COPING WITH INTESTINAL GAS – Flatulence and Belching
Flatulence, popularly known as farting, is normal and happens to everyone. The same can be said for burping, known as belching. Everyone farts and burps several times a day, sometimes even unconsciously.
In some cases, however, excess intestinal gas can be quite uncomfortable, especially if it is associated with symptoms such as abdominal pain, stomach bloating, and flatulence or belching with an unpleasant odor.
In general, excessive intestinal gas is usually related to diet, but it can be a sign of some gastrointestinal tract disease, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
In this article, we will address the following points about intestinal gas:
- Fart and belch gases.
- Origin of intestinal gas.
- Foods that increase the elimination of intestinal gas.
- When intestinal gas cause concern.
- Treatment for excess gases.
- Underwear that absorb fart.
What Is the Chemical Composition of Farts?
Humans eliminate up to 1.5 liters of gas daily through the anus at a frequency of 10 to 20 farts per day. Most of them may go unnoticed.
The gases in the gastrointestinal system are basically composed of five elements: Nitrogen (N2), Oxygen (O2), Carbon dioxide (CO2), Hydrogen (H2) and Methane (CH4). The five together make up 99% of the elements present in the fart. Burp has a similar composition, but is richer in oxygen and nitrogen.
And which one is responsible for the bad smell? None, they’re all basically odorless. Nor is it the fault of feces. Contrary to popular belief, fart does not smell bad due to passing through the stool before it is eliminated. What causes the bad smell is the remaining 1% of gases, mainly composed of sulfur, particularly, sulfuric acid (hydrogen sulfide). This explains why not all farts smell bad. If there is no increase in the production of sulfur gases, the fart may have an unpleasant smell.
WHERE DOES THE GAS COME FROM?
Intestinal gases are basically produced by the billions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract and participate in the digestive process. The intestinal gases are mainly produced after metabolizing carbohydrates, fat, and proteins ingested in foods.
In the case of stomach gases, the main source is air swallowed during meals. We don’t notice it, but during meals, we swallow huge volumes of air. It is also common to swallow air when chewing gum or if you smoke cigarettes. Another source of stomach gas is carbonated drinks.
Much of the swallowed gas is eliminated through belching, popularly known as burping. However, if the patient has the habit of lying down after meals, these gases are more likely to follow the path to the intestines than to return to the esophagus (have you noticed how much easier it is to burp when sitting or standing instead of lying down?), increasing the elimination of flatus.
Foods that May Cause Gas
Some types of carbohydrates are harder to digest in the small intestine, therefore, they reach the colon in large quantities where they are metabolized by the bacteria. The main poorly digested carbohydrates are oligosaccharides.
The foods that most cause intestinal gas are:
- Dark Beer.
- Wheat Bran.
- Carbonated beverages.
Lack of exercise, intestinal constipation, lactose intolerance and changes in the bacterial flora of the intestines due to use of antibiotics can also cause increased gas production. Passive anal sex is another cause.
Hydrogen sulfide, which causes the unpleasant odor of farts, is usually produced after ingestion of protein. Pork, for example, often causes strong-smelling flatus.
Anxiety can accelerate intestinal passage, taking more poorly digested foods to the colon, providing more substrate for the bacteria that produce gases.
WHEN IS THE EXCESSIVE INTESTINAL GASES A CONCERN?
Studies show that most patients who complain of excess intestinal gas actually have the same amount of gas as the average population. What this patient has is a greater sensitivity to the presence of gases.
We eliminate 500 to 1500 ml of gases on average through flatus. For example, a patient may feel uncomfortable if their daily gas elimination is normal but closer to 1300-1500 ml. Sometimes a more careful diet can reduce gas production to less than 1000 ml per day, causing the discomfort to pass. To summarize: you do not have to have excess gases to feel like you have excess gases.
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome or functional dyspepsia usually do not tolerate small increases in the production of intestinal gas.
In the vast majority of cases, excess intestinal gas does not indicate any disease, whether or not there is a strong odor. Warning signs are the presence of other associated symptoms, such as weight loss, chronic diarrhea, anorexia, anemia, bleeding, and abdominal pain. In these cases, a visit to the doctor is indicated.
TREATMENT OF EXCESS INTESTINAL GASES
The easiest way to control intestinal gas is through a careful diet. Avoid foods that are known to aggravate your symptoms. These may include dairy products, some fruits and vegetables, whole grains, artificial sweeteners, and soft drinks. One tip regarding beans is to soak them overnight and change the water before cooking them.
Keep a record of foods and beverages you eat to be able to identify which are most uncomfortable. What may cause gas in one person will not necessarily cause in another and vice versa.
In addition to balancing your diet, it is also important to exercise and reduce stress.
Activated charcoal tablets are available and help neutralize intestinal gas. But beware: if you take medications regularly, activated charcoal can inactivate them, being contraindicated in such cases.
A drug called Beano helps to decrease intestinal gas. The famous Simethicone (formerly Dimethicone) does not appear to be very effective, not demonstrating good results in scientific studies. Bismuth salicylate is an option for anyone who complains of foul-smelling flatus.
You can also try some underwears made with fabrics that absorb the fart, reducing the passage of their smell. One is called Under-Ease. Some of them come padded, also reducing the noise of flatus.
In the case of burping (belching), the main cause is air swallowed during meals. The faster you eat, the greater the amount of swallowed air. Swallowing saliva, smoking, chewing gum, and talking while eating also cause air swallowing. Obviously fizzy drinks increase belching.
Nervous people swallow large amounts of air, called aerophagia, which causes abdominal discomfort because of distension of the stomach, which in turn leads to more anxiety. Anxiety control relieves the symptoms of excess gas.