Intestinal gas


Abdomen | Gastroenterology | Intestinal gas (Disease)


Description

Flatulence, also known as farting, is the act of passing intestinal gas from the anus.

Causes and Risk factors

Gas in the gastrointestinal tract has only two sources. It is either swallowed air or is produced by bacteria that normally inhabit the intestines, primarily the colon. Swallowed air is rarely the cause of excessive flatulence.

The usual source of excessive gas is intestinal bacteria. The bacteria produce the gas (primarily hydrogen and/or methane) when they digest foods, primarily sugars and nondigestible polysaccharides (for example, starch, cellulose), that have not been digested during passage through the small intestine. The bacteria also produce carbon dioxide, but the carbon dioxide is so rapidly absorbed from the intestine that very little passes in flatus.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors may tell people to eat fewer foods that cause gas. However, for some people this may mean cutting out healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and milk products. Doctors may also suggest limiting high-fat foods to reduce bloating and discomfort. This helps the stomach empty faster, allowing gases to move into the small intestine.

Unfortunately, the amount of gas caused by certain foods varies from person to person. Effective dietary changes depend on learning through trial and error how much of the offending foods you can handle.

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