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Flatulence - Cause, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

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4 min read


Flatulence is a normal phenomenon, but sometimes it can be pathologic. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jagdish Singh

Published At April 21, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 22, 2024

What Is Flatulence?

Flatulence is defined medically as the release of gas from the digestive system through the anus. It is also called farting, passing wind, or having gas. It is a normal physiologic process, and the cause for this is the collection of gas inside the digestive system.

The gas can be collected in two different ways:

1. Swallowing air during eating or drinking leads to a collection of nitrogen and oxygen.

2. Another reason is the collection of digestive gasses like hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide while digesting the food in the digestive system.

How Is Flatulence Caused?

Flatulence is a very commonly observed phenomenon. In every other individual, gas accumulates in the digestive system, and many of them pass gas nearly ten times a day. If someone passes gas more than ten times or more often, it could indicate excessive flatulence, which can have many causative factors.

1. Swallowing Air:

Swallowing of air is a natural phenomenon that happens while eating or drinking throughout the day. However, frequent inhalation or swallowing of air or excessive swallowing of air can cause flatulence, which can also lead to burping.

The following could be the reasons for excessive swallowing of air:

  • Chewing gum.

  • Sucking objects like pen tops.

  • Smoking.

  • Consumption of carbonated drinks.

  • Eating very quickly.

2. Dietary Choices:

Consumption of various foods can also lead to flatulence. Some of them are as follows:

  • Beans.

  • Broccoli.

  • Cabbage.

  • Raisins.

  • Apples.

  • Foods that contain high amounts of sorbitol or fructose, such as fruit juices.

  • Lentils.

  • Prunes.

Why Do Some Foods Cause More Gas?

Certain foods can cause more gas formation when they are not fully digested in the small intestine. This food, when passed into the large intestine, is fermented by bacteria that produce gas. The common types of food that are known to cause gas formation include:

  • Complex carbohydrates, such as peas, lentils, beans, and sugars.

  • Fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pears, onions, cabbage, and broccoli.

  • Dairy products.

  • Artificial sweeteners.

  • Carbonated drinks, such as soda.

  • Fatty foods, such as fried food and meat.

  • High-fiber foods.

What Are the Conditions That Can Worsen Flatulence?

Suppose the flatulence is not physiologic due to the consumption of high sugar or carbohydrate-containing foods or swallowing of air. In that case, the excessive air could be due to some underlying health condition. The various diseases could be temporary or may involve some permanent disorder of the digestive system.

Following is the list of possible diseases:

  • Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach lining).

  • Constipation (stool passing issue).

  • Various food intolerances like lactose intolerance.

  • Crohn’s disease (digestive tract inflammation).

  • Celiac disease (digestive system issue on eating gluten).

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS is a stomach problem).

  • Diabetes mellitus.

  • Ulcerative colitis (chronic inflammatory disease).

  • Eating disorders.

  • Dumping syndrome (rapid gastric emptying).

  • Stomach ulcers.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (gastrointestinal disease).

  • Autoimmune pancreatitis (pancreatic inflammation).

When to See the Doctor for Flatulence?

Occasional flatulence is a normal condition; it is not a cause of concern. In certain situations, it is advisable to consult with the healthcare provider are as follows:

  • Persistent or severe flatulence.

  • An individual may experience other associated symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, change in bowel habits, and weight loss.

  • If an individual notices a change in bowel habits, such as a change in the frequency and consistency of stools.

  • Presence of blood in the stools.

  • Unexplained weight loss.

How Can Flatulence Be Diagnosed?

The healthcare provider may enquire about the patient's current problems, signs, symptoms, frequency, dietary habits, medical and personal history, etc. Also, the physician will try to perceive the triggering points. If required, a physical examination will also be conducted. In addition, various other examinations and laboratory tests can be performed, like blood tests that will help assess the presence of any infection in the body. Also, the tests will help understand any possible food intolerances and any other underlying medical conditions. Finally, the physician will write some more tests to confirm the diagnosis and help them pursue the best treatment for the medical condition causing flatulence.

How Can Flatulence Be Treated?

