What Is Flatulence?
When we take in food, we also swallow air with it. These small amounts of air collect in the digestive canal and have to be expelled. The actual digestive process itself also creates gases, which contributes to the gas that needs to be removed. Some of these gases can be removed by burping / belching. The rest needs to be removed via flatulence.
Most of the gases that need to be removed are odorless, and sometimes you may not even notice that you have expelled them. However, if the gas contains elements like sulfur, it can have a bad odor. This too is normal (especially if you eat a lot of cabbage and/or onions). What causes gas to be smelly, however, varies from person to person.
You can cause excessive flatulence by swallowing more air than normal (e.g. by talking while your mouth is full of food) or by eating foods that are hard to digest. Sometimes, it can be related to an underlying medical condition like indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Other ways you can swallow more air than normal include smoking, chewing gum, not chewing your food properly, sucking on things like pen-tops or candy, or having dentures that are too loose.
Drinking bubbly drinks like pop doesn’t help, as it accumulates CO2 in the stomach, but generally most of this gas is eliminated by belching.
Which Foods Create Gas?
Some carbohydrates in foods can’t be fully digested. So instead of being absorbed by the colon, they are generally broken down by healthy bacteria living in the colon and gas is released as part of this process. Some foods that contain high levels of these types of carbohydrates include onions, legumes, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, apples and raisins.
Eating large amounts of fiber like bran can also cause wind and bloating. Sorbitol and fructose (in fruit drinks) can also cause flatulence.
Some health conditions produce gas as a by-product (e.g. indigestion, constipation, lactose intolerance, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, giardiasis, and mal-absorption of nutrients). Some medications also cause gas (e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, laxatives, antibiotics, antifungal medicines, statins and, the drug used to help people stop smoking, Champix).
Disclaimer: The statements made on this page have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.