Excessive flatulence: what may be the cause + treatment

Excessive flatulence: what may be the cause + treatment
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Excessive gas formation in the digestive tract is a natural part of human health. However, excessive flatulence can signal a common dietary error or various diseases of the digestive system. What are the possible causes?

Flatulence can be associated with abdominal pain and bloating. The causes of excessive wind formation are quite diverse. Most often it is caused by improper diet, food components and lifestyle. It can also point to food intolerance or diseases of the intestinal tract.

Symptoms, etiology, causes, home help, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and much more interesting information can be found in the article.

What is flatulence?

The formation of intestinal gas is a physiological part of healthy human digestion.

Approximately 6 liters of gas are formed in the intestines of a person every day. Flatulence is characterized by the retention of gas in the digestive system.

Bloating, flatulence, winds, flatulence and other symptoms of indigestion are most often caused by improper diet, combination, diet composition and improper lifestyle.

Problems with flatulence and excessive winds are symptoms of a disorder or disturbance in the digestive tract.

It is most often the result of inappropriate food combinations, excessive overeating, disruption of the gut microbiome, lack of physical activity and the effects of stress.

Flatulence is the technical medical term for the release of gas from the digestive system through the rectum (anus).

Gas accumulates in the digestive tract in two basic ways : swallowing air and digesting food. When eating and drinking, oxygen and nitrogen accumulate in the digestive tract.

When food is digested, digestive gases such as hydrogen, methane or carbon dioxide accumulate in the tract.

Flatulence is common.

A healthy individual expels gases an average of 10 to 12 times a day.

When bloating and flatulence occur more frequently than 10-14 times a day, combined with a strong odor, it may be a disorder or disorder of the digestive tract.

Digestive tract gas consists of:

  • nitrogen (59 %)
  • hydrogen (9 %)
  • carbon dioxide (9 %)
  • oxygen (4 %)
  • methane (7 %)

Associated symptoms of excessive flatulence may include mild abdominal pain, abdominal crampsor bloating.

Severe pain, diarrhea/constipation, difficulty defecating, vomiting, blood in stool and other similar symptoms require a medical diagnosis.

Etiology and causes of flatulence

Excessive bloating and flatulence have a multifactorial cause of occurrence. In addition to the composition and quantity, pathological changes in the various organs and glands of the digestive system are involved in the formation of gas.

The etiology of the occurrence is notionally divided into inappropriate lifestyle or diet and organic causes (intolerance, disease).

Diet, lifestyle and dietary error

Increased flatulence can occur with inappropriate food combinations, excessive food intake and rapid consumption.

A common cause of flatulence is the consumption of large amounts of oligosaccharides and substances contained in legumes or other specific foods (cabbage, plums...). They cause foaming in the intestines.

Swallowing more air than usual can cause chewing gum, smoking, sucking lollipops, drinking carbonated drinks or eating too fast.

Some foods may take a long time to digest. This leads to an unpleasant strong smell associated with flatulence. Some foods cannot be completely absorbed by the small intestine.

The large intestine contains a large number of bacteria that break down food and release gases.

These foods can increase gas production :

  • beans
  • cabbage, kale
  • kohlrabi
  • broccoli
  • onions, garlic
  • plums
  • raisins
  • lentils
  • chickpeas, peas, soya beans
  • apples, pears
  • grapes, raisins
  • dairy products

Organic cause (flatulence as a symptom of disease)

Excessive flatulence can be a symptom of gastrointestinal disease or food intolerance (intolerance).

The most common intolerances are gluten, lactose (milk sugar) and milk protein intolerance. In addition to gluten, food allergens include various types of nuts, fruits and seafood.

The most severe form of gluten intolerance is called celiac disease.

In allergies and intolerances, digestive problems become apparent relatively soon after eating the inappropriate food component.

Indigestion, bloating and flatulence may be symptoms of chronic inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, infectious disease, etc. They are often accompanied by pain, cramps, temperature or other digestive symptoms.

Bloating and flatulence may be a side effect of drug therapy. These are mainly gastrointestinal medications, constipation, psychopharmaceuticals or antibiotics.

Examples of causes of excessive flatulence :

  • food allergies
  • food intolerance (intolerance)
  • celiac disease
  • gastroenteritis
  • infectious diseases of the intestinal tract
  • ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • malabsorption syndrome
  • diverticulosis
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • intestinal obstruction
  • gallbladder disease
  • diseases of the pancreas

Flatulence in women

Flatulence and bloating may be related to the menstrual cycle and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Many women experience a feeling of a distended abdomen and bloating as a result of hormonal changes. They may experience higher levels of flatulence in the short term.

Women most commonly suffer from flatulence during pregnancy.

The sex hormone progesterone is responsible for flatulence. It slows down digestion, intestinal motility (motility) and causes an increased chance of bloating and gas formation.

