14 January 2019

Wind and Flatulence

bubbly gut

By Erin Dwyer - Research Dietitian

Wind, flatulence, flatus or farts – whatever you call it, it is a normal function of the gastrointestinal system. In fact, experiencing wind and flatulence lets us know we have a healthy gut that is doing what it is meant to – feeding our good gut bugs! At present, no consensus has been made about what is a ‘normal’ amount of flatus but it seems that 15-30 expulsions of air per day is reasonable. 

Flatus is produced mainly by the gut bugs in our colon (last part of the bowel). Foods that have not been fully digested by the time they get to the colon (e.g. fibrous foods like baked beans) are eaten up by our gut bugs and the by-product they release is gas. Flatus can also be produced by the extra air we swallow when eating, sleeping or talking. 

However, wind and flatulence can sometimes become a problem. Problematic wind and flatulence may be:

  • ‘excessive’ – more than you are used to
  • abdominal pain or flatus is painful to pass
  • particularly odourous 
  • associated with abdominal distention (bloating) or gut noises and rumbling. 
Problematic wind and flatulence are common symptoms of IBS.

One interesting study published in ‘Gut’ compared the flatus in healthy people vs those with gut symptoms. They found that when fed a high fibre (high FODMAP) meal, both healthy participants and those with IBS experienced more flatus and more abdominal discomfort, however those with IBS had higher rates of pain and discomfort. This tells us that eating higher FODMAP foods contributes to gas in most people, but those with IBS are more sensitive and can therefore experience more discomfort from it.

What can you do to help decrease your flatulence? 

  • Use the low FODMAP diet to find foods that trigger your IBS symptoms. (Click here to download the app)
  • Be aware of how fast you eat, slowing down your eating and chewing well can decrease the amount of air you swallow and can reduce gas expelled
  • Exercise, this can help muscles contract to expel gas
  • Avoid chewing gum and fizzy drinks these create extra gas
  • Let it out, don’t hold it in, you’ll be more comfortable!


References 

Chaysavany M, Eck A, Varela E, Roca J, Clemente J, Gonzalez A. et al. Anal gas evacuation and colonic microbiota in patients with flatulence: effect of diet. Gut. 2014, 63(3): 401-408 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3933177/


Lacey B, Gabbard S, Crowell M.  Pathophysiology, Evaluation and Treatment of Bloating - Hope, Hyper or Hot Air? J Gastro Hepatol. 2011, 7(11): 729-739 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3264926/


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