Flatulence is caused by the presence of gas in the intestinal system which is passed out of the rectum, whereas wind is a symptom that can either refer to flatulence or passing gas from the stomach out of the mouth (belching).
- Commonly caused by a build up of gas in the digestive system
- Lifestyle changes can help to treat excessive flatulence
- Can be caused by an underlying health condition in some cases
You can consult with one of our GMC-registered doctors by using our online video consultation service. Book an appointment to speak to one of our clinicians from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Flatulence is a very common occurrence for most people. It’s not usually an indication of a particular problem in the body, but it can be unpleasant if it becomes persistent.
There are a number of potential, contributing factors to increased flatulence. Certain foods such as fruit, pulses and bran can cause flatulence, along with fizzy drinks. Flatulence is also symptomatic of various digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and coeliac disease.
Dietary factors and flatulence
There are many different dietary factors that can impact on flatulence. A buildup of gas in the intestinal system may be caused by swallowing too much air, which can often be a consequence of eating too quickly.
Certain foods may also increase flatulence. Foods that are known to increase the production of gas in the body include beans and lentils, dairy products and beverages which are carbonated, such as fizzy drinks and beer.
Underlying conditions and flatulence
There are many underlying conditions that can cause flatulence.
Indigestion and constipation will often result in flatulence, as the normal digestive processes are disrupted and more gas is produced.
IBS is a condition which causes stomach cramps, bloating, and diarrhoea, of which flatulence can be a secondary effect. Coeliac disease, which is an intolerance to gluten, can also lead to increased flatulence, as can lactose intolerance.
Chronic conditions, such as malabsorption problems or inflammatory bowel disease, may create excess wind in the digestive system. Stomach infections or gastroenteritis may also lead to increased flatulence when symptoms are active.
Diagnosing the cause of flatulence
If you have noticed increased flatulence and are concerned about it, you should contact a doctor. Sometimes, if flatulence is accompanied by other symptoms, it may be an indication of a condition requiring further attention.
Weight loss and rectal bleeding are some symptoms that a doctor may check for. They may also choose to conduct a physical examination to look for possible anaemia or any swelling around the pelvis, rectum or stomach.
After a physical examination, a doctor may want to conduct some tests if the clinical examination has led them to believe an underlying condition might be responsible. This could involve a full blood count (FBC), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP) test, which are assessed via a blood sample.
It’s normal to experience some flatulence from time to time, but if your flatulence is persistent and bothering you, you should contact a doctor. You can book an appointment through our online video consultation service to speak to one of our GPhC-registered clinicians about flatulence. They will be able to assist you in identifying the cause and offer advice on how to manage it.
In most cases, flatulence doesn’t require treatment. There are some simple measures you can take to reduce its effects.
Where treatment is needed, this may vary depending on what the cause of the flatulence is.
What you can do to help flatulence
Provided that flatulence is not a result of a pre-existing health condition, there are a variety of measures you can take to stop excess gas from building up in the digestive system.
One of the most effective ways to reduce increased flatulence is to control your diet and make adjustments, should there be certain foods that are causing it. For example, carbonated soft drinks and beer can result in flatulence.
Foods that may trigger flatulence include dairy products and high fibre items such as beans and pulses. It’s also important not to neglect your nutritional intake by completely eliminating certain foods.
Curbing certain eating habits can help too. When we consume food air is carried to the stomach, before being churned and emptied into the intestine. If we eat too quickly, we may swallow excess air, and this can lead to increased flatulence.
How is flatulence treated?
If your flatulence is persistent and has made you feel uncomfortable, you should contact your doctor. In the majority of cases, adjustments to your diet will stop the problem without the need for medication. However, in the event that treatment is necessary, there are a number of over-the-counter remedies that can help to lower the presence of gas.
Your doctor can help you to identify foods which are causing flatulence, and make adjustments to your diet to see if this makes a difference. It can also be helpful to reduce the size of your meals (eating little and often, as opposed to more but less frequently), which may ease the pressure on digestion.
A clinician may also recommend charcoal tablets, which absorb gas in the digestive system, but they should not be taken with other medication. Dietary supplements such as alpha-galactosidase can help to improve the body’s digestion of carbohydrate, which is one of the main food types that lead to gas production.
If flatulence is being caused by an underlying condition such as IBS, a doctor will focus on treating the condition, which in turn will help to reduce your flatulence.
If you would like to seek further advice online about flatulence, one of our registered doctors may be able to help. You can book an appointment to speak with them via our online video consultation service, from 9am to 5pm, five days a week. They can also issue prescriptions where suitable, and provide referrals for specialist treatment where required.
How long is it normal to have flatulence for?
For most people, flatulence is a very common occurrence that does not require any treatment or medical attention, and will go away after a few hours. However, if flatulence is persistent for several weeks, and doesn’t go away having made small dietary or lifestyle changes, you may benefit from contacting a doctor for further advice.
Is flatulence serious?
In most cases, no. Flatulence isn’t often reflective of a serious problem, however, if it is persistent and accompanied by indications of another condition, such as diarrhoea, blood in the stool or growths around the rectum, you should contact a doctor for an examination.
Can I get treatment for flatulence?
Yes, but it isn’t always necessary. Making dietary changes and adjusting your eating habits can help to reduce flatulence, as can lowering intake of alcohol and fizzy drinks.
However, if symptoms cannot be resolved by dietary changes, there are medications which can help, such as charcoal tablets, which help to absorb gas in the digestive system. Dietary supplements can also help to improve the digestion of certain food types which may be causing flatulence.
If the cause of the flatulence is an underlying condition, such as IBS, Coeliac disease or a food intolerance, a doctor will want to address this and offer you further advice.
How can I prevent flatulence?
Flatulence can be prevented by limiting consumption of certain foods that may be causing it (for example spicy foods, pulses and fizzy drinks), whilst maintaining a balanced diet and adequate nutrition. Regular exercise can also help to maintain the digestive system.
Can I speak to a doctor about flatulence online?
Yes. If you would like to consult with a doctor about flatulence online, or for a discussion about a prescription or a referral to a specialist, you can use our online video consultation service. This is available between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.