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What is Flatulence?

By Pamela Pleasant
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Flatulence is an overabundance of gas in either the stomach or the intestinal track. When this gas is expelled from the rectum it is referred to as passing gas. The gas can also be expelled through the mouth and this is called a belch. Gas is considered to be a normal body function and most people release gas around 14 times a day. When pain, swelling, and stomach discomfort accompanies flatulence, however, it can be the sign of a bigger medical problem.

There are many reasons why gas can occur. One of the most common reasons for an excessive amount of gas in the stomach is due to swallowing air. This can happen when foods are consumed too quickly, or it can be due to anxiety or stress. Drinking through a straw or smoking are also ways in which excessive air gets into the stomach. Slowing down while eating and being more aware of swallowing habits can help to eliminate this problem.

Diet plays an important role in the amount of gas that is present in the stomach. Certain foods, including broccoli and beans, have a higher amount of carbohydrates than other types of foods. The digestive track can have a difficult time breaking down these sugary or starchy foods as they are passed to the large intestine. Bacteria in the intestine eventually processes the foods, which produces an overabundance of gas in the intestinal track, resulting in gas.

Certain diseases or conditions have an affect on the stomach, causing pressure and discomfort. Celiac disease can block the absorption of certain types of foods and if these foods are consumed, pain, abdominal bloating, and flatulence can occur. Cirrhosis of the liver is another condition that causes an inability to absorb the fats in food. These fats do not break down, which can cause a build-up within the liver and the result in a painful abdomen.

Average bouts of flatulence are normal, but when there is an excessive amount of gas felt for a long period of time, a health care profession should be seen to rule out any serious medical conditions. Typically, flatulence can be treated by avoiding certain foods, but there are also many over-the-counter medications that can address excessive gas and cramping. There are also medications that can be taken before consuming gas producing food that can help with any uncomfortable symptoms.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Feb 11, 2014

Of course flatulence problems can be a sign of an underlying problem like a gastro-intestinal problem or a food intolerance. But if the flatulence is not excessive and if there are no other symptoms, flatulence is a good thing. In fact, we should be happy that we have flatulence and are passing gas because this shows that our intestines are happy.

The reason we experience flatulence is because of fiber rich foods. Fiber cannot be digested in the stomach, it is digested in the colon where bacteria feed off of the fiber and produce gas. These are good bacteria that keep our colon healthy and that cause regular bowel movements. People who don't eat enough fiber (and who don't have regular flatulence and bowel movements) have a higher risk of colon cancer. So eat the fiber, pass the gas, and stay healthy!

By literally45 — On Feb 11, 2014

@donasmrs-- I don't know about supplements, but some medications can definitely cause flatulence. You should be able to find it listed as a side effect of the medication.

For example, I'm taking an anti-diabetic medication called metformin and sometimes it causes excess flatulence. My mother was actually on this medication before me (diabetes runs in the family) and she was always complaining of how the medication was giving her flatulence. I never believed her. Then I was diagnosed with type two diabetes and was put on the same medication. And guess what? I'm also experiencing the same side effect right now!

So if you started having more than usual flatulence after starting a medication, ask a pharmacist or your doctor about it. It's probably a side effect.

By donasmrs — On Feb 10, 2014

Can certain medications or supplements cause excess flatulence?

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