All about flatulence

For children, flatulence (passing wind) is a great source of humour. But for adults, flatulence may no longer be a laughing matter. It is embarrassing and considered socially unacceptable. Even worse, it often causes abdominal bloating and pain, which can be very uncomfortable.


Here are some facts about flatulence

Most people produce over a litre of wind each day. Passing wind is actually a sign of a healthy body and diet. Men break wind approximately 12 times a day. Women break wind approximately 7 times a day. There are two sources of wind; the air swallowed and mixed into food in the stomach, and the gas produced in the intestines by the process of digestion. Foods that contain carbohydrates (some sugars, starches and fibre) require certain enzymes in the small intestine to be digested and absorbed. If the foods are not digested in the small intestine they pass into the large intestine where harmless and normal bacteria break down the food producing gas. The main gas producing foods are beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, onions, bread, brans, cereal, pasta, fruit and even milk. 
As we age, our enzyme levels may decrease and flatulence and bloating may increase. The bacteria in the large intestine produces different gases - nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and sulphur dioxide. Much of this gas is absorbed back into the body, but the remainder is expelled. The type of gas produced is determined by the nature of the bacteria in the bowel, diet and genetics. About half the population produces gas that has no odour, but as for the other half...


What you can do about flatulence

Here are some tips on reducing flatulence. Remember that it is normal to produce gas and many of the main offenders of flatulence are actually caused by foods that are good for us. Avoid introducing excess air and gas into your system like, smoking, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated drinks. Avoid eating or drinking in a hurry and always chew your food well.

Avoid sorbitol, a sweetener found in sugar-free gum and candies, as it is hard to digest and causes gas and bloating. Avoid the foods which give you gas. Altering the diet may help control gas but can be difficult as dietary habits are not easy to change and it may not be practical or sensible to avoid these foods. Take a product to manage more comfortably the gas that your body produces. These products are available over the counter from your pharmacy and may contain simethicone, activated charcoal or peppermint oil.

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