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Flatulence is the production of a mixture of gases in the digestive tract of mammals or other animals that are byproducts of the digestion process. Such a mixture of gases is known as flatus, and is expelled from the rectum in a process colloquially referred to as "passing gas".
Flatulence is the state of having excessive stomach or intestinal gas. This can result in uncomfortable feelings of bloating, as well as increased belching or passing of gas from the rectum.
• The flammable character of flatus is caused by hydrogen and methane. The proportions of these gases depend largely on the bacteria that live in the human colon that digest, or ferment, food that has not been absorbed by the gastrointestinal (GI) tract before reaching the colon.
• An estimated 30-150 grams of this undigested food reach the colon in the form of carbohydrate every day. But this amount can vary with diet and how well your GI tract is functioning. The unpleasant odor often associated with flatus is generally attributed to trace sulfur-containing compounds, produced only by particular bacteria not found in everyone
What causes flatulence?
Flatulence, also known as farting, is the act of passing intestinal gas from the anus. Gas in the gastrointestinal tract has only two sources. It is either swallowed air or it is produced by bacteria that normally inhabit the intestines, primarily the colon. Swallowed air is rarely the cause of excessive flatulence. The usual source is the production of excessive gas by intestinal bacteria. The bacteria produce the gas (hydrogen and/or methane) when they digest foods, primarily sugars and polysaccharides (e.g., starch, cellulose), that have not been digested during passage through the small intestine.
• Swallowed air (aerophagia): This can occur with improper swallowing while eating or even unconscious swallowing of air out of habit.
Activities that cause you to swallow air include rapid drinking, chewing gum, use of tobacco products, sucking on hard candy, drinking carbonated beverages, loose dentures, and hyperventilation in anxious people.
Most people burp or belch to expel this excess swallowed air. The remaining gas moves into your small intestine. Air can be absorbed, but some moves along to the large intestine for release through the rectum.
Analysis of the gas can help determine if it originated from aerophagia (mostly nitrogen, also oxygen and carbon dioxide) or GI production (mainly carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and methane).
• Breakdown of undigested foods: Your body does not digest and absorb some carbohydrates (for example, the sugar, starches, and fiber found in many foods) in the small intestine because of a shortage or absence of certain enzymes there. So this undigested food then passes from the small intestine into the large intestine, where normal, harmless bacteria break down the food, producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and, in about a third of all people, methane. Eventually these gases exit through the rectum.
Other causes are:
• Eating large amounts of non-digestible foods such as fibre.
• Eating foods that are not tolerated, as in lactose intolerance.
• Acute pancreatitis
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Malabsorption or inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestinal tract, often accompanied by diarrhoea.
• Use of oral antibiotics
• Gastrointestinal cancer and its treatment
Which foods cause gas?
Most foods that contain carbohydrates may cause gas. These include sugars, starches and dietary fibre.
Pulses Especially dried beans, peas and soya beans
Milk and milk products Cheese and milk
Vegetables Cauliflower, Cabbage, cucumber, radishes, onions and potatoes
Fruits Apples, bananas, apricots and apples
Cereals and breads Wheat and wheat products
Fatty foods Deep fried foods, fatty meats, rich creamy food stuff
Drinks Carbonated bevarages and soft drinks
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of gas are belching, flatulence, abdominal bloating and abdominal pain.
Belching is emitting wind noisily from the stomach through the mouth. An occasional belch during or after meals is normal and releases gas when the stomach is full of food. However, in people who belch frequently, the problem may be because of swallowing too much air and releasing it before it enters the stomach. Sometimes a person with chronic belching may have a digestive tract disorder, such as peptic ulcer, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or gastritis.
Flatulence is passage of gas through the anus. Passing gas this way 10-20 times a day is normal, but more often may be embarrassing.
Abdominal bloating is usually the result of an intestinal motility disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This condition is characterised by abnormal movements and contractions of intestinal muscles and may give a feeling of bloating because of increased sensitivity to gas. Other diseases such as Crohn’s disease and colon cancer may also cause abdominal bloating.
Abdominal pain and discomfort may be present when there is excess gas in the intestines.
How can it be prevented?• Avoid pipes, cigarettes and cigars; chewing gum, sipping through straws and bottles with narrow mouths.
• Avoid carbonated beverages
• Eat slowly. Gulping food and beverages allows large amounts of air to enter the stomach.
• Do not deliberately swallow air to force a belch.
• Avoid foods that may cause gas
Homoeopathic remedies
• Nux vomica: This remedy is often useful for indigestion, and is especially suited to those who overindulge in stimulants, food, and alcohol
• Colocynthis: Cutting, cramping pain in the stomach and abdomen, with relief from hard pressure or from doubling over, indicates a need for this remedy. A bitter taste in the mouth, a feeling that the intestines are about to burst, or a sensation that stones are grinding together in the abdomen may be present.
• Arsenicum album: It may be indicated if a person feels anxious, restless yet exhausted, and is worse from the smell and sight of food. Burning pain is felt in the stomach and esophagus, which often is relieved by warmth and sitting.
• Bryonia: When this remedy is indicated, the stomach feels heavy, with rising acid and a bitter or sour taste. Pain and nausea are worse from motion of any kind. The person may have a dry mouth and be thirsty for long drinks, which may increase discomfort.
• Pulsatilla: Indigestion that is worse from eating rich and fatty foods, with a feeling of a lump or pulsation in the stomach, suggests a need for this remedy. Discomfort often is worse from warmth, especially in a stuffy room, and the person may feel better from gentle walking in open air.
• Lycopodium: It is indicated for many digestive troubles. The person’s appetite may be ravenous, but eating even a small amount can cause a feeling of fullness and bloating. Rumbling gas may form in the abdomen, pressing upward and making breathing difficult.
• Natrum phosphoricum: A sour taste in the mouth, an acid or burning sensation in the stomach, sour vomiting, regurgitated bits of food, and a yellow coating on the tongue are all indications for this remedy. The person may have problems after consuming dairy products or too much sugar.
• Natrum carbonicum: It is indicated for mild people who have trouble digesting and assimilating many foods and have to stay on restricted diets. Indigestion, heartburn, and ulcers can occur if offending foods are eaten. Milk or dairy products can lead to flatulence or sputtery diarrhea that leaves an empty feeling in the stomach. Cravings for potatoes and sweets are common; also milk, but it makes these people sick, so they have usually learned to avoid it.
• Phosphorus: Burning pain in the stomach that feels better from eating ice cream or other cold, refreshing foods suggests a need for this remedy.
• Carbo vegetabilis: Sour belching bringing only small relief, burning pain in the stomach and abdomen. The person feels cold and faint, with a strong desire for fresh or moving air. Digestion may be slow and incomplete, with nausea or cramping.