Flatulence

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What is Flatulence?

We deal with bloating when our intestines are filled with excessive gases (methane, hydrogen, carbon dioxide) produced during digestion and swallowing air during eating.

Flatulence is often challenging to define. The most commonly reported are an enlarged abdominal circumference and a feeling of a large amount of gas in the digestive tract. In practice, this means feeling discomfort, pain, and pressure.

The patient’s feelings are very subjective — it is difficult to relate them to the amount of gas in the intestines, which makes the diagnosis imprecise. Nevertheless, it all boils down to a functional disorder syndrome because the problem here is the disorder of visceral sensation and intestinal motility.

Symptoms

The accumulation of air in the intestines causes an increase in abdominal pressure. The diaphragm rises, and we suffer from heartburn, bitterness in the mouth, belching, and sometimes regurgitation of gastric contents into the esophagus. But the most annoying symptom is abdominal pain. Characteristic of bloating is that after the gasTrusted Sourceis expelled, the unpleasant symptoms subside. However, the problem should not be underestimated.

Flatulence: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment

People who complain of abdominal bloating primarily sense the feeling of an “inflated” abdomen and internal distension. Furthermore, frequent expulsion of gases and a sensation of pressure in the left or right hypochondrium, attributed to the presence of air, are common occurrences. This may be associated with paroxysmal intestinal cramps, shortness of breath and pain in the chest, loud croaking and overflowing in the abdomen, and excessive gas.

Sometimes abdominal bloating is accompanied by Roemheld syndrome, a group of gastrointestinal symptoms. It consists in the presence of bloating, which causes the diaphragm to set high and disturbs the heart function. Breathing problems, excessive heartbeat, and chest pain (similar to angina) may indicate Roemheld’s syndrome.

If the symptoms of abdominal bloatingTrusted Sourceappear suddenly, then we talk about acute bloating and chronic bloating. Acute abdominal flatulence begins with obstruction of the digestive tract, which causes the movement of food through the digestive tract to be difficult due to a tumor, hernia, or narrowing of the intestine. Such ailments can be life-threatening, so it is crucial to immediately visit a specialist.

Causes

Causes of flatulenceTrusted Sourceand abdominal bloating can be:

Bloated belly and flatulence during pregnancy

Abdominal bloating and flatulence during pregnancyTrusted Sourceare quite common. The cause of this is progesterone, a hormone that aids in the implantation of the embryo in the uterine wall and supports the development of the pregnancy. Numerous physiological processes in the human body are impacted by it.

It makes the human body retain water and dilate the veins. Unfortunately, one of the effects of progesterone is slowing down digestion, and thus also intestinal peristalsis. It has a specific purpose. Slower digestion is supposed to provide better nutrition for the developing baby. At the same time, however, it also causes swelling, constipation, varicose veins, and difficulties in expelling gases accumulated in the intestines, i.e., bloating.

Chronic bloating and flatulence — irritable bowel syndrome

One of the common causes of chronic bloating is irritable bowel syndromeTrusted Source. It is worth knowing some information about it because, in the current era of medicine, it is more and more often recognized. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract, lasting for a minimum of three months. It is a functional disorder that causes abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements, not caused by any organic or biochemical changes.

As the definition says, the cause of the disease is unknown. A rather interesting fact is that stressful situations trigger symptoms. Abdominal pain is among the most common signs. It is constant or recurrent, most often located in the lower abdomen. The disease can be acute, spasmodic, and harassing, but rarely wakes the patient up at night. It is usually worse after a meal and lessens or disappears after a bowel movement. 

Frequent loose bowel movements and diarrhea are additional symptoms commonly associated with irritable bowel syndrome. In diarrhea, the stools are watery, semi-liquid, and rarely have an increased volume. Painful urges to stool before defecation are unpleasant for the patient. Such symptoms usually occur after a meal, during stressful situations, or during permanent mental stress, most often in the morning. 