Most often, this problem begins in the early months of pregnancy.

Seek professional help from a gynaecologist for digestive problems, pain, cramps and other suspicious symptoms.

Flatulence in children

In addition to adults, children of different ages also have problems with flatulence. A common cause of bloating and flatulence in young children is swallowing too much air while eating or breastfeeding.

Bloating often occurs in young children. It affects both breastfed and non-breastfed babies. It can be caused, for example, by swallowing air while crying and screaming. If the intestinal microflora is not developed, it causes bloating and flatulence.

Another common cause of bloating in infants is poor tolerance of artificial nutrition. In younger children, food intolerance, especially lactose (milk sugar) intolerance, is a common cause of abdominal pain and bloating.

Increased flatulence and bloating in a child will manifest itself in restlessness, crying, burping and refusal of further food intake.

Frequent and recurrent bloating has a multifactorial aetiology. It may be due to various diseases of the digestive tract. It is necessary to seek professional help from a paediatrician.

In case of sudden bloating associated with vomiting, pain or difficulty in defecation in a child, it is necessary to seek urgent medical attention.

When to seek professional medical help?

In many cases of excessive flatulence, home treatment and lifestyle modification will help. This is especially true in cases of flatulence caused by an inappropriate combination of foods.

If you suspect an allergy, inflammation or digestive tract disease, seek professional help from a doctor.

When to seek urgent medical attention?

  • Severe pain and cramps in the abdomen
  • Swollen and painful to the touch abdomen
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Faintness and feeling faint, dizziness
  • Diarrhoea (difficulty defecating)
  • Blood in stool
  • Fever and increased body temperature

Diagnosis and treatment options for flatulence

Diagnosis is made by a general practitioner or specialist gastroenterologist. The doctor will take a medical history, assess clinical symptoms and carry out a basic examination by palpation and listening.

In particular, he asks about the duration of the trouble, diet and the triggering factor for the trouble.

At his/her discretion, he/she will choose home treatment and lifestyle modification, drug therapy, blood sampling to detect the presence of infection or endoscopic examination if a specific gastrointestinal disease is suspected.

If the patient's diet contains large amounts of carbohydrates (carbohydrates), it is recommended to replace them with more easily digestible alternatives. For example, potatoes, rice or bananas may help. Adequate intake of fibre is also recommended to aid digestion.

In addition to the composition of the diet, it is necessary to change the speed, quantity and frequency of food intake.

It is advisable to eat smaller amounts of food and to divide the food into multiple portions. It is important to chew the food well and not to wash it down with liquid while eating.

Regular physical activity promotes digestion, motility, blood flow and bowel movement. Any type of exercise is suitable. It may be simple walking. Compensatory physical activity is necessary in sedentary occupations.

The doctor may prescribe the patient antacids, spasmolytics, or charcoal-based drugs for gas absorption. These drugs will provide only temporary relief and do not address the cause itself. Some of them are available over the counter at the pharmacy.

Probiotics and prebiotics are suitable to support the balance of the intestinal microflora and the digestive process. It is possible to reach for dietary supplements containing vitamins, minerals and herbs to aid digestion and eliminate bloating and flatulence.

Usually, it is not a life-threatening phenomenon. Still, abdominal bloating, cramps and flatulence can be bothersome for individuals. For quick relief, one can reach for over-the-counter capsules, drops or teas that help with bloating and promote digestion.

Prevention of excessive flatulence

As with any other problem, it is important to take care of prevention. When a health problem arises, do not postpone a visit to a gastroenterologist.

Advice and tips on how to prevent bloating :

  • Eat smaller portions and regularly.
  • Eat a varied and balanced diet.
  • Do not eat too fast or too often.
  • Chew your food thoroughly.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Take plenty of fibre.
  • Make sure you get enough protein.
  • Do not wash down food with liquid at meals.
  • Move regularly.

The small intestine often cannot process legumes properly. They pass into the large intestine. There are bacteria in the large intestine that activate the production of unwanted gases.

The unwanted effect can be removed quite easily by cooking legumes properly.

The legumes should be well rinsed and soaked in water for several hours. Drain the water again, rinse the legumes and bring them to the boil. This will get rid of purines and lectins. The legumes will be more digestible.

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Interesting resources

  • healthline.com - Everything you need to know about bloating. Healthline. Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
  • solen.com - Flatulence - what drugs cause it and how to treat it. Solen. Eliška Kolmanová
  • ZAVORAL, Miroslav, ed. Mařatkova gastroenterologie: pathophysiology, diagnostics, treatment. Prague: Institute for Public Health Care: Charles University, Karolinum Publishing House, 2021. ISBN 978-80-246-5002-9.
  • medicalnewstoday.com - Everything you need to know about bloating. Medical News Today. Yvette Brazier
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