Express News Service
CHENNAI: The human body is made up of complex networks and for it to function efficiently, every part, albeit being individual units, have to work in synchrony with each other. While several aspects of the body and its functions are often talked about, often topics related to flatulence are rarely discussed. The topic is hushed and in many cases becomes the source of embarrassment.
But, is it? Flatulence is the cause of normal bodily processes — it stems from eating and drinking certain kinds of foods, swallowing saliva and even tiny amounts of air. The swallowed air accumulates in the gut and when the food gets digested, the gas, mainly in the form of carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen is released and eliminated either through belching or by passing it through the anal passage — a sign of a healthy digestive system.
But, if you find yourself breaking more wind than usual (an average human passes wind between 10 to 25 times a day), changes in dietary and lifestyle habits can go a long way in helping you deal with it. Dr M Radha, consultant, gastroenterology, Fortis Malar Hospital, shares tips on how one can be mindful of the digestive system’s health, and on how to reduce flatulence.
Mind your diet
Any diet, including a healthy and balanced one, which includes vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins will produce gas. The fermentation of certain carbohydrates in the large intestine before it gets passed through bowel moments will produce gas too. But, one can be mindful of identifying the kind of foods in their diet that causes excessive gassiness.
For instance, consumption of fibrous vegetables, though often considered good for gut health, when consumed in large proportions could be a major cause of flatulence for some people. Foods like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, onions, beans, cereals, such as wheat or oats, and dairy, among others, are known to cause more rates of flatulence.
But, one can try and minimise the consumption of such foods instead of entirely avoiding them (unless there are any complications like lactose and gluten intolerance). Carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners and processed or canned food should be avoided too as they may cause a build-up of gas in the intestine tract.
Choosing low-lactose dairy products, opting for pre-fermented food like idli and dosa which have less soluble fibre, opting for probiotics and foods that are easy to digest including citric fruits, can reduce the symptoms. If you are considering a dietary change due to flatulence, ensure you don’t compromise on the nutritional value of the foods you consume. Seeking professional guidance is advised.
A few small and significant lifestyle changes can help in reducing flatulence to a large extent. Eating and drinking slowly, so you swallow lesser air; eating smaller and frequent meals to reduce the pressure on your digestive system, treating underlying conditions that may cause gassiness, and working out, enhancing the functioning of the digestive system can also help in reducing gas and bloating.
Underlying medical conditions
Flatulence is nothing but the production of gas by bacteria within the intestines when they digest dietary sugar, dietary fibre and so on. While passing gas is a normal function, excessive gas or extreme flatulence odours could be symptoms of potential underlying conditions like food poisoning, food intolerance, problems in the gall bladder, intestinal blockage and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), that need attention.
If one notices symptoms such as severe bloating, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, unintentional weight loss, loss of appetite, low haemoglobin, and bloody stools, it is important to get an investigation done and seek advice from a medical professional.