Flatulence is something that everyone will experience and is caused by gas in the digestive tract. Not everyone will experience flatulence at the same levels. From time to time the individual will experience greater amounts of flatulence than they may have at other times. Most individuals are not aware that there is a normal amount of gas that should be and needs to be passed on a daily basis Normally, on a daily basis the individual will pass gas approximately 15 to 25 times. When flatulence occurs in much greater amounts, the individual may have other problems as the causative factor.
Understanding why gas in the digestive tract occurs, and why it is necessary to expel the gas is important because of the nature of this natural body function. At times it can prove to be very uncomfortable for the individual, and of course can be embarrassing as well at times. Usually the gas is odorless and consists of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen and methane. When the expelled gas is malodorous, it is due to bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria release gases containing sulfur and that is the cause of the obnoxious odor released when one passes gas.
Gases can also cause, bloating, distention of the abdomen and at times pain. The pains at times can be so severe, and when radiating into the chest, the individual may think they are having a heart attack. The result of excessive gas in the upper digestive tract is usually eructation (belching). Some individuals have the ability to bring on a belch and by doing so will get some relief by expelling some excess gas. Others may find relief with the use of antacids. These antacids affect relief by absorbing the gas like a sponge.
Gases are caused when the body’s digestive system does not break down the food we eat due to the lack of necessary enzymes. This usually occurs in the small intestine. The problematic foods are mostly carbohydrates consisting of starches, sugar and fiber, found in much of the food we eat. When the undigested food passes from the small intestine into the large intestine, bacteria will break it down, and the gases are formed. Not all individuals produce methane, but approximately one third of the people do.
There are other contributing factors causing flatulence. Some are as follows:
- Swallowing air (Aerophagia) usually occurs while eating and drinking. It also occurs while chewing gum. Anxiety can also be a contributing factor. Excessive salivation (producing an over abundance of saliva) is another cause.
- Posture can be responsible in producing an excessive amount of air in the digestive tract. While standing upright, air is trapped above the liquefied food in the stomach and is relieved by belching. When lying down and the food pass the duodenal sphincter into the duodenum , air passes into the lower digestive tract causing flatulence.
- Other diseases such as peptic ulcer, liver or kidney disease may be contributing factors.
The individual who produces excessive amounts gas should examine their diets as to what may be the foods that are causing this condition. They should also know what foods are the culprits in this scenario. Read the types of foods that are gas formers in the health hints below. It will then be up to the individual to adjust their diet to help in alleviating the production of excessive gases.
Sugars: can be one of the chief offenders and there are four in this category.
Fructose: Is used as sweetener fruit drinks and sodas. It is also found in wheat, pears, onions and artichokes
Lactose: Are natural sugars found in milk and milk products, such as cheeses and ice cream. It is also abundant in processed foods, such as bread, cereals, salad dressings and baked foods. As we age, our levels of enzymes for lactose digestion decrease. Other races such, Native America, African and Asians do not generally produce enough of the enzyme to digest lactose.
Sorbitol: This is a sugar that found in such fruits as apples, peaches, pears and prunes. It is also widely used as an artificial sweetener in dietetic drinks, and sugarfree candies and gums.
Raffinose: This is a complex sugar found in large amounts in beans, hence the reputation of beans as a gas forming food. It is also found in cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables. It is also found in whole grains.
Starches: Cause large amounts of gas as they are digested in the large intestine. Starches are found in potatoes, corn, wheat and noodles. Interestingly, rice is the only one in the starch family that does not cause gas.
Fiber: Comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble.
The soluble fiber is easily dissolved by water and becomes a jelly like substance in the intestines, but is not broken down until it reaches the large intestines where it forms gas. It is found in such foods as oat bran, peas, beans and most of the fruits
The insoluble fiber passes through the intestines without being broken down and therefore does not cause gas. It is found in many vegetables and Wheat bran.
The individual with more than normal flatulence needs to follow certain protocols to find relief. These are suggestions:
- See your healthcare provider to rule out any contributing disease processes.
- See to your diet as to the above suggestions, reducing your intake of sugars.
- After eating, taking a short walk is very helpful.
- Do not lie down after eating.
- Do not do any chores that require a great deal of bending.
- Do not drink carbonated beverages.
- Do not smoke.