What is Gas or Flatulence?

By  , Expert Content
Jul 07, 2012

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There is air in every ones digestive system. It may be eliminated by burping or passing it through the rectum. When air in the intestine is passed through the rectum, it is called gas or flatulence. If air is passed from the digestive tract through the mouth, it is called belching. Gas is usually made of odourless vapours i.e. carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and sometimes methane. Unpleasant odour of flatulence is caused because of sulphur formed by bacteria in the large intestine. Gas is a common condition that is not fatal, but can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.


Gas can be caused because of several reasons. Some of the common causes of gas include:

  • constipation
  • taking antibiotics
  • eating foods that are difficult to digest, such as fibre or foods with unabsorbable carbohydrates, such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, raisins, pulses, prunes and apples
  • intestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), malabsorption, (a medical condition in which the intestines are unable to absorb nutrients properly)
  • eating foods that you cannot tolerate that cause problems, such as gluten intolerance  (a type of digestive problem caused because of intolerance to a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley) and lactose intolerance (in this condition, the body fails to digest lactose i.e. a type of natural sugar found in milk and dairy products)
  • swallowing air while eating.


Common symptoms of gas include:

  • abdominal bloating,
  • abdominal pain,
  • passing too much gas (flatulence) and
  • belching.

It is possible to not experience all the symptoms and the severity of symptoms may vary from mild to severe. Severity and nature of symptoms depends on how much gas your body produces, the amount of fatty acids the body absorbs and your sensitivity to gas in the large intestine.


Treatment of gas or flatulence aims to reduce discomfort and symptoms. Treatment includes:

  • diet changes (avoiding foods that are high in unabsorbable carbohydrates),
  • eating and chewing slowly,
  • lifestyle changes (such as exercising regularly, quitting smoking) and
  • taking medicines. Some medications that are useful for gas are alpha-galactosidase, charcoal tablets and probiotics.



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