Flatulence/ Intestinal Gas: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Man holding his stomach because he suffer from Flatulence/Intestinal Gas

1Overview

Flatulence or Intestinal Gas is a case wherein too much gas is put in the stomach area or in the small intestines during digestion and sometimes removed the back area or anus with a sound and odor. Farts, breaking wind and passing gas are sometimes used as a term for flatulence.

Nitrogen, Hydrogen, Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Oxygen are the five primary factors of gas or flatus. Indole, Skatole, and Sulfur-containing compounds are the flatus that has the smelly odor. Flatus also has a flammable characteristic caused by methane and hydrogen. The amount of this gases depends on the bacteria that reside in the colon that digest food and has not been absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract.

A condition is known as “Vaginal flatulence” is a release of trapped air in the vagina that can occur during or after sexual intercourse. Vaginal flatulence does not have waste gases and smelly odor, but due to the sound emitted when gas is released, it gave the reason to be termed as it is.

Most people can have approximately one to three pints of gas a day and pass gas fourteen times a day. Flatulence is not a real life threating condition but most people get embarrassed and seek medical attention for excessive gas.

Excessive gas happens when a person releases gas more than twenty times a day with smelly gas production. Excessive flatulence that occurs daily over weeks or years is termed as chronic flatulence.

2Causes

Swallowing air

When a person swallows food he/she can take in gases and be collected in the digestive system. Gases can be built up when the food is digesting. Excess air can be swallowed by:

  • Chewing gum and candies
  • Not chewing food thoroughly and slowly
  • Swallowing large amount of foods can cause air to come in.
  • Smoking cigarettes and Tabaco
  • Sucking on pen tops
  • Lose dentures

Foods and Drinks

Some foods with carbohydrates can’t be absorbed and digested by the intestines. These will go down the colon to be broken down by bacteria and produces gas. Hot drinks can cause carbon dioxide in the stomach.

The foods that contain a high amount of carbohydrates that can’t be absorbed by the intestines are the following:

  • Raffinose – A large amount containing a complex sugar known as the “raffinose” is the beans like red beans, black beans and a lot more while the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, and other vegetables.
  • Starches – Most starch produces gas such as potatoes, corn, and wheat as they are being broken down in the large intestines.
  • Fructose – Onions, pears, artichokes, and wheat are the sugars that may give off the gas. It is sometimes used as a sweetener in fruit drinks and soft drinks.
  • Sorbitol – is a sugar found in prunes, peaches, pears, and apples. It can sometimes be used as artificial sweetener in candy, gums and other diet products
  • Fiber – There are two classifications of fiber, this is the soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can be easily softened in water and has a soft and gel-like texture, but soluble fiber cannot be digested until it reaches the large intestines causing it to have gas.

Most foods that have soluble fiber are the oat bran, beans, peas, and mostly in fruits.
On the other hand, Insoluble fiber goes through the intestines without changing causing it to have small gases like the most vegetables that contain fiber and wheat bran.

Health Condition

Health Conditions that may contribute to having flatulence for the patient are the following:

  • Indigestion – This is a general term for pain and discomfort felt in the stomach.
    A patient may feel full or bloated.
  • Constipation – It is a common condition that can affect people of all ages. It means patients cannot empty their bowels regularly. Sometimes their stools are hard and lumpy.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome– It is a digestive condition that causes bloating, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
  • Lactose Intolerance- A condition wherein the body cannot break down lactose such as milk and dairy products.
  • Gastroenteritis– It is a stomach and bowel infection caused by bacteria or virus found in the stomach.
  • Malabsorption– A condition wherein the intestines cannot absorb any nutrients.
  • Giardiasis – An infection caused by parasites in the digestive system.

Medicines

  • Non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Laxatives
  • Antifungal medicines
  • Varenicline- Champix is used by people who want to stop smoking.

3Symptoms

Flatulence or Intestinal gas is not occasionally a serious problem for a patient. But sometimes a person should seek medical attention when they have symptoms such as:

  • Gas Pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe abdominal discomfort
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Blood found in stool
  • Fever
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Chronic flatulence
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chills
  • Joint pains
  • Muscle pains

4Diagnosis

The doctor will conduct a medical history interview, particularly the food eaten over the past days and when the symptoms first appeared. The patient would be instructed to have dairy food and drink for a specific period and the passage of gas will be noted.

The doctor will review the diet and amount of gas that may help identify specific foods to the symptoms. This will help determine if the condition is severe or not.

Primary tests would be applied such as measuring the patients’ hydrogen in his/her breath after eating possible foods that cause gas passage. Since bacteria produce hydrogen, when it’s increased in the exhalation test, it means food intolerance.

Another test that can possibly be done is an analysis of the flatus for the content of the gas. This test will help the health-care professional in distinguishing between the gas swallowed from the air and the one created in the gastrointestinal tract.

If the outcome of the tests has no diagnosis, a broader test would be applied to help eliminate other diseases such as cancer, malabsorption, diabetes, cirrhosis of liver, infection and poor thyroid function.

If the patient has pain in the abdomen or an inflamed abdomen, the doctor may request for an X-ray to know any intestinal perforation or obstruction. The X-rays can be captured the patient will take a dye. The photos captured will show the gastrointestinal tract a colonoscopy can be prescribed to further visualize the intestines.

For lactase deficiency, the doctor can recommend the patient to avoid consuming dairy products. After which, a blood or breath test is done to see if the patient has lactose intolerance.

5Treatment

Flatulence can be treated by making some changes to the lifestyle of a patient.

Diet

Let the patient avoid eating foods that are high in absorbable carbohydrates such as artificial sweeteners, sugar-free sweets, gums, and carbonated drinks. However, a properly balanced diet is also important to the patient with at least few portions of fruits and vegetables they can choose from such as potatoes, rice, yogurt, lettuce, bananas, grapes, and citrus fruits like orange.

Eating six times a day is most likely to be more appropriate rather than have three big meals a day, due to easy digestion and less production of gas.

Drinking before meals may help reduces stomach acids. The patients must drink at least thirty minutes before eating to help the stomach to digest better. Herbal teas may improve the production of stomach acid and may speed up digestion and may reduce flatulence.

Reduce Air Intake

It is advisable for patients to chew food slowly to avoid air from coming in the body and may help in the digestion of the food. Try avoiding chewing gums for this may cause excessive air intake.

Smoking may be one of the causes to have an air intake. Patients must give up on smoking especially tobacco for it may also cause irritation in the digestive system.

Exercise

Proper and daily exercise can help improve the patient’s digestive system and may avoid bloating

Medication

Charcoal Tablets – Charcoal tablets can be ordered over-the-counter from the pharmacy. This medication can help reduce symptoms because it reduces gas absorption from the body.  In taking up this medicine patience must consult their health-care professional and pharmacist especially if they are still taking up other medicines because it may absorb the medication and lessen its effectiveness.

Clothes that have activated charcoal or charcoal pads that can be put into the clothes can absorb foul smelling-gas.

Beano– it is an enzyme may be used for bean ingestions. It has a sugar-digesting enzyme that the body lacks to digest the sugar from the beans.Antacids such as Mylanta II, Maalox II, Di-gel contains simethicone, it is a foaming agent that joins gas bubbles in the patient’s stomach so that the gas is more easy to go away.

Some medical prescription that the doctor can give can help reduce some symptoms, especially if the patients have a disorder like irritable bowel syndrome. Medicines like metoclopramide have also been shown to decrease gas complaints by increasing gut activity.