Flatulence is the medical term for the passing of air from the intestines through the rectum. This passage of excess air occurs numerous times per day to every individual and is a natural process of the digestive system. However many people are embarrassed by the process and are constantly searching for ways to decrease its occurrence.
The Causes of FlatulenceFlatulence has two main causes: swallowed air and the natural digestion process. As you eat, especially if you eat or drink too quickly, you may swallow a larger amount of air than usual. This swallowed air can either pass back up from your stomach to your mouth, resulting in a belch, or pass from your stomach to your intestines resulting in flatulence. Lying down soon after a meal increases the chance that air will travel to your intestines.
The second cause of flatulence- digestion- occurs when hard to digest foods are consumed. These foods are not completely broken down by stomach acid and require the presence of bacteria to finish the digestive process. As the bacteria breaks down the food particles gases are released into the small intestine. Once these gases build up, they are released through the rectum as flatulence.
The Symptoms of FlatulenceThe two main symptoms of flatulence are abdominal pain and the passing of gas. Abdominal pain occurs when the gases build up in the small intestines and put pressure on the organs in the area. Usually this pain subsides when gas is passed and the pressure on the walls of the intestines is relieved. Sometimes, if the gas is slow to pass or if the pressure builds too quickly, flatulence can result in a cramping sensation that is quite painful. In that instance you may need to take an anti-flatulence medication to help relive the symptoms.
Reducing the Episodes of FlatulenceSince flatulence is almost always embarrassing, and the symptoms are sometimes painful, many people look to ways to decrease the occurrence of this condition. The best way to decrease episodes of flatulence is through changes in your diet. Start by eating and drinking more slowly. If you take more time to chew your food and avoid gulping your beverages you will limit the amount of air that you take into your stomach.
Next, you should avoid foods that are more likely to cause the build up of gas. Foods like cabbage, broccoli, onions, beans, dairy products, apples, corn, and potatoes usually require the presence of bacteria during digestion. By eliminating or reducing your intake of these foods you can decrease your episodes of flatulence. You can also strive to increase your consumption of foods that are known to produce no or very little excess gas. Foods like eggs, bananas, rice, and hard cheeses are more easily digested and produce less flatulence.
Other steps you can take to reduce the occurrence of flatulence include avoiding carbonated beverages (which force you to take in too much air), sugar substitutes (which are very hard for the body to digest), and chewing gum (which increases the risk of swallowing air). If you follow these tips and are still bothered by excessive attacks of flatulence you can try taking an over-the-counter medication to control your symptoms. Activated charcoal tablets, antacids, and supplements that contain digestive enzymes work to reduce excess gas in the intestines and increase the body's ability to breakdown hard to digest food items.