What is it
Flatulence, or intestinal gas expelled through the rectum, is one of the oldest human complaints. The typical adult passes gas 15 to 20 times a day, an amount deemed normal by gastroenterologists. Despite the occasional embarrassment it may cause, flatulence is not a symptom of bowel cancer or any other serious disease.
- Passage of intestinal gas from the rectum.
- Abdominal bloating and discomfort.
What causes it
The offending gases, including carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane, nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide, are produced when bacteria normally present in the large intestine ferment incompletely digested carbohydrates which are notoriously present in legumes like beans and lentils, and in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or brussels sprouts. People who have trouble digesting certain foods, such as those with celiac disease or lactose intolerance, are also potential flatulence sufferers. Gas can also be caused by stress and the nervous habit of frequent swallowing. Carbonation in soft drinks and other beverages is also a trigger.
What if you do nothing
Unless the flatulence is excessive, there is no reason to do anything about it. If it does become excessive, it can usually be reduced with basic changes in daily diet.
Although it is usually not a serious symptom, flatulence can cause embarrassment and discomfort. Here’s how to reduce intestinal gas production.
Be aware of foods that cause flatulence
Foods with the fewest complex carbohydrates cause the fewest flatulent consequences. These include fish, meat, grapes, berries, nuts, and eggs. Foods that are highest in complex carbohydrates and produce excess intestinal gas include certain pink beans, soybeans, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, prune juice, high fiber foods, milk, and milk products.
Gradually increase your fiber intake
Eating food rich in fiber is one of the best ways to prevent constipation and ensure soft, bulky stools. However, if you’re eating less than the recommended 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily, you need to increase your fiber intake. Be prudent, because introducing too much fiber at once may quickly lead to increased flatulence. Eat moderate amounts of fiber-rich foods at first, gradually increasing your intake over a period of time. If specific fiber-rich foods continue to disturb your system, reduce or eliminate them from your diet.
Soak beans before cooking
This four- to five- hour process will remove some of the water-soluble carbohydrates that cause gas. You must discard the soaking water and then cook and simmer the beans slowly, then discard the water once again.
Chew food thoroughly
If you gulp it, you swallow harder-to-digest lumps that remain longer in the intestine, where their residue may ferment.
When you’re constipated, the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract is slowed, thereby stepping up fermentation. Eat high-fiber foods and drink plenty of fluids.
Avoid diet candies containing sorbitol
Read labels carefully. This artificial sweetener is often used in sugarless gums and candies and can cause or contribute to flatulence and diarrhea.
Don’t expect relief from over-the-counter remedies
Antifoaming agents (such as simethicone), found in some “antacid-anti-gas” preparations, merely change large gas bubbles into smaller ones hardly a remedy for flatulence. Bulk-forming laxatives can actually promote the kind of fermented residues that cause the problem in the first place. As for products containing “activated charcoal,” there’s little or no evidence that contrary to what they claim they can actually absorb gas in humans; they can, however, interfere with the absorption of birth- control pills and other medicines.
Use the remedies described above to avoid excessive flatulence.