What is flatulence?

Flatulence is the expulsion of gas from the gastrointestinal tract through the rectum. Daily, the average person produces one to four pints of gas and expels it up to 14 times. Although flatulence can cause embarrassment to some people, it is a natural occurrence (Source: NDDIC).

Eating certain foods or drinking carbonated beverages can introduce air into the stomach and increase flatulence. You may also swallow air when you eat too quickly or when you chew gum. Because infants frequently swallow air when feeding, they may have flatulence after they have been fed. The act of burping an infant helps relieve the discomfort caused by swallowed air.

Flatulence is also caused by the passage of undigested food from the small intestine to the large intestine. Bacteria in the large intestine process the food and produce harmless gases, such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane, which are released as gas through the rectum. Certain foods, including carbohydrates, fiber and sugars, are more likely than other foods to produce gas.

Many different types of gastrointestinal conditions and diseases can cause flatulence. Flatulence may occur with conditions that slow digestion, such as gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), and mechanical obstructions, such as pyloric obstruction (blockage between the stomach and small intestine). Pregnant women may also experience flatulence due to hormonal changes that slow the digestive process. Flatulence can also arise from conditions that impair the normal digestive process in other ways, such as acid reflux, hiatal hernia, or stomach acid deficiency.

Flatulence is rarely associated with a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if your flatulence is associated with severe abdominal pain, chest pain, persistent nausea and vomiting, or high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit).

Seek prompt medical care if your flatulence is persistent or causes you concern.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with flatulence?

Flatulence may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.

Digestive symptoms that may occur along with flatulence

Flatulence may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive tract including:

CAUSES

What causes flatulence?

Flatulence and belching are natural occurrences that result from eating or drinking too quickly. Eating certain foods or drinking carbonated beverages can also introduce air into the stomach and cause flatulence. Because infants frequently swallow air when feeding, they may have flatulence after they have been fed. The act of burping an infant helps relieve the discomfort caused by swallowed ai... Read more about flatulencecauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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