What is flatulence?

Flatulence is the passing of gas from the digestive tract out of the back passage. This is commonly called as “farting” or “passing wind”.  This is often laughed about but excessive flatulence can be embarrassing in a social setting and make the individual feel uncomfortable around others. Nevertheless, it can be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes.

It is important to note that flatulence is a normal biological process that is experienced regularly. Some pass wind only a few times throughout the day while others seem to do more frequently. The average rate of “passing wind” is between 5-15 times in a day.

Why flatulence occurs?

When swallowing food, saliva or water, small amounts of air are also swallowed which accumulates in the digestive system. Gases can also build up once food is digested. The body eliminates the buildup by flatulence or burping.

In some cases, the individual might not notice that he/she passed wind since most of the gases are odorless and released in small amounts. Flatulence usually has a bad smell if it contains gases that smell such as sulphur. Nevertheless, it is vital to remember that it is normal for gas passed out to smell a bit. Excessive flatulence can be triggered by swallowing more air than usual or consuming food that is hard to digest. It might be linked to an underlying health condition that affects the digestive tract such as irritable bowel syndrome or recurrent indigestion.

When to consult a doctor

Flatulence

If there is persistent bloating or abdominal pain, consult a doctor.

It is best to consult a doctor if the flatulence is troublesome such as passing out frequent smelly gas. A doctor should be consulted if additional symptoms such as the following are present.

  • Recurrent episodes of constipation or diarrhea
  • Persistent bloating or abdominal pain
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood-streaked stool
  • Indications of infection such as elevated body temperature, chills, vomiting, muscle and joint pain

How to control flatulence

Excessive flatulence can be managed with dietary and lifestyle changes such as the following:

  • Eating and drinking slowly
  • Avoidance of foods that trigger flatulence
  • The individual should stick with a regular exercise routine
  • Eating smaller and frequent meals throughout the day

There are also some over-the-counter medications that can help in cases in which flatulence is troublesome. The commonly used medications that are used include simethicone or charcoal tablets.

In case the flatulence is linked to an underlying health condition, it is vital to manage the condition in order to resolve the flatulence. This requires consulting a doctor so that proper assessment can be carried out to determine the exact cause.

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