During the first visit, the doctor will guide the patient through specific steps, such as maintaining a diet schedule to understand the type of diet consumed daily. Then, the patient will be advised to change their eating habits based on the diet schedule. The doctor might also suggest that the patient consult a dietician, depending on the cause of the flatulence. If an individual is suffering from any underlying medical condition, they will be prescribed certain medicines to get relief from it or to manage it. There are various methods of treating flatulence, and it depends on the underlying cause. Therefore, the physician will suggest medical treatment. Although the following measures can help manage flatulence, seeking the help of a physician to treat any underlying condition present, if any, is always advisable.

One can follow the below-mentioned methods and home remedies to manage flatulence:

  • Diet Modification: Replace the diet if an individual consumes an excessive carbohydrate that is difficult to digest. The good alternatives are potatoes, rice, and bananas, which are easy to digest.

  • Maintain a Food Journal: This diary will help in assessing the triggering foods. Once the causative foods are identified, the person can either avoid them or minimize their consumption.

  • Frequency of Food Intake: An individual should try consuming five to six small meals a day instead of three larger meals. This will help improve the digestive process.

  • Chew the Food Properly: Avoid performing anything that can increase the amount of air swallowing. For example, avoid chewing gum and smoking. Chew the food properly before swallowing to decrease the workload of the digestion process.

  • Exercise Regularly: Exercising helps in promoting digestion and, thus, can prevent flatulence.

  • Try Over-the-counter Medications: These over-the-counter medications include charcoal tablets, which absorb gas from the digestive system, antacids, and dietary supplements like alpha-galactosidase. These can give temporary relief only, and an individual should consult a physician before consuming them.

How Can Flatulence Be Prevented?

There are a few ways to prevent flatulence, as well as the home remedies mentioned above.

An individual can try the following foods as they are known to cause less gas:

  • Carbohydrates like gluten-free bread, rice bread, and rice.

  • Vegetables like lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, and okra.

  • Fruits like grapes, berries, cantaloupe, cherries, avocado, and olives.

  • Meat and poultry.

  • Fish.

  • Eggs.

Everyone responds differently to various food types. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the diet and modify it as required. If required, seek the help of a dietician.

What Is the Prognosis of Flatulence?

As such, there are no known severe complications of flatulence. However, in some people with food intolerance, worsening of the condition is possible. It can also impact the individual’s overall quality of life by affecting the social life and leading to discomfort and mood changes.


Flatulence is when excessive gas accumulates in the digestive tract. It can be physiologic or pathologic in nature and can be managed. An individual can consult a specialist online through online medical platforms, which are available at just one click away to get all the information they need.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Main Reasons for Flatulence?

Flatulence is a common condition characterized by gas or air buildup in the digestive tract. Gas formation occurs due to swallowing air or due to the digestion of food by the gut bacteria. The main factors that influence the formation of gas include:

1. Swallowing excess air - On a daily basis, we tend to swallow air into the digestive tract while performing activities such as swallowing food, drinking, sucking objects, smoking, etc.

2. Eating certain foods - Generally, gut bacteria digest our food. These bacterias produce gas, a byproduct of food digestion. The bacteria produce gases like hydrogen, methane, carbon dioxide, etc., leading to flatulence.


How Does Excessive Flatulence Occur?

Flatulence is a common condition that causes excessive gas accumulation in the digestive system. Swallowing air and food digestion by gut bacteria are the two main reasons for flatulence. However, eating certain foods can cause excessive flatulence due to their high inulin (a type of complex carbohydrate) content. Examples of food items and conditions that cause excessive flatulence are:
Food Items -
a. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, cabbage, etc.
b. Wheat, oats, and other cereals.
c. Certain dairy products.
d. Pulses, lentils, cashews, beans, etc.
e. Carbonated drinks.
Medical Conditions -
a. Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, lactose intolerance, etc.
b. Gall bladder problems.
c. Infection of the digestive tract (gastroenteritis).
d. Cancer of the intestines.
e. Antibiotic treatment.


How to Manage Flatulence?

Flatulence is a common condition, and it can be managed with home remedies. However, if flatulence is due to underlying medical conditions, medical treatment would be necessary. The following methods help in the management of flatulence:

a. Home Remedies or Diet Modifications -
Consume foods such as rice, bananas, grapes, etc., that are easy to digest. Avoid complex carbohydrates.
Chew the food properly, consume food in smaller portions, and eat slowly.
Lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, avoiding smoking, eating healthy food, and avoiding carbonated drinks would help.
b. Medical Management -
If home remedies are not working, seek medical help to identify the underlying cause. For example, doctors might prescribe antacid syrup and tablets, dietary supplements, probiotics, etc.


