Everyone flatulates—some more than others. It is a natural byproduct of the digestive system process, occurring 14 or more times per day as wastes putrefy. You may want to consider intervention by a medical doctor or nutritionist if you are exceeding 25 times daily. Despite normalcy, expelling gas around others can be embarrassing or considered rude.
“Eating foods that cause gas is the only way for the microbes (good bacteria) in the gut to get nutrients,” according to Purna Kashyap, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. So not only is it inevitable, passing wind is beneficial.
What Keeps Gas In?
Gas gets into the digestive tract primarily through two routes: Swallowing air (differs from breathing) and your microbiome. Sipping through a straw, particularly when the beverage runs out, is one way to swallow air. Eventually, it must come out to prevent distended intestines from popping like a balloon. A gastrointestinal obstruction is a life-threatening emergency.
Notwithstanding atypical gastroenterology conditions like diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s disease or IBD, several anatomical features reduce the amount of flatuation. Intestinal length (small bowels about 20 feet; large bowels about 5 feet) and elasticity can keep gas within your abdomen for hours.
The combination of putrefaction, diaphragm contractions, intestinal anatomy, and gravity work together in eliminating wastes. Gas builds up quickly as wastes pass through the descending colon. In the large intestine, strong, wave-like movements help to push the contents towards the anus.
When fecal matter reaches the rectum, autonomic nerves signal the need to defecate. At this point, keeping gas (and stools) in requires sphincters on both ends of the rectum and gluteal muscles to constrict. The longer you hold it in, the more it builds up—and the worst it may sound. Time, mass, and gravity eventually wins out. You can even continue to flatulate post-mortem.
Preventing Awkward Moments
Ride sharing, bending over in a yoga class, working in a shared office, standing at a counter providing customer service, standing in front of an audience, or sitting within a group are inopportune times to vent gas. Keeping it in requires advance planning.
Before stepping into the spotlight, evacuate your bowels. This is the most effective way to prevent surprise flatulence. If there is no time for defecation, take a walk outside and expel as much gas as possible.
Be aware that the force of gas loosens and expels residual particulates within the rectum. Hence, this can create the need to wipe with tissue. For this reason, among others, going commando is ill advised.
Make wise food choices. Certain foods like beans, lentils, and some brassica vegetables like cabbage or Brussels sprouts can produce more gas than usual. Rancid meat or vegetables cause several digestive issues, including gas. Fresh whole foods—including fiber—slow digestion. Avoid overeating, since this exerts more pressure on the colon.
- Brussels sprouts
- Carbonated drinks
Probiotics, often called “friendly bacteria,” can help create an optimal balance of bacteria within your intestines. The reduction in excessive gut fermentation may be effective in reducing intestinal gas. Probiotics are within foods like yogurt and kimchi. You can also consume probiotics as pills or liquid supplements.
If you are lactose intolerant, a sugar within dairy products can upset digestive tract, causing excessive gas and abdominal discomfort. Lactose intolerance is due to the lack of the enzyme lactase in the small intestines to break lactose down into glucose and galactose.
Some dairy products include lactase or you may buy it separately to add to your dairy. Lactose intolerance differs from milk allergy—an adverse immune reaction to one or more proteins within cow’s milk. Milk allergy can cause anaphylaxis.
Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a 4-ounce glass of water. Drink it before meals to prevent gas bloating and discomfort. Rinse your mouth with water afterwards since vinegar can erode tooth enamel.
Simethicone (Gas-X®) is an over-the-counter anti-flatulent drug that reduces the number of gas bubbles within the stomach and intestines. Beano®, taken prior to a gaseous meal, contains a natural digestive enzyme called alpha-d-galactosidase. This helps make food easier to digest.
Reduce the amount of air you take into your stomach. This is done partly by avoiding carbonated drinks or chewing gum. Sip beverages instead of using a straw.
After gastroenterology surgeries, patients are not discharged until they pass gas. This is an indication that the digestive tract is working properly.
These suggestions should help minimize embarrassing situations. Since it is a natural process, do not hold back from breaking wind in private well-ventilated areas. Let it out. You will feel better.
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