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50 years
What causes excess gas? Is it something serious?
Mar 19, 2015

Dr. Zakia Dimassi Pediatrics

Flatulence is a normal biological process. On average,
it is normal to pass gas from 6 to 20 times per day.

When a person swallows food, water or saliva, they
concomitantly swallow small amounts of air, which collect in the digestive
system. Gases can also build up during the digestion of food. These built-up
gas collections must be disposed of, either by flatulence or burping

Most of the gases are odorless and are often released in
small quantities. Flatulence acquires a noxious smell only if it contains gases
that smell, such as sulphur, but it is normal for the gas to sometimes be a bit

Excessive flatulence can be caused by swallowing more
air than usual or eating food that is difficult to digest. It can also
be related to an underlying health problem that affects the
digestive system, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which has become much
more common over the past few years.

your flatulence is becomes frequent and mostly
smelly, you will need to consult a specialist, especially if you also have
one or more of the following symptoms in association with the flatulence:

  • persistent abdominal pain and bloating

  • recurring episodes of diarrhea or constipation

  • unexplained weight loss

  • bowel incontinence

  • blood in stools

  • signs of an
    infection, such as a high temperature, vomiting, chills, joint
    pain and muscle pain

These symptoms could be an indicator of a more serious underlying
health problem and require investigation.

Excessive flatulence can usually be controlled by introducing
some adjustments to your lifestyle and dietary habits:

  • avoiding foods known to
    cause flatulence

  • eating smaller and more
    frequent meals

  • eating and drinking slowly

  • exercising regularly

There are several natural causes of
flatulence, in addition to a number of health conditions related to the
digestive system that can induce excessive flatulence:

1. Swallowing air

Swallowing air while breathing and eating is a normal process,
but when swallowing a lot more air than usual, this can cause excessive

Excess air can be swallowed by:

  • chewing gum

  • smoking

  • sucking on pen tops or hard sweets

  • having loose fitting dentures

  • not chewing food slowly and thoroughly (swallowing large pieces of
    food will result in you swallowing more air)

Hot and fizzy drinks can also increase the amount of carbon
dioxide in your stomach, although this is more likely to cause belching rather
than flatulence.

2. Foods and drinks

Carbohydrates are ubiquitous in our daily diet. Some
carbohydrates cannot be digested and absorbed by the intestines; we call these unabsorbable
carbohydrates, or fermentable oligo-, di-and monosaccharides and
polyols (FODMAPs). 

The colon contains normal flora, which are good healthy bacteria
(more than 500 different types) that help in fermenting nutrients by breaking
down the carbohydrates and in the process produce gas, which is released
as flatulence.

Foods that contain a high amount of unabsorbable carbohydrates

  • beans

  • broccoli

  • cabbage

  • cauliflower

  • artichokes

  • raisins

  • pulses

  • lentils

  • onions

  • prunes

  • apples

  • Brussels sprouts

Foods and drinks containing the artificial sweetener sorbitol (such
as sugar-free gum or diet soda), or a type of sugar called fructose (such
as fruit juice), can also cause flatulence.

The production of bad-smelling gas can vary from person to
person depending on what you eat, so you need to keep track of the foods that cause
the most smell.

3. Health conditions

  • Constipation (chronic)

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)– a
    common digestive condition, which can cause stomach cramps, bloating,
    diarrhea alternating with constipation

  • Celiac disease: intolerance
    to gluten, the protein that if found in wheat, rye and barley

  • Lactose intolerance:
    lactose is the sugar naturally found in milk and dairy products; some
    people lack the enzyme that can break down this sugar and  so their body cannot absorb it into the

  • Malabsorption – where the
    intestines are unable to absorb nutrients properly.