Flatulence is the medical term that refers to the passing of flatus or gas from the digestive system via the anus. It is a common condition that occurs when gas accumulates in the digestive system. Most of the healthy people pass gas throughout the day. While passing gas up to 20-25 times a day is considered to be normal, there are some people who experience excessive flatulence (more than the normal frequency) which can be a rather embarrassing situation. For such people, this condition may affect their daily life and also make it difficult for them to have a comfortable social life.
What causes flatulence?
Gas can accumulate in your intestine due to many reasons including:
Swallowing air – You are continuously swallowing small amounts of air while breathing, eating and drinking. This swallowed air gets accumulated in your digestive system leading to flatulence. Swallowing excess air can lead to extreme flatulence.
Bacteria in the intestine – Your digestive system contains healthy bacteria that aid in the process of digestion by fermenting the food in the intestine. This process leads to the production of gas, some of which is expelled by the lungs or absorbed into your blood stream while the rest is passed out through the anus.
Food and drinks – Certain types of foods and drinks can cause flatulence. Some of the food items that can lead to accumulation of gas in the stomach include foods that are rich in fiber (beans, peas, fruits etc), vegetables that contain the complex sugar, raffinose (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc), food that contain fructose (dates, figs, grapes, pears, prunes etc), dairy items that contain lactose (cheese, ice cream, milk etc) and foods and drinks that contain sorbitol.
Health conditions – Flatulence can also be caused as a result of certain health conditions like constipation, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, coeliac disease and gastroenteritis.
Side effect of medications – Although not very common, flatulence can occur as a side effect of certain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-anxiety medications, medications prescribed to treat high cholesterol and some diet drugs.
What are symptoms of flatulence? The symptoms of flatulence include passing of gas, abdominal pain or bloating, belching and discomfort.
Natural food for flatulence
There are quite a few natural remedies for flatulence, some of which are listed below.
Ginger and lime – Ginger is a super herb that offers many health benefits. It helps in digestion and also in reducing gas and bloating. Mix one teaspoon of grated ginger in one teaspoon of lime juice and drink it soon after eating.
Caraway seeds – Add one or two teaspoons of crushed caraway seeds in one cup boiling water. After about 15 minutes, strain the mixture. Drinking a cup of this mixture 2-3 times a day can prevent flatulence.
Yogurt – Yogurt that contains bacteria acidophilus can help in relieving the symptoms of flatulence.
Cardamom – Cardamom is a wonderful remedy for flatulence. You can either chew them whole or add it to your dishes. Boiling cardamom pods in water and drinking it is another way to use cardamom for flatulence.
Chamomile tea – A cup of chamomile tea after meals can help in relieving flatulence.
Peppermint – Peppermint is another great solution for flatulence. Peppermint has menthol which helps in reducing gas and bloating. The fresh leaves of peppermint can be chewed as such or added to boiling water or tea.
Papaya – Papaya is a wonderful fruit that is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It contains papain, an enzyme that helps in the easy digestion of proteins. Eating papaya is thus a good way to reduce gas in your digestive system.
Fennel seeds – Chewing half a teaspoon of fennel seeds is not only effective in curing flatulence but is also good for eliminating bad breath. Fennel contains anethole, which is good for reducing flatulence and also in aiding digestion.
Honey and cinnamon – Taking 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon powder mixed in one tablespoon of honey will provide relief from flatulence.
Activated charcoal – Taking activated charcoal before and after meals helps in absorbing intestinal gas and in preventing flatulence. Activated charcoal tablets can be bought from natural drug stores.
Amaranth – Amaranth seeds are highly nutritious that improves digestion and prevents flatulence. These seeds can be roasted, or added to many dishes.
Coriander – Coriander is another herb that promotes digestion and prevents flatulence. Coriander seeds can be ground and used in cooking. The leaves of coriander are widely used in cuisines of different parts of the world.
