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Gas and gas pains - Flatulence

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DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Diseases & Conditions  

Intestinal gas can strike at the worst possible moment - during an important meeting, on a crowded elevator or on a first date. And although passing intestinal gas (flatus) usually isn't serious, it can be seriously embarrassing.

The fact is that everyone passes gas - a combination of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane - at least 12 or more times a day. But some people have excessive gas that bothers them most of the time. In some cases, gas you can't expel or that accompanies irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, celiac disease or stomach flu (gastroenteritis) can cause intense, intermittent pain.

The good news is that although you can't stop gas from forming, a few simple measures can go a long way toward reducing the amount of gas you produce and relieving your discomfort and embarrassment.

Signs and symptoms 

For most people, the signs and symptoms of excess gas and gas pain are all too obvious. They include:

  • Abdominal bloating (distension).

  • The voluntary or involuntary passing of gas, either as belching or as flatus.

  • Sharp, jabbing pains or cramps in the abdomen. These pains may occur anywhere in your abdomen and can change locations quickly. You may also have a "knotted" feeling in your stomach.

Causes 

You swallow air every time you eat or drink. You may even unknowingly swallow air when you're nervous. Some of that air finds its way into your lower digestive tract where it contributes to gas. But most lower intestinal gas is produced when bacteria in your colon ferment carbohydrates that aren't digested in your small intestine. Unfortunately, healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (beans and peas) are often the worst offenders.

That's because these foods are high in fiber. Fiber has many health benefits, including keeping your digestive tract in good working order, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and helping prevent heart attacks and other heart problems. But it can also lead to the formation of gas. Fiber supplements containing psyllium — Metamucil and Fiberall are examples — also may cause such problems, especially if added to your diet too quickly.

Excess gas may occur with certain acute illnesses, such as stomach flu or food poisoning. It may also be one of several symptoms of a more serious chronic condition such as diverticulitis, IBS, or an inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

In some cases of excess gas, antibiotic use may be a factor because antibiotics disrupt the normal bacterial flora that live in your bowel. Excessive use of laxatives or constipating drugs also may contribute to the problem.

If your gas and bloating occur mainly after eating dairy products, your body may not be able to break down the sugar (lactose) in dairy foods. Many people aren't able to process lactose efficiently after age 6, and even infants are sometimes lactose intolerant. Other food intolerances, especially to gluten — a protein found in wheat and some other grains — also can cause gas, diarrhea and even weight loss.

It's also possible that your system can't tolerate the artificial sweeteners sorbitol and mannitol found in some sugar-free foods, gums and candies. In fact, up to half of all healthy people develop gas and diarrhea when they consume these sweeteners.

Anything that causes intestinal gas or is associated with constipation or diarrhea can lead to gas pains. These pains — which can feel like sharp, jabbing cramps — generally occur when gas builds up in your intestines, and you're not able to expel it. Gas pains are usually intense but brief. Once the gas is gone, your pain often disappears too.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
In no event will The DrEddyClinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.

 

 



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Last Modified : 03/15/08 12:49 AM