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Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Passing wind; farting or having gas is often an act people laugh about and can sometimes be embarrassing. And if farting is excessive, it can make one feel uncomfortable around others. This excessive farting is known as excessive flatulence.

So, the phrase “passing wind” is medically known as Flatulence, which simply, is releasing gas or what is regarded as flatus from the digestive system through the anus. It is something everyone experiences, including those that say to you that they never fart; this set of people may just know how to control theirs, especially when in public.

While, it can usually be controlled with changes to your diet and lifestyle, it is not out of place to fart on a regular. It is a normal biological process. Often times, flatulence occurs without one knowing. In this case, there may be no smell and the volume can be very minimal.


Signs and Symptoms of Flatulence

Passing wind is normal, but the frequency varies between individuals and depends on a number of factors including diet. Some people pass wind only a few times a day, others a lot more, and for some, up to 40 times or even more.

Much as the average could be said to be about 15 times a day, and anything widely above this frequency on a regular basis could be regarded as having excessive flatulence which has a number of causes, it is also important to mention that there are, as of this moment, no medical guidelines defining the normal frequency or volume of flatus one must pass. You're probably the best person to assess your own symptoms.

Since flatulence is the act of passing wind, other symptoms that may be attached to flatulence include:

  • smelly gas

  • loud wind

  • abdominal distension and discomfort

  • rumblings in the lower abdomen

When your flatulence symptoms become worrisome

It may be a good idea to seek medical advice when you have unexplained flatulence, like if:

  1. excess amounts of gas accumulate

  2. flatulence occurs more frequently than usual

  3. there is a consistently foul smell

  4. additional symptoms indicate a possible underlying digestive condition, such as;

  • swollen abdomen or a bloated feeling

  • persistent abdominal pain

  • recurring episodes of diarrhoea or constipation

  • unexplained weight loss

  • heartburn

  • bowel incontinence

  • blood in stool (faeces)

  • signs of an infection, such as a high temperature, vomiting, chills, joint pain and muscle pain


What Causes Flatulence?

The build-up of gases which we all accumulate in our digestive system, cause flatulence, and one can collect gases in two main ways:

First, swallowing air while you eat, drink or even swallow saliva can cause oxygen and nitrogen to collect in the digestive tract.

Second, digestive gases such as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide can also build-up when you digest food. The body needs to get rid of the build-up by farting or burping (belching).

Either way can cause flatulence.

Sometimes, one may not notice he/she has passed wind because most of the gases are odourless and often released in small quantities.

Flatulence usually only has a bad smell if it contains gases that smell, such as sulphur; and this is as a result of having the undigested food from the intestines passed down into the colon and broken down by bacteria as it decomposes and produces sulphur. However, it's important to remember it's normal for the gas you pass to sometimes smell a bit.

Excessive flatulence can be caused by swallowing more air than usual or eating food that's difficult to digest. It can also be related to an underlying medical condition affecting the digestive system.

What may cause one to swallow more air than normal include:

  • chewing gum

  • smoking

  • sucking on objects such as pen tops

  • drinking carbonated drinks (although this is more likely to cause belching rather than flatulence)

  • eating too quickly

Also, dietary choices that could lead to excessive flatulence include foods like:

  • beans

  • cabbage

  • cauliflower

  • broccoli

  • peas

  • chickpeas

  • soybeans

  • nuts

  • raisins

  • artichokes

  • pulses

  • lentils

  • prunes

  • apples

  • apricot

  • peach

  • pear

  • onions

  • garlic

  • dairy produce

  • brussels sprouts

  • foods high in fructose or sorbitol, such as fruit juices

  • foods containing a lot of unrefined cereal fibre, such as bran, can also sometimes cause problems with wind and even bloating.

These foods, due to the carbohydrates in them, can take a long time to digest, leading to the unpleasant smell associated with flatulence.

Foods, such as cabbage or onions, can also lead to the production of gases containing sulphur, which can result in foul-smelling flatus. However, the production of smelly flatus can vary from person to person depending on what you eat, so it's up to you to work out which foods cause the most smell.

Possible medical conditions affecting the digestive system include:

  • constipation

  • gastroenteritis

  • food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance

  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Crohn’s disease

  • coeliac disease

  • diabetes

  • eating disorders

  • ulcerative colitis

  • dumping syndrome

  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

  • autoimmune pancreatitis

  • peptic ulcers

  • malabsorption

  • giardiasis – an infection of the digestive system caused by tiny parasites

Flatulence, often caused by indigestion, is also a possible side effect of many types of medicine, including:

  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen

  • some laxatives

  • antifungal medicines

  • statins

  • varenicline (Champix) – used to help people stop smoking


Diagnosing Excessive Flatulence

The doctor will discuss your symptoms with you, including when the problem started, and if there are any clear triggers. The doctor will also do a physical examination.

A blood or stool test may be needed to ensure that your body isn’t fighting an infection, to identify any possible food intolerances, and to make sure there isn’t another medical condition causing your worrying flatulence.

Depending on the cause, you may also benefit from seeing a dietitian.


Controlling Excessive Flatulence and Treatment

Excessive flatulence can be treated in a number of ways, which include making changes to one’s diet and lifestyle, depending on the cause of the problem.

Diet and lifestyle changes, include:

  • avoiding foods and drinks known to cause flatulence which also includes foods with artificial sweeteners

  • eating smaller meals

  • eating and drinking slowly

  • not drinking through straws

  • chewing food in bits and thoroughly

  • exercising regularly

  • not smoking

  • not sucking on objects such as pen tops

  • cutting out on chewing gums

Several over-the-counter treatments are also available if your flatulence is becoming a problem, such as charcoal tablets that absorb gas through the digestive system, antacids, and dietary supplements such as alpha-galactosidase (Beano). It is very crucial to know that these medications will only temporarily provide relief.

If your troublesome flatulence is related to an underlying health problem, treating the condition may help resolve it.

However, it's still important to eat a healthy balanced diet, which includes sufficient fruits and vegetables every day. Choose foods containing carbohydrates that are easy to digest. These include:

  • potatoes

  • rice

  • lettuce

  • bananas

  • grapes

  • citrus fruits, like oranges

  • yoghurt, but people who are lactose intolerant should check with a nutritionist

It is pertinent to understand that people react differently to certain foods, so some foods listed above may still cause flatulence. It may be useful to keep a food diary to see whether certain foods make your symptoms better or worse.

Some findings suggest drinking peppermint tea can help improve the symptoms of flatulence. Also, some findings suggest that small amounts of ginger can help with digestion or an upset stomach, which may be causing flatulence. Howbeit, women pregnant should consult a doctor before taking ginger.


Long-term Outlook of Worrisome Flatulence

There are no long-term consequences for not treating flatulence, which is actually not a problem unless it becomes excessive. If one’s excessive flatulence is due to food intolerance or digestive issue, the problem may get worse. Other symptoms may also develop.

In some cases, prolonged excessive flatulence can lead to other issues, such as social discomfort and changes in eating habits. If one’s lifestyle is affected a lot, his/her mood may also be affected. It is necessary to maintain a healthy diet and if the problem begins to negatively affect your life, see a doctor.

....making effort to "STAY WELL"


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