Irritable bowel syndrome can also be accompanied by constipation in its particular form. In this situation, the number of bowel movements is reduced. The stool is hard, lumpy, and passed with great effort. There is often an unpleasant sensation of incomplete defecation.

Some patients are diagnosed with a mixed form with alternating constipation and diarrhea. The symptoms described above are joined by: abdominal distension, nausea, vomiting, and heartburn.

The diagnosis is made by ruling out any physical illnesses that might cause the symptoms that are described.

In the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, the basis is good cooperation between the doctor and the patient, as well as informing and explaining the nature of the disease to the patient. Then, an appropriate diet and pharmacological treatment are selected to alleviate symptoms that persist despite the use of a diet.

Risk Factors

Certain situations and factors may favor the appearance of too much gas in the intestines. Most often, the amount of gases produced in the intestines does not increase, but in some people, even a slight increase in the volume of gases causes troublesome symptoms and discomfort.

However, certain situations may favor an increase in the volume of gases in the intestines:

Flatulence: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment

Diagnosis

In the diagnosis of flatulenceTrusted Sourceand abdominal bloating, the medical history is the basis. The patient talks about the ailments mentioned above. To correctly diagnose flatulence, the doctor performs physical collapse, stool examination for occult blood, and other additional tests:

In the diagnosis, in addition to the test results, other ailments with similar symptoms should be taken into account. They may indicate diseases of the kidneys, spleen, large intestine, or gallbladder.

Treatment and Diet

Treatment of chronic flatulence can be divided into causal and symptomatic. Symptomatic treatment consists of the use of a diet with the elimination of gas-inducing foods and carbonated drinksTrusted Source. FoodTrusted Sourceshould be eaten slowly, calmly, and in small portions, but eat often. It is advisable to avoid talking during meals and take long walks after eating. In the case of air entrapment as a result of intestinal spasm, often manifested by pain in the hypochondrium area, you can take a gas-producing medicine, e.g., a preparation of fennelTrusted Source, cumin, or apply warm compresses.

Flatulence: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment

In pharmacies, there is a large selection of drugs acting symptomatically and reducing unpleasant ailments. It reduces the surface tension of gas bubbles in the intestines. In this way, it facilitates their bursting, which improves the excretion of gases and reduces the tension of the intestines, which can cause pain. The effect should be visible after two days.

The drug is given during or after meals and, if necessary, at bedtime. Therapy can be carried out long-term, even for several years. This substance can be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

Another frequently prescribed drugs are trimebutine preparationsTrusted Source. It works exceptionally well in irritable bowel syndrome. Side effects during use may include allergic skin reactions, fatigue, and vomiting. It is important to avoid using the drug while pregnant or breastfeeding. If experiencing severe pain, occasional use of an antispasmodic may be considered.

However, long-term use of such preparations may lead to weakening of the peristalsis of the intestinal musculature and the symptoms of flatulence will intensify. Psychotherapy is necessary for patients with aerophagia.

The causative treatment is various and depends on the background of flatulence. Surgical interventionTrusted Sourceor oncological treatment is necessary if there is an obstacle in the passage of digestive contents, e.g., a tumor or hernia. When a parasitic infection is found — take appropriate drugs that destroy parasites in the digestive tract.

Another option is dietary treatmentTrusted Source. They are ordered in the case of gluten enteropathy or lactose intolerance. A gluten-free diet or lactose-free diet is used, respectively. In the case of high consumption of carbohydrates that are not digested in the human digestive tract, they should be limited or eliminated from the daily menu. 

Finally, you must not forget about the medications that you are taking. In such cases, you should consult your doctor and, if possible, use another drug. Also, antibiotic therapyTrusted Sourcerequires the use of drugs that protect the bacterial flora of the large intestine.

Although flatulence is a common problem that every person at a certain age has struggled with many times, it is worth remembering that it can have many causes. These causes are usually harmless, however, they often include significant diseases, so chronic problems related to excessive gas production should not be underestimated.

Sources

June 21, 2023
11 minutes read
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