Flatulence or ‘wind’ is an excess of gas in the stomach and intestines. Flatulence can be an embarrassing problem for some people, however, it is normal for gas in the digestive tract to be passed out through the rectum (as flatus) on average between 14 and 23 times a day, depending on your diet. A high fibre diet will produce more gas than a diet containing less fibre.
Some symptoms of flatulence include:
Possible causes of flatulence include:
Reactions to different foods may vary from person to person. Some foods that may cause flatulence include:
Swallowing excess air may be caused by:
Medical conditions in which digestion of foods is impaired, such as Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease, often result in excess wind being produced in the gut.
Also, people who lack, or have deficiencies in, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in the gut will find that they produce excess gas when they consume foodstuffs containing lactose. These foods include milk and dairy products. This condition is known as lactose intolerance.
The majority of gas released is odourless (has no smell). Any odour is caused by bacteria in the large intestine producing methane and hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg gas) as they ferment your food. Nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane make up 90 per cent of gas, the remaining 10 per cent consists of other gases.
If you are experiencing flatulence, talk to your doctor or health care professional. They can advise you on medications and lifestyle changes — such as eliminating certain foods from your diet — that may help alleviate the problem, and can help rule out other serious intestinal problems.
Last Reviewed: 12 June 2009