Often referred to as passing gas or breaking wind, flatulence is a very common condition that can affect everyone at certain times. When excess air builds up in the body (a natural occurrence), it is expelled through the rectum. Flatulence is not typically a serious problem. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how much flatulence is normal, this condition may increase when a diet high in roughage is first started. After the body becomes accustomed to the new food routine the flatulence should diminish accordingly.
Causes of Flatulence
Flatulence is caused by gas which is formed in the large intestine due to bacteria acting upon the undigested food in the body. This condition can also be caused by swallowing air while eating, causing mild to extreme discomfort after meals. Consuming large amounts of fiber (non-digestable foods) can also cause flatulence. Intolerance to milk or other foods can also produce gas.
This condition can also result as a symptom of other, more serious, disorders such as diverticulosis, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or thyroid dysfunction. Inadequate absorption of nutrients by the body (often caused by diarrhea or the use of antibiotics) is also a cause of flatulence,.
Symptoms of Flatulence
Some of the symptoms of flatulence include:
- Cramps and spasms in the stomach area
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- A rumbling stomach
- Passing gas or wind
How Flatulence is Diagnosed
If an underlying medical condition is suspected, a diagnosis should be sought from a medical professional. If not, typical natural treatments can be followed.
Medications that can be used to treat flatulence typically contain simeticone. This is an over-the-counter drug and should be taken as prescribed on the bottle. Other medications which can be taken are those which decrease intestinal motility, such as dicycloverine hydrochloride.
To detect exactly which food allergies may be causing the flatulence, an elimination diet could be utilized. First, exclude dairy, soy, gluten and processed foods from the diet for two to three weeks. Add these foods back in one at a time over a period of a few days and track any adverse symptoms which may occur.
Supplements which can be taken to treat flatulence include acidophilus, lactobacillus, and S. boullardii (take for at least 30 days). Any of these can help improve overall intestinal health and reduce flatulence. Taking 4 g of glutamine a day, as well as peppermint or oregano, may also relieve some or all of the symptoms of this condition.
Herbal remedies for flatulence include:
- Drinking a tea made of 1 cup of boiling water poured over 1 tbsp of chopped, dried peppermint leaves. Let steep for 5 to 10 minutes, strain, and drink the tea warm up to four times per day.
- Consuming fennel tea made from pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 tsp of crushed, dried fennel seeds. Let steep for 10 minutes, strain and drink either before or after meals.
- Chew ¼ tsp of fennel seeds before or after meals.
- Chew ½ tsp of dill seeds before or after meals.
- Prepare dill water by mixing 1 tsp of oil of dill with 4 cups of warm water. Drink 1 cup as needed to control gas.
- Brew a mild tea using 1 tsp of ground dill seeds with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and drink before or after meals.
- Mix a few drops of aniseed oil into 1 cup of warm water, or make aniseed tea by grinding 1 tsp of seeds and adding 1 cup of boiling water. Let steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and drink before or after meals. (Warning – some people may be allergic to anise.)
- Tea made of caraway seeds can be taken for flatulence. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 tsp of crushed caraway seeds. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain and drink 1 cup two to four times per day between meals.
When gas is trapped after tests such as a laparoscopy or barium enema, try taking carbo veg. This treatment is very effective when gas is trapped and refuses to move downwards or upwards (also useful after surgeries).
When flatulence occurs after eating coarse bread or foods rich in fiber, lycopodium can be taken. Such flatulence can also occur from stress. Abdominal bloating is a frequent sign with this type of flatulence, and it is typically worse in late afternoon.
Nux vomica can be used to treat flatulence which is linked to eating spicy foods or rich, creamy sauces. This condition can also occur from consuming too much coffee or alcohol. Some of the symptoms related to this type of flatulence include headache, nausea, constipation and gas.
Prevention of Flatulence
If flatulence persists, eliminate lactose from the diet. Other foods which can produce gas include beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, coffee and beer. It may help certain individuals to eat more slowly than normal when flatulence is problematic.
To eliminate bean-induced flatulence, try soaking the dry beans in water overnight, then discard the water before cooking the beans. Some cultures also cook beans with a small carrot in the pot to help those consuming the meal avoid flatulence. Others add wormseed (or epazote) when cooking.
Avoid consuming carbonated beverages and do not use chewing gum.
Who is at Risk
Everyone has flatulence at some point, with many individuals being more susceptible to the condition than others throughout their lifetime.
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