Does frequent flatulence embarrass you? Learn ways to prevent it.
Flatulence generally means expulsion or release of gas or byproducts of digestion process in the gaseous form through the rectum. It is commonly known as a ‘fart’ and is not a life-threatening disease, though it can be quite embarrassing in public situations. Most people produce about 3 pints of gas a day and at an average, pass gas 14 times each day. The noises commonly heard while passing gas are produced due to vibrations of the anal sphincter.
Composition of gas
The primary components of this gas are five odorless gases, together known as flatus. These are- nitrogen (20 to 90 percent), hydrogen (zero to 50 percent), carbon dioxide (10 to 30 percent), methane (zero to 10percent) and oxygen (zero to 10 percent). The characteristic smelly odor is due to sulfur containing compounds and indole.
Causes of flatulence
Men suffer from an increased frequency of flatulence as compared to women.
On an average, men pass intestinal gas about seven to eight times per day.
Intestinal gas may be caused by varying quantities of external and internal gas sources. External sources may include air that is ingested through the mouth while swallowing and internal sources may be the by-products of intestinal bacteria and digestion.
Foods like onion, garlic, dairy products, lentils, beans, radishes, sweet potatoes, cashews, oats etc are high in polysaccharides and thus, are more likely to cause flatulence. Since these foods and are rich in complex oligosaccharides, they are resistant to digestion. They pass through the gut and the first part of the digestive system without any considerable change in their chemical nature. On reaching the lower intestine, they are attacked by bacteria that feed on them, producing flatus.
People who are intolerant to lactose also develop intestinal gas if they consume milk and milk products as their natural system is unable to digest the milk and allows the intestinal flora to decompose it.
Giardiasis is a disease of the intestine which is also known to cause flatulence.
- Use of carminatives (herbs that prevent formation of intestinal gas) is often considered as a preventive measure.
- Eating foods that are easy to digest and limiting the consumption of gas producing or heavy foods like baked beans, caffeine, carbonated drinks, cauliflower, cabbage, lentils, banana, raisins, etc are an easy way to control flatulence without medical advice.
- Taking a lactase supplement before consuming milk or milk products helps your system to digest the lactose properly and thus reduces the gas production.
- Avoiding chewing gum and sipping cold drinks through straws decreases the amount of air taken in by the mouth and into the digestive tract.
- Chewing the food properly in the mouth helps reduce the amount of food breakdown required by the gastro-intestinal tract to digest food properly.
- Having smaller, more frequent meals and taking a small walk after meals helps prevent flatulence and bloating.
- Over-the-counter anti-acidity pills help to break foods that are not easily digested by the stomach.
- Increasing fluid intake and consuming high fibre foods slowly, are also recommended.
Artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and mannitol present in diet cokes and other carbonated drinks and foods that are deep fried, and high in fat are also known to induce gas production. Lowering the intake of such foods helps to control flatulence to a greater extent.