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March 18, 2022 | Dr.Amna Zubair

Why Does Flatulence(farting) Occur?

Flatulence or farting is a common thing that everyone experiences daily. It is a natural process by which your body releases digestive gas. Your digestive system, particularly your intestines, has a variety of ‘good’ bacteria that help break down complex food substances. Since we eat all kinds of food, some of these food substances cannot be digested by the enzymes naturally present in our system. These good bacteria aid in the digestion of these food substances. 

During digestion, gas is released as a byproduct that escapes through your mouth as a burp or through the anus as farting. On a regular basis, an average person farts almost 15 to 20 times a day. It can vary among different individuals. But apart from your natural mechanism, can there be any other reasons for flatulence? Let’s understand some other causes.

What causes flatulence?

There are two types of gases found within your digestive tract that can be released naturally from your system. One is the exogenous type which contains oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. These gases are present outside your body and enter your digestive tract while eating food, drinking, or smoking. The other is the endogenous types of gases which contain hydrogen, methane, and a few pungent-smelling compounds such as hydrogen sulfide. Your gut flora releases these gases during the process of digestion. 

Here are some causes that may produce flatulence in your digestive system:

Eating in large boluses: Whether you are too hungry or in a hurry to finish the food, you may swallow air while swallowing large boluses of food at once. 

  • Carbonated drinks: Sodas or other fizzy drinks are made bubbly by the addition of carbon dioxide. Intake of these drinks may cause accessory gas in your system. 
  • Complex carbohydrates: Some carbohydrates are much difficult to digest than others. These may be found in beans, whole grains, broccoli, asparagus, nuts, potatoes, etc. The bacteria in your intestine release endogenous gases while trying to digest these complex carbohydrates. The amount of gas released due to this food may vary from person to person. 
  • Sulfur-rich diet: Certain healthy food substances such as broccoli, onions, garlic, asparagus, etc., contain sulfur-rich compounds which can be difficult to digest. They are also rich in fiber. These compounds are also found in wine and beer. Gas released during digestion of these compounds may be smelly. 
  • Dairy or baked food: Many dairy substances can be difficult to digest, especially if you have lactose intolerance. Baked goods such as bread contain yeast that may also cause flatulence. 
  • Food intolerance: If you are intolerant to certain food materials such as lactose or gluten, it can cause excessive gas in your system. Intolerance to some food substances may also occur due to an underlying medical condition. 
  • Constipation: Inability or difficulty to pass stool can also limit the expulsion of gas produced. This causes a buildup of gas in your intestines which may sometimes be painful.
  • Medical conditions: People with underlying diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, colon cancer, hernia, etc., can have a persistent flatulence issue. Gastrointestinal infections may be another cause. 
  • Medications: Certain antibiotics kill the good bacteria of your digestive tract, leading to an imbalance in natural digestion. This may cause flatulence. 

Is Flatulence a Health Concern?

As explained above, gas production and release from your system is a natural process. If you pass gas almost 15 to 20 times a day, there is nothing to worry about. Most people feel embarrassed about this issue, but it can be reassuring to understand that it is natural. 

However, if you experience persistent farting or other associated symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, etc., it is better to seek a medical professional for this problem. It may be occurring due to dietary irregularities or an underlying disease. It would help if you openly discuss your symptoms with your doctor without shame or hesitation. Most of these conditions are treatable and can be improved with lifestyle modifications.

How Can You Lessen It?

Dietary modification is generally the first step recommended in treating excessive flatulence. Lessen the intake of foods rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and sulfur compounds. These foods include beans, broccoli, asparagus, garlic, onion, potatoes, artificial sugars, nuts, wine, beer, dairy products, and baked goods. Take them in small portions to achieve a balanced diet. 

Develop a habit of eating food in small boluses and chewing it well before swallowing. Also, avoid drinking water or other drinks in large gulps. Carbonated or fizzy drinks should be reduced. 

Smoking should be avoided if you have a frequent complaint of flatulence. Physical activity is suggested because it aids in better digestion and prevents constipation. Also, if you’re intolerant to any food substances, it is better to void those and look for alternative products. 

Consult a doctor if you experience a severe problem of flatulence. Medications or treatment measures recommended by your doctor can help in reducing this issue.  

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Dr.Amna Zubair

Dr.Amna Zubair is a general dentist (BDS, RDS) and medical content writer. She has also gained a diploma in Modern Applied Pscychology (MAP). She is a healthcare enthusiast and likes writing on topics from multiple fields of medicine, including dentistry, psychology, and general health.