Flatulence is a condition when a person has excessive gas in stomach or intestine. This causes discomfort to the person along with feelings of being bloated. It may also cause burping or passing gas from the rectum. The usual amount of gas produced by a normal person is about 1-3 pints a day and passes gas about 14 times a day. Flatulence is not a dangerous state, but it is most definitely life threatening.
There are a number of causes which leads to excessive production of gas. Excessive gas production can be due to following reasons:
- Excessive intake of gas through the esophagus. This includes swallowing of air due to rapid drinking, consumption of tobacco products, consumption of carbonated drinks etc. this air is removed from the digestive system through burping. However, a small part of the air can be absorbed in the small intestine and pass on to large intestine.
- Increased production of gas caused due to breakdown of undigested foods in the colon. Sometimes our body does not break down some components of foods like carbohydrates like sugar, fiber and starch. This is caused due to lack of some enzymes in the small intestine. This unbroken food is then passed to the large intestine. This food is then broken down by bacteria. A side product of this break down of food is hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and sometimes methane. These gases are then expelled through the rectum.
- Production of gas as a result of break down of food varies from one person to another. One person may produce lesser amount of gas than the other for break down of the same food. Foods like cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus and vegetables and whole grains produce less amount of gas in the body. Starchy foods like potatoes, corn, wheat and noodles produce a large amount of gas.
- One of the major causes of flatulence is lactase deficiency. This is a state where the capacity of the body to absorb lactose (form of natural sugar which is found in milk) is decreased. This kind of excessive gas production in body is closely associated with diarrhea.
There is no sure cure for flatulence. However, consumption of antacids is found to be helpful and beneficial in many cases. However, flatulence cannot be cured by antacids if the excessive gas production is not caused due to acids. Antacids work in a peculiar was on the body. They break up the gas in the intestine. This gas is expelled as pockets of air and not as bubbles.
Few good eating habits will go a long way in prevention flatulence. One must chew food very slowly and make sure that the entire food is chewed properly. The food must never be gulped down fast as this will lead to swallowing of air along with food. Try not to have too many hot drinks as one would tend to absorb air along with hot drinks. Minimize the consumption of carbonated drinks. Try and have your meals in a relaxed manner.