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Flatulence

From Academic Kids

Flatulence is a mixture of gases that are produced by symbiotic bacteria and yeasts living in the gastrointestinal tract of mammals, and aerosolized particles of feces, and it is released under pressure through the anus with a characteristic sound and odor. Flatulence in its verb form is called flatulation or to flatulate is known colloquially as farting, but some people find the word fart offensive and will use a euphemism as an alternative. Most animals, birds, fishes and insects also fart.


Contents

Causes

Intestinal gas comes from exogenous (90%) and endogenous (10%) sources. Exogenous gas is air that is ingested through the nose and mouth. Endogenous gas is produced within the digestive tract.

The endogenous gases are produced as a by-product of digesting certain types of food. Flatulence producing foods are typically high in complex carbohydrates (especially oligosaccharides such as inulin) and include beans, milk, onions, yams, sweet potatoes, citrus rinds, chestnuts, broccoli, cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes, yeast in breads, etc.

In beans, endogenous gases seem to arise from oligosaccharides, carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion: these pass through the upper intestine largely unchanged, and when they reach the lower intestine, bacteria feed on them, producing copious gas (McGee 1984 pp.257-8).

In the case of those with lactose intolerance (i.e., most non-Caucasian humans), intestinal bacteria feeding on lactose can give rise to excessive gas production when milk or lactose-containing substances have been consumed.

Interest in the causes of flatulence was spurred by high-altitude flight and the space program; the low atmospheric pressure, confined conditions, and stresses peculiar to those endeavours were cause for concern (McGee, 1984 pp.257-8).


Remedies

Dietary

Certain spices counteract the production of intestinal gas, most notably cumin, caraway and the closely related ajwain, turmeric, asafoetida (hing) and konbu (a Japanese culinary seaweed closely related to kelp).

Many people report that by reducing intake of most refined carbohydrates (such as rice, pasta, potatoes and bread), the amount of flatulence may decrease significantly.

Probiotics (yogurt, kefir, acidophilus, bifidus, etc.) and prebiotics (such as FOS) may also reduce flatulence if they are used to restore balance to the normal intestinal flora; used in excess, however, they may create an imbalance which increases flatulence.


Pharmacological

Digestive enzyme supplements can significantly reduce the amount of flatulence when that flatulence is caused by some components of foods not being digested by the body and feeding the microbes in the small and large intestines. The enzymes alpha-galactosidase (brands Beano, Bean-zyme), lactase (brand Lactaid), amylase, lipase, protease, cellulase, glucomylase, invertase, malt diastase, pectinase, and bromelain are available, either individually or in combination blends, in commercial products.

While not affecting the production of the gases themselves, agents which lower surface tension can reduce the disagreeable sensations associated with flatulence, by aiding the dissolving of the gases into other liquid and solid fecal matter.

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