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Flatulence - How Can It Be Managed?

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Praveen Sharma 89% (57 ratings)
MBBS, MD - General Medicine, DM - Gastroenterology
Gastroenterologist, Delhi  •  22 years experience
Flatulence - How Can It Be Managed?

Flatulence, known as farting, is a medical term for releasing gas from the digestive system through the anus. It occurs when gas collects inside the digestive system; however, one should not worry because it is a normal process.

Flatulence is due to swallowed air, the breakdown of undigested foods, lactose intolerance, and malabsorption of certain foods. Some foods that increase gas include beans, cabbage, broccoli, raisins, lentil, prunes, apples, and foods that are high in fructose or sorbitol, such as fruit juices. These foods can take a long time to digest, leading to the unpleasant smell associated with flatulence.If this condition is in excess, it can be because of various pathological conditions, such as constipation, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, GERD, peptic ulcers, etc.

About 99% of the volume of flatus is composed of non-smelly gases. These include oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane. Volume range of normal flatus is around 476–1,491 mL per 24 hours. The normal range of flatus episodes is given as 8–20 per day.

Usually, this condition presents with increased frequency or excessive instances of passing gas, belching, foul-smelling gas production, abdominal bloating and/or abdominal pain or discomfort.

Medical help should be considered if you experience symptoms, such as severe cramps, fever, diarrhea, bloody stools, nausea, and vomiting and/or right-sided abdominal pain along with gas or flatulence.

Flatulence can be diagnosed in the following ways:

Diagnosis is made with the help of the patient's history and physical examination.

Most of the times tests are not required, but if required analysis of patients' breath and flatus (gas passed out of the rectum) tests are done. Other tests, such as colonoscopy, X-rays and/or CT scans are rarely performed; it depends on the case.

Flatulence can be managed in the following ways:

  1. Most commonly antibiotic treatment, increased dietary fiber intake, and probiotics in the diet are advised. In other conditions, such as IBS and Crohn’s disease, additional medications are given. Also, over-the-counter (OTC) medications are given, which include compounds such as Beano (an OTC that contains sugar–digestive enzyme), antacids, and activated charcoal.
  2. Excessive flatulence can be reduced or prevented by avoiding dairy products if an individual is the lactose intolerant, by modifying eating habits, and by avoiding carbohydrates which are difficult to digest (instead of those you can add potatoes, rice, and bananas in your diet as the substitutes).
  3. Eat small meals frequently which help in digestion.
  4. Chew food properly. Restrain activities which may increase the amount of air that you swallow.
  5. Do exercise. It helps improve digestion and prevent flatulence.
  6. Some foods which help reduce gas are ginger, raw honey (not for infants and children under the age of 1 year), yogurt, peppermint, water, cinnamon, flaxseed, pineapple, fennel, and juices made from kale, spinach, or cucumbers.
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