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What is flatulence?

Flatulence, also known as farting, is the result of a buildup of gas in the digestive system. It is normal and healthy, but excess gas can lead to discomfort and may be a symptom of a gastrointestinal issue.

Your intestines normally produce anywhere from 500 mL and 2,000 mL of gas each day, which gets passed out of your body (farting or burping) at regular intervals. It’s usually a mixture of methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the ratio and smell is very much determined by what we eat or drink.

What causes flatulence?

  • Swallowing too much air (from chewing gum, eating too quickly, anxiety/stress, fizzy drinks)
  • High fibre diet or a sudden increase in dietary fibre
  • Slow digestion process (undigested food spends too much time in intestines allowing bacteria to ferment the waste, releasing gas)
  • Underlying medical condition, including irritable bowel (IBS), coeliac disease or intolerance to certain foods including lactose, gluten, FODMAPs

Excessive gas and how to avoid it

Most people pass wind between 5 and 15 times a day – everyone is different. If you notice a sudden increase in frequency of flatulence, or it’s causing discomfort (or embarrassment), it might be time to make some changes to diet or lifestyle. Or you may need to seek advice from a health professional to eliminate concerns about any underlying health issues.

  • Pay attention when eating to see if you’re either eating too fast or swallowing too much air
  • Cut down fizzy drinks (soft drinks or alcoholic varieties)
  • Reduce the amount of gum you chew if that affects you
  • Try eating smaller meals
  • Exercise regularly to maintain bowel regularity and digestive ‘muscle-tone’
  • High fibre foods are usually great for your health, but if you’re eating a lot of foods such as cabbage, kimchi, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, brussels sprouts, and lentils, chickpeas or beans, try reducing slowly until you find the right balance of health vs gas
  • If you’re anxious or stressed, seek help to relax, or learn to meditate

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