Intestinal Gas (Belching, Bloating, Flatulence) (cont.)
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
How is excessive intestinal gas treated?
The treatment of excessive intestinal gas depends on the cause.
What's new in intestinal gas?
A recent study has shed additional light on the role of intestinal gas and the way in which it causes symptoms. Investigators studied 30 patients whose primary complaint was flatulence (although they also had other complaints such as abdominal bloating, distension and/or discomfort), and 20 healthy people (controls) without issues related to gas. The investigators studied the patients' and controls' production of gas and symptoms on their normal (basal) diet, during and following a standard meal, and during and following a meal that contained foods known to cause more gas (flatulent diet). During the basal period, not surprisingly, the patients had more symptoms than the controls and evacuated gas (farted) more often than controls (22 vs 7 times during the day). Interestingly, however, the patients and controls produced the same total volume of gas following the standard meal. This would suggest that the patients were NOT producing more gas than the controls. Two explanations for these observations would be 1) that the basal diet contained more gas-producing foods, or 2) that patients were more sensitive to gas, i.e., they developed more discomfort producing the same amount of gas as controls (farting more frequently, but with less gas per fart).
On the flatulogenic diet, the controls developed some symptoms, but the patients, not surprisingly, developed worse symptoms. The number of farts increased for both patients and controls but more so for the patients, (44 vs 22 farts, respectively). Nevertheless, the total amount of gas that was produced on the flatulogenic diet was the same for controls and patients. This supported the probability that patients were more sensitive to gas, i.e., they developed more symptoms, and farted more even though they were producing the same amount of gas as controls.
The observations made in this study add considerably to our understanding of intestinal gas and the mechanism whereby gas causes symptoms. In the group of patients that was studied, the symptoms were caused by an abnormal sensitivity to gas and not to the production of more gas. It is important to recognize, however, that although this may be the mechanism for production of symptoms in this group of patients, there may be other explanations or contributing factors in other patients with symptoms and flatulence. For example and as explained previously, some patients may retain more gas in the abdomen due to problems with motility of the intestinal muscles leading to intestinal distention and discomfort. Some patients may be on a flatulogenic diet without realizing it, and some patients may indeed be producing more gas than others on the same diet.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/24/2015
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Intestinal Gas - Effective Treatments Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your intestinal gas?
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Intestinal Gas - Bloating Causes Question: For some, it's eating a certain food. What is the usual cause of your bloating (intestinal gas)?
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