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Flatulence (Gas)

Facts about flatulence (gas), excessive, and chronic

  • The definition of flatulence or intestinal gas 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.
  • Symptoms of excessive gas or flatulence may include
    • increased frequency or excessive instances of passing gas,
    • smelly or foul smelling gas production (flatulence),
    • belching,
    • abdominal, bloating and/or
    • abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Excessive gas or flatulence usually is not a medical emergency; however medical care should be sought quickly if a person develops other symptoms such as
  • Diagnosis of excessive or chronic gas usually is done by a health-care 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 ordered.
  • Other rarer causes of excessive flatulence or gas may require additional tests such as colonoscopy, X-rays and/or CT scans.
  • Natural and home remedies for excessive gas or flatulence include dietary changes since chronic flatulence is often caused by certain foods that can be eliminated from the diet.
  • Medical treatment for excessive flatulence or may include antibiotic treatment, increased dietary fiber intake, and including probiotics in the diet (recommended by some, but not all health-care professionals). More serious causes of excessive flatulence (for example, irritable bowel syndrome [IBS] and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth [SIBO]) may require additional medication and testing.
  • 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,
    • avoiding dairy products if you are lactose intolerant.
  • Most individuals that alter their diet can reduce or prevent excessive flatulence and thus have a good prognosis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/30/2017

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Is SIBO Causing You Excessive Flatulence?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when bacteria that resembles the bacteria normally found in the colon proliferate in large numbers in the small intestine. Symptoms of SIBO include

  • excess gas (flatus),
  • diarrhea,
  • abdominal bloating and/or distension, and
  • abdominal pain.

The symptoms of SIBO tend to be chronic. A typical person with SIBO may have symptoms that fluctuate in intensity over months, years, or even decades before the proper diagnosis is made.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Malabsorption »

Malabsorption is a clinical term that encompasses defects occurring during the digestion and absorption of food nutrients by and infections of the gastrointestinal tract.

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