What Causes Smelly Flatulence?

Flatulence occurs when gut bacteria break down the food we eat. The byproducts of the broken-down food are released as gas. Gases like carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane combine with hydrogen sulfide and ammonia present in the large intestine. The gases escape from the intestines and are released from the anus. Hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and methane have their characteristic pungent smell and are also the reason for smelly flatulence.


Do Older Adults Suffer From Excessive Flatulence?

As people grow older, flatulence might increase because of decreased metabolism. This is because the consumed food tends to stay for a more extended period in the digestive tract.
The efficiency of the stomach to make digestive acids decreases as you age, resulting in decreased metabolism. Additionally, the muscles involved in digestion also lose their ability to push food through the digestive tract, further slowing down digestion. Other possible causes for excessive flatulence in older adults include a lack of digestive enzymes and the use of certain medications.


Is Flatulence a Cause of Concern?

Flatulence is characterized by the accumulation of gas in the digestive system. This gas is either released as burps or farts. Flatulence is a common problem and is usually not a cause of concern. However, if gas problems occur too frequently along with other symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, weight loss, blood in the stools, etc., it could be due to other underlying conditions. Certain conditions like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, intestinal cancer, and gallbladder diseases can cause flatulence. Therefore, seek medical help when you experience abnormal symptoms and excessive flatulence.


What Food Prevents Flatulence and Bloating?

Excessive flatulence can occur after consuming complex carbohydrates that are difficult to digest. It can be avoided by eating foods that are simple and easier to digest. Examples include:
1. Rice, bananas, potatoes, and oats.
2. Citrus fruits.
3. Grapes, berries, apples, and avocados.
4. Cucumber.
5. Ginger.
6. Yogurt.
7. Consuming green tea.


What Are the Ways to Stop and Cure Involuntary Flatulence?

Flatulence can be managed in the following ways:
- First, eat foods that can be easily digested.
- Eating food slowly and in small amounts.
- Cut foods that produce gas.
- Quit smoking and avoid carbonated drinks.
- Try over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as probiotics and antacids.
- Finally, identify the underlying condition causing flatulence.


Can Flatulence Be Painful?

Flatulence is a common condition and generally does not cause any symptoms. However, if the gas does not pass out of the body as a burp or fart, it gets trapped in the digestive system. This trapped gas causes pain in the abdomen. Additionally, certain medical conditions such as Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, gallbladder disorders, intestinal cancers, etc., can also cause these symptoms.


Does Flatulence Cause Pain in the Chest?

Flatulence is usually asymptomatic unless the gas is trapped in the stomach or intestines. Then, the trapped gas is either released as a burp or fart and eventually released. However, flatulence does cause pain in the abdomen and chest.
Flatulence-related reasons that cause chest pain include:
- Food intolerance upsets the digestive system.
- Artificial sweeteners and carbonated drinks.
- Food poisoning.
Medical conditions:
- Acid reflux and GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disorder).
- Gallbladder disorders.
- Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis.


How to Differentiate Between Chest Pain Due to Gas and Heart Problems?

Signs of chest pain due to gas or flatulence:
- Bloating.
- Abdominal pain.
- Farting.
- Burping.
- Sharp pain that lasts for seconds.
- Sour taste in the mouth.
Signs of chest pain due to heart problems:
- Increased heart rate.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Pain in the left arm or both the arms.
- Pain in the jaws.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Anxiety and weakness.
- Pressure or tightness in the chest.


What Medicines Cure Flatulence?

The drugs used to treat flatulence are:
- Aluminum hydroxide and Magnesium hydroxide - They are the major constituents of antacids and are prescribed for relieving the symptoms of flatulence.
- Simethicone - It is a foaming agent that relieves symptoms of gas trapped in the stomach. However, they do not have any effect on intestinal gas.
- Activated charcoal - They are available in the form of tablets and can be consumed before or after meals.
- Belladonna alkaloid - Medication for irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive conditions.
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Dr. Jagdish Singh
Dr. Jagdish Singh

Medical Gastroenterology


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