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Flatulence (Gas)

Flatulence (Gas) Quick Overview

Patient Comments
  • Flatulence is the state of having excessive stomach and/or intestinal gas (waste gas produced during digestion) that is usually released from the anus with sound and/or odor.
  • Causes of excess gas in the digestive tract are
    • swallowed air,
    • breakdown of undigested foods,
    • lactase intolerance, and
    • malabsorption of certain foods.
  • Much of the gas generated is due to microbial breakdown of foods so that gases, for example, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane are generated; the odor is from other trace waste gases or compounds such as skatole and sulfur-containing substances.
  • Someone with flatulence may have one or more the following symptoms:
    • increased frequency or excessive instances of passing gas,
    • smelly or foul smelling gas production (flatulence),
    • belching,
    • abdominal, bloating and/or
    • abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Flatulence is usually not a medical emergency; however medical care should be sought quickly if a person develops other symptoms such as
  • Diagnosis of excessive flatulence is usually done by a health-hcare professional after reviewing the patient's history and physical exam. In most instances tests are not run but if needed, analysis of patients' breath, flatus (gas passed out of the rectum) may be done. Other rarer causes of flatulence may require additional tests such as colonoscopy, X-rays and/or CT scans.
  • Home remedies for excessive flatulence include dietary changes since flatulence is often caused by certain foods that can be eliminated from the diet.
  • Medical treatment for flatulence may include antibiotic treatment, increased dietary fiber intake, and including probiotics in the diet (recommended by some, but not all physicians); more serious causes of flatulence (for example, irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth [SIBO]) may require additional medications.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat excessive flatulence include compounds such as Beano (an OTC that contains sugar – digestive enzyme), antacids, and activated charcoal.
  • Excessive flatulence can be reduced or prevented with several methods such as
    • modifying your eating habits,
    • changing your diet to avoid those foods that cause you personally to produce excessive gas,
    • utilizing over-the-counter anti-gas compounds and,
    • if you are lactose intolerant, avoid dairy products.
  • Most individuals that alter their diet can reduce or prevent excessive flatulence and thus have a good prognosis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/11/2015

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