Flatulence (wind)

Flatulence is a normal part of life. However, excessive wind or gas can be embarrassing and can also cause stomach pain and bloating.

Summary

Most people pass wind up to 25 times a day but eating certain foods and stress can trigger excessive flatulence. Excessive flatulence can also be a symptom of illness or a health condition.

Excessive wind can usually be relieved with diet and lifestyle changes.

Causes of flatulence (wind)

When you eat, you swallow air as well as food. This air gathers in your stomach, where it’s joined by digestive gases to become intestinal gas. Flatulence and burping are your stomach’s method of removing intestinal gas, which can cause stomach pain and bloating after eating.

Excessive flatulence can be the result of:

  • Eating food that’s difficult to digest – including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, potatoes, onions and beans
  • Eating quickly and swallowing too much air - perhaps because you’re stressed
  • Taking certain medicines – including some laxatives, anti-fungal treatments, statins and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen
  • An underlying health condition – usually affecting the digestive system

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Conditions related to flatulence (wind)

Although normally harmless, flatulence can be a symptom of several digestive system conditions, including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome – a common condition which can also cause stomach cramps, diarrhoea and/or constipation
  • Food intolerance – an abnormal reaction to natural substances such as gluten (coeliac disease) and lactose or food sugar intolerance can cause excessive wind or gas
  • Gastroenteritis – a stomach infection which often triggers excessive wind, stomach pain and bloating
  • Diverticulitis – an infection of your large bowel (large intestine/colon) which can lead to a build-up of intestinal gas
  • Short bowel syndrome – a bowel surgery complication that can cause flatulence
  • Scleroderma – when this condition affects the internal organs it can cause constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and flatulence

Getting a diagnosis for flatulence (wind)

In most cases, you’ll be able to treat excessive flatulence without medical advice. However, if you’re worried about excessive wind, stomach pain or bloating, especially after eating, make an appointment with your GP.

You should also seek medical advice if:

  • You’ve been unable to relieve excessive flatulence through diet or lifestyle changes and it’s making your life difficult
  • Your stomach is constantly painful and/or bloated
  • You have frequent bouts of diarrhoea or constipation
  • You’ve unintentionally lost weight or you’ve lost your appetite
  • You’ve spotted blood in your stools
  • You feel feverish

After discussing your symptoms, your GP may refer you for tests, which might include:

  • Stool and blood sample tests
  • A lactose intolerance test
  • An X-ray of your digestive system
  • A gastroscopy (endoscopy) - a tiny camera films inside your digestive system

The test results will help your GP to diagnose or rule out conditions that can cause excessive flatulence. If the results are inconclusive, they may refer you for further tests. Your GP may also refer you to a gastroenterologist – a consultant specialising in the digestive system.

Treatments for flatulence (wind)

Flatulence is a natural biological process. However, excessive flatulence can be relieved, including stomach pain and bloating caused by the build-up of intestinal gas.

If your excessive flatulence is a symptom of a condition, your GP or consultant will recommend appropriate treatment. This may involve diet and lifestyle changes, medication and/or surgery.

If there’s no underlying cause, your GP may prescribe or suggest medication to relieve it. If you’re taking medication with flatulence as a side effect, your GP may suggest an alternative.

Otherwise, you can try:

  • Identifying and avoiding foods that trigger your flatulence
  • Eating slowly and chewing your food properly
  • Avoiding food and drinks containing artificial sweeteners
  • Drinking peppermint or ginger tea
  • Eating six small meals a day
  • Taking regular exercise

Get in touch

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