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Passing gas is a normal, healthy bodily function that allows the digestive tract to rid itself of trapped air. Some people, however, experience frequent or even constant gas, which can result in chronic abdominal discomfort and embarrassment. Luckily, constant flatulence is usually caused by a particular aspect of an individual’s diet or lifestyle, and by pinpointing the cause of excessive gas, the problem can be easily controlled or even eliminated. The most common causes of constant flatulence include a tendency to swallow large quantities of air, a high fiber intake, and an intolerance for certain types of food. Also sometimes to blame are medications or underlying medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
One of the most common causes of constant flatulence is swallowed air that has built up in the digestive tract. Often, large quantities of air are swallowed when an individual eats very quickly, chews gum, or drinks through a straw. Smoking can also lead to the swallowing of excess air. Making small behavioral changes — such as chewing slowly or skipping straws — can help reduce the occurrence of this type of gas.
Frequently, constant flatulence is caused by a high fiber intake. While natural foods like beans, green vegetables, and fibrous fruits such as apples provide a range of health benefits, they can also cause gas to build up in the intestines. Often this reaction occurs when large amounts of fiber are suddenly introduced into a previously low-fiber diet, overwhelming the intestines. To achieve a healthy diet while avoiding excessive flatulence, gradually increase the fiber intake over several days or weeks.
For some people, constant flatulence is caused by a dietary intolerance in which the digestive tract is unable to process a particular element contained in certain types of food. Common culprits include lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, and gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat. Lactose-related flatulence may be reduced by using an over-the-counter product which helps the body process dairy foods. Gluten-derived flatulence may be eliminated by cutting gluten from the diet.
Sometimes excessive flatulence may be caused by medications. Certain antibiotics, for instance, can temporarily reduce the number of “friendly” bacteria which normally live in the intestines and aid digestion. To protect the body’s bacterial resistance, it is important to always finish a course of antibiotics. Thus, one should not cease taking a prescription due to flatulence. While medication-derived gas may cause some short-term embarrassment or discomfort, the body’s “friendly” bacteria will soon return to full strength once the prescription is finished.
Finally, constant flatulence may be a symptom of an underlying medical issue, such as Crohn’s disease or a bowel obstruction. Conditions such as these can become serious if left untreated. Thus, those who have ruled out all common causes of excess gas should consider consulting a physician to determine whether a medical condition is to blame.