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