Flatulence is an excess of gases in the intestines, leading to the passage of more winds than normal. We usually pass some ten to twenty-five winds per day in order to release gases from the intestines. Flatulence is nasty, because a person has little control over it. It often creates a sense of shame. But the condition is harmless.
The gases in the intestines are made up for ninety-nine percent of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane. These gases end up in the intestines by the ingestion of air, by the natural bacteria in the intestines and via absorpsion from the blood. These mechanisms normally work the other way as well. For example, we burp occasionally to get rid of swallowed air, some bacteria consume particular gases and blood also absorps gases from the intestines. If this balance is disrupted and more gases enter the intestines rather than leaving, then the nasty excessive flatulence is developed.
It’s not always clear what the cause of additional gas development is. Flatulence can be caused by:
- Swallowing too much air. In case of tension and stress, smoking, drinking through a straw, chewing much gum and ill-fitting dentures, a lot of extra air is being swallowed. People who talk fast, eat fast without chewing well or drink fast, also swallow unnoticed a lot of extra air.
- Eating or drinking foods that contain much air, such as soft drinks, beer, whipped cream, souffle, bread and omelet. A lot of air is eaten unnoticed with the foods.
- Eating specific foods, such as legumes, onions, cabbages, fruits and light-products. Some carbohydrates from legumes, vegetables, fruits, etc. are not fully digested and absorbed in the small intestine. They arrive unchanged in the large intestine, where they are processed (fermented) by the intestinal flora. With additional gas development as result. Fructose in fruits and fruit juices and sorbitol (sweetener in diet products, such as chewing gum and soft drinks) are also less well digested and absorbed.
- Using particular medicines with a laxative effect. Bran, fiber preparations and lactulose can cause a lot of gas.
- Another condition, such as constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Lactose intolerance. In people who don’t tolerate lactose, milk sugar (lactose) from milk is not broken down and absorbed in the small intestine. The milk sugar ends up unaltered in the colon and is fermented there, causing gas development.
- Other intestinal diseases. With other intestinal diseases, such as gluten intolerance (coeliac disease), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, extra gas development can occur.
The main symptom of flatulence is the excessive release of winds. The winds are difficult to control. Flatulence is accompanied by bloating, intestinal problems and abdominal pain. There is often also rumbling in the abdomen.
To get rid of the extra intestinal gas, winds are released for sometimes up to thirty or forty times a day. The symptoms will be worse if the winds are withheld. Additional gas development is usually harmless. Flatulence is rather troublesome than dangerous.
There is no cure for flatulence. It is advisable to take time for the meal. Chew the food well and try not talking too much, in order to reduce swallowing of air. Additionally, changes in diet are possible. It’s wise to reduce or stop drinking carbonated beverages, such as soft drinks and beer. The spices turmeric and cumin help to reduce gas development.
Flatulence has in most instances a harmless cause. You can usually remedy flatulence by yourself by applying a number of changes, particularly in diet.
- Eat regularly and don’t skip meals.
- Avoid products which cause additional gas development. These are products, such as carbonated soft drinks, beer, light-products, legumes, cabbage, onion and leek.
- Don’t use chewing gum.
- Quit smoking.
- Try to avoid constipation by using a healthy, varied and high-fiber diet.
- Drink sufficient fluids each day.
- The term ‘flatulence’ is derived from the Latin word flātus (gust of wind).
- The prevalence of flatulence is 25%.
- The condition is more common with increasing age.
- The art of farting is also known as ‘petomania’. A petomane is a person who feels delighted when farting. Petomane comes from the French word péter, that means ‘farting’.