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  Flatulence

Flatulence is the scientific term for excessive stomach and intestinal gas. The average individual passes gas about fourteen times a day. Flatulence is not malignant, but can be embarrassing to the sufferer. Social embarrassment is the number one reason why people seek medical treatment for flatulence. Gas which has odor is produced by components containing sulphur. Gases without odor are composed of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and oxygen.

Flatulence
Flatulence


Symptoms:

Symptoms of flatulence can be stuffy feeling, such as bloating in the abdomen and increased burping or passing gas. The typical body creates 1-3 pints of gas per day and passes gas around fourteen times per day. Flatulence is not dangerous, though absolutely creates embarrassing social situations. The most gas that is released is nitrogen, followed by methane and hydrogen. Methane and hydrogen are flammable, but they appear in small amounts in flatulence. The smell of gas is caused by low molecular weight fatty acids (butyric acid) and compounds of reduced sulphur. Hydrogen sulfide produces a rotten egg smell.

Causes:

Flatulence is caused mainly by ingested air through the nose and mouth. This is referred to as exogenous (outside the body) sources and accounts for ninety percent of flatulence volume. Endogenous sources of gas are those produced by the gastrointestinal tract and account for ten percent of flatulence volume. Endogenous gases are a created from the digestion of various foods. Lactose intolerance and Celiac disease are two conditions that cause excessive bloating, pain and gas.

The space program and high-altitude flight lead to more research on the causes of flatulence – due to the stress on the body, confined conditions and atmospheric pressure changes.

The sound that flatulence makes is due to the anus and varies, based on the sphincter, volume and velocity of the flatulence. Flatulence travels to the rectum the same way that food is digested. The same urges and feelings of bowel movements occurs with flatulence. Nerve endings in the rectum become trained to detect the difference between flatulence and a bowel movement. Flatulence can occur incidentally or can be forced out by an individual.

Treatment:

Certain dietary interventions may decrease the incidence and production of flatulence in individuals. Spices such as cumin, caraway, turmeric, and kombi kelp are believed to decrease the production of gas. Reducing certain refined carbohydrates may also reduce flatulence. Refined carbohydrates that can cause excess gas are rice, pasta, potatoes and wheat products such as bread. Beans contain water soluble sugars called oligosaccharides which can be reduced before ingestion, by boiling for a short amount of time and then soaking over night. Unfortunately, this process also decreases the nutritional value of beans or legumes.

Probiotics may also reduce gas production. These can be found in yogurt and kefir and restore the levels of natural intestinal flora to healthy amounts. Charcoal tablets that have been medically activated have also been used to reduce the odor and volume of flatulence. These tablets must be taken before eating the suspected flatulence causing food.

Pharmacological treatments come in the form of digestive enzymes that greatly decrease the quantity of flatulence. These enzymes reduce the flatulence that is the result of foods not be properly digested by the body by feeding the healthy microbes in the large and small intestines. Alpha-galactosidase enzymes digest complex sugars and drastically reduce the amount and occurrence of digestive gas. Lactase, amylase, lipase, protease, cellulose, glucoamylase, invertase, malt diastase, pectinase and bromelian are all alpha-galatosidase enzymes and are available individually or in combination in such over the counter products as Bean-o and Bean-zyme.

Rifaximin, an antibiotic used to treat E.coli diarrhea has also demonstrated the ability to reduce the production and frequency of intestinal gas. Surfactants, which lower surface tension have also been shown to decrease the uncomfortable symptoms that occur with flatulence.

Ingesting acidic liquids such as lemon juice or vinegar in small quantities with a meal, can activate the creation of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Increased hydrochloric acid will increase enzyme production, causing more efficient digestion which leads to a decrease in flatulence.

Incidentally, livestock, such as cows, pigs and sheep contribute greatly to the greenhouse affect from their flatulence. The gas is primarily from burping and is responsible for twenty percent of global methane admissions.

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