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Gas - flatulence

Flatulence; Flatus

 

Gas is air in the intestine that is passed through the rectum. Air that moves from the digestive tract through the mouth is called belching.

Gas is also called flatus or flatulence.

Considerations

 

Gas is normally formed in the intestines as your body digests food.

Gas can make you feel bloated. It can cause crampy or colicky pains in your belly.

 

Causes

 

Gas can be caused by certain foods you eat. You may have gas if you:

  • Eat foods that are hard to digest, such as fiber. Sometimes, adding more fiber into your diet can cause temporary gas. Your body may adjust and stop producing gas over time.
  • Eat or drink something your body cannot tolerate. For example, some people have lactose intolerance and cannot eat or drink dairy products.

Other common causes of gas are:

  • Antibiotics
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inability to absorb nutrients properly (malabsorption)
  • Inability to digest nutrients properly (maldigestion)
  • Swallowing air while eating

 

Home Care

 

The following tips may help you prevent gas:

  • Chew your food more thoroughly.
  • Do not eat beans or cabbage.
  • Avoid foods high in poorly digestible carbohydrates. These are called FODMAPs and include fructose (fruit sugar).
  • Avoid lactose.
  • Do not drink carbonated drinks.
  • Do not chew gum.
  • Eat more slowly.
  • Relax while you eat.
  • Walk for 10 to 15 minutes after eating.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your health care provider if you have:

  • Gas and other symptoms such as stomach pain, rectal pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, fever, or weight loss
  • Oily, foul-smelling, or bloody stools

 

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

 

Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:

  • What foods do you commonly eat?
  • Has your diet changed recently?
  • Have you increased the fiber in your diet?
  • How fast do you eat, chew, and swallow?
  • Would you say that your gas is mild or severe?
  • Does your gas seem to be related to eating milk products or other specific foods?
  • What seems to make your gas better?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • Do you have other symptoms, like abdominal pain, diarrhea, early satiety (premature fullness after meals), bloating, or weight loss?

Tests that may be done include:

  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Barium enema x-ray
  • Barium swallow x-ray
  • Blood work such as CBC or blood differential
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Upper endoscopy (EGD)
  • Breath test

 

 

References

Azpiroz F. Intestinal gas. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 17.

McQuaid KR. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 132.

Wilkins T, Pepitone C, Alex B, Schade RR. Diagnosis and management of IBS in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86(5):419-426. PMID: 22963061 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22963061.

 
  • Intestinal gas

    Intestinal gas - illustration

    Gas is formed in the intestines by the action of bacteria as food is being digested. Gas is also called flatus or flatulence, and is passed through the intestine and out the body through the rectum.

    Intestinal gas

    illustration

  • Abdominal ultrasound

    Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

    The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department. A conducting paste is applied to your abdomen while you are lying down. The transducer (a hand-held instrument) is then moved over your abdomen.

    Abdominal ultrasound

    illustration

    • Intestinal gas

      Intestinal gas - illustration

      Gas is formed in the intestines by the action of bacteria as food is being digested. Gas is also called flatus or flatulence, and is passed through the intestine and out the body through the rectum.

      Intestinal gas

      illustration

    • Abdominal ultrasound

      Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

      The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department. A conducting paste is applied to your abdomen while you are lying down. The transducer (a hand-held instrument) is then moved over your abdomen.

      Abdominal ultrasound

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Self Care

       

        Tests for Gas - flatulence

         

           

          Review Date: 5/21/2016

          Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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