Bay leaves – Add a few bay leaves to boiling water. Allow it to sit for some time and then strain it. Drinking this water 2 or 3 times daily can get rid of your flatulence problems.
Celery – Indian celery is another herb that prevents the formation of gas in your digestive system.
Dill oil and honey – Mix a drop of dill oil and one teaspoon of honey and take the mixture soon after a meal. This helps in relieving and preventing flatulence.
Curry leaves – Curry leaf is an unavoidable ingredient in most south Indian cooking. Not only does it imparts flavor and aroma to the dishes, but is beneficial to your health too. Curry leaves improves your digestive health. It helps in digestion and also in preventing flatulence and bloating.
Turmeric – Drinking a mixture of turmeric powder and salt in lukewarm water is effective in providing relief from flatulence.
Baking soda and lime – To a cup of water, add a pinch of table salt and a teaspoon of baking soda. Then add the juice of one lime to this mixture and mix it well. Drinking this mixture will offer relief from flatulence.
Ginger, asafoetida and salt – Add a pinch each of asafetida, half a teaspoon of ginger powder, and a pinch rock salt to a cup of warm water and mix thoroughly. Drinking this mixture regularly is found to be beneficial in reducing flatulence and also in improving the functions of your digestive system.
Garlic and ginger juice – Add the juices of a small piece of ginger and two cloves of garlic to warm water and drink the mixture. This will provide immediate relief from flatulence and bloating.
Eat proteins that are non-gassy – Protein rich foods are generally not considered to cause flatulence. However, they may cause gas problems if not chewed and digested properly. Lean beef, turkey, chicken, peanut butter, eggs and fish are examples of protein-rich foods that do not cause flatulence.
Eat fruits with low sugar content – Sugars like fructose found in fruits have been found to cause gas formation. So eating fruits that have low sugar content can help in avoiding flatulence. Examples of low sugar fruits include apples, apricots, grapefruit, guavas, kiwis, lime, melons, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, plums, watermelons and certain types of berries,. It is better to avoid canned fruits as they are likely to have added sugar and preservatives that may cause flatulence.
Use dairy substitutes – Since lactose in dairy products is linked to flatulence, you can try dairy substitutes made from soya such as soy milk, yogurt, cheese etc.
Regular exercise – Exercising regularly not only helps in preventing flatulence but also in improving your overall health. Mild exercises like walking can promote proper digestion and prevent too much gas from accumulating in your digestive system.
Reduce the intake of foods that cause flatulence
As mentioned previously, many food items and drinks can lead to extreme flatulence. Limiting the intake of these foods and beverages can reduce flatulence to a great extent.
Tips to reduce flatulence
Making dietary modifications and lifestyle changes can help prevent flatulence to a great extent. Eating slowly ensures that the food that you eat is digested properly and also that you take in less air. Make sure to chew your food properly with your mouth closed and avoid drinking through a straw. This helps in preventing the excess swallowing of air. Avoid talking while you are eating. Chewing gum and smoking causes the intake of air and hence it’s better to avoid these habits. Limit your intake of carbonated drinks like soda, beer etc as they cause air to enter your guts leading to flatulence. A heavy meal increases the risks of slow digestion and the formation of gas in your intestine. In order to ease digestion and prevent flatulence, eat smaller and portion controlled meals at regular intervals throughout the day. Avoid eating foods that are high in carbohydrate and fat content. These foods are capable of generating excess amounts of carbon dioxide, which can lead to flatulence. The overconsumption of beverages that is highly acidic in nature like alcohol, tea, coffee etc should be avoided as they are likely to cause irritation in your gastrointestinal tract and gas troubles. Do not sleep or lie down soon after a meal. Take a walk or engage in some kind of mild physical activity to speed up the digestion process.
Flatulence is a condition that can often be controlled by making a few changes in your lifestyle and diet. If you fail to control flatulence problems even after trying different remedies or if you experience symptoms like bloating, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea etc along with flatulence, it would be a good idea to consult your doctor.Image Credits: USDA