Monday, September 24, 2007

Passing Gas

We all do it, some more than others, and it is a common complaint in my office. Well I mean it is a common complaint that I hear from my patients who are seeking care about flatus (gas that is passed from the anus) as opposed to gas that is passed from the mouth(belching or burping) and gas that is stuck in purgatory(bloating).

What is the normal amount of gas to pass?
It is normal to pass gas 6-25 times a day.

What is gas?
Intestinal gas is made up of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide. The latter 3 gases account for the more toxic levels of the odor. The composition of the gas varies depending on the types of intestinal bacteria that are present.

What produces gas?
The large intestine (colon) contains many bacteria, fungi, and yeast. As food passes through the intestinal tract, some of the carbohydrates remain undigested as they reach the large intestine. These organisms enjoy the undigested carbohydrates and break the carbohydrates down and produce gas as the byproduct.

What increases gas?
The most common factors which contribute to gas production are eating patterns and bacterial composition of the intestine.

Foods that cause an increase in gas production include:
--Milk products especially if you are lactose-intolerant which means that you do not have the enzyme lactase needed to digest the carbohydrate, lactose.
--Carbonated beverages
--Spicy, fried or fatty foods
--Broccoli, cabbage, onions, celery
--Apple or prune juice
--Dried fruits
--Anything containing sorbitol, mannitol or maltitol, found in many low-carb or sugar-free foods

Other factors that increase gas production include:
--Anything that increases swallowing of air such as talking while eating, chewing gum or sucking on candy, using a straw or sports bottle, deep sighing, smoking or chewing tobacco, or ill fitting dentures.
--Tight-fitting garments
--Long-term use of medications for relief of cold symptoms
--Smoking or chewing tobacco
--Overloading your stomach
--Hormonal changes such as during menstrual cycle
--Constipation or Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What decreases gas?
Other than altering the flatugenic behaviors already mentioned, these remedies may be helpful.
--Lactase found in products such as Lactaid can be taken to help with the digestion of lactose when consuming dairy products.
--Beano contains the enzyme which breaks down raffinose, the carbohydrate in beans.
--Simethicone (Gas-X, Mylicon) breaks down the gas bubbles to help dissolve them.--Some natural remedies include peppermint and chamomile tea, fennel, anise, and turmeric.
--Fiber products such as Metamucil and Citrucel may also be helpful if Irritable Bowel Syndrome is present. However, these products may initially increase gas.

It is advised to seek medical attention if gas production is accompanied by weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, heartburn or blood in the stool, or if there is an increase in frequency, location or severity of the symptom.

References: Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Photo: courtesy of Medline.


Starocie said...

Very Interesting article!

Kathryn said...

I admit it, and my family will agree: I used to pass a lot of gas. It stopped happening once I started my low-carb diet four years ago. I also get far fewer stomachaches after eating. I'd recommend that anyone who passes a lot of gas consider eating less carbs. Your body may thank you in more ways than you imagine!

Marsha said...

Thank you so much! Every time, a few days before I have my menstruation, I will have gas problems (stuck in my stomach right now). Now I know why!

Silverstall said...

An extremely intresting article. As i understand it, Hydrogen Sulphide is chiefly responsible for the foul smell. The main culprit for that gas are eggs, beans, cabbage and cheese - so maybe best confine eating these to days when your diary is empty. Over prolonged exposure it is can also tarnish silver (caused by the reaction of silver to sulfur in the atmosphere)as it took a long time to work out why any silver jewellery left next to your bed tarnished more rapidly than anywhere else.(for some, most gases escape when you are sleeping.)

Anonymous said...

You mentioned in your article that the cause of gas is undigested carbs that make their way to the large intestines, and are then hit by the bacteria.
So, if one were to take out some carbs from their diet, and add some proteins... would that help?

Anonymous said...

Do you know if medications like antidepressants or Strattera could cause this problem?

Dr. Taraneh Razavi said...

Yes, certain antidepressants can cause this type of gastrointestinal side effects.