A gassy affair

  • Wellness
  • Saturday, 14 Jun 2014

Passing gas in public is not only impolite, but may also be a sign that not all is well with your digestive system.

We all know how uncomfortable it can feel after an extremely heavy meal, with symptoms like heartburn, nausea and vomiting, or swallowing difficulty.

Bad eating habits can create unhealthy gastrointestinal gas production.

Accumulation of these gases inside our stomach and intestines gives us a bloated feeling.

Belching or eructation is the expulsion of these gases from the stomach or oesophagus.

It is a normal reflex and does not indicate gastrointestinal disease.

Excessive gas also traverses through the intestine to be passed out as flatus.

So you see, burping and passing gas are actually natural biological processes.

Holding your fart in is not only detrimental to your health, but can also cause unnecessary cramps and tension.

Gastrointestinal gas production is affected by:

·Swallowing excessive air: Almost all gas in the stomach is swallowed.

This can be from rapid eating, ingesting carbonated beverages or smoking.

·Eating or drinking too fast: Swallowing food without adequate chewing causes the stomach to receive food in large chunks, which is difficult to digest.

When undigested food reaches the large intestine, bacterial fermentation of undigested carbohydrates gives rise to production of gases like hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane.

·Dietary choices: Different types of food may affect the amount of gas produced.

Cauliflower, broccoli, beans, onions and milk products are known to be gas-producing foods.

Drinking carbonated drinks and alcohol also increases gastrointestinal gases.

·Food intolerance: Enzymes in the stomach may be unable to breakdown certain nutrients (e.g. lactose, fructose and sorbitol), causing them to be fermented by colonic bacteria and giving rise to excessive gas, which causes bloating.

·Constipation: Air is trapped in the “lazy bowel”, thus, causing accumulation of gases in the digestive tract giving rise to abdominal bloating.

·Medical conditions: Some digestive-related diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and colon cancer, may also present with bloating.

The symptoms of gaseous bowels are very obvious.

The stomach feels uncomfortable or distended. Some experience a sharp jabbing pain or cramps in the abdomen.

Many of us may be familiar with the more habitual voluntary or involuntary passing of gas or burping.

Bloating is not necessarily a benign condition, and some diseases like pancreatic insufficiency or cancer, ovarian cancer, coeliac disease and congestive heart failure, can present with this symptom.

Some sinister symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract that necessitate further consultation with a doctor are:

·Prolonged abdominal pain.

·Gastrointestinal bleeding, like passing black tarry stool or painless rectal bleeding.

·Recent changes in bowel habits.

·Involuntary weight loss.

·Persistent or recurrent nausea or vomiting.

Although most episodes of bloatedness are not life-threatening (e.g. functional dyspepsia or IBS), this chronic discomfort can disrupt a person’s life.

The following are some tips to help overcome abdominal bloating:

·Eat slowly and chew your food properly before swallowing.

·Take a walk 20 minutes after a meal. A brief post-meal walk for about 15 minutes can help with digestion and ease the stomach

lIf your stomach reacts undesirably to certain foods, try to avoid it.

·Avoid swallowing air by not chewing gum or using a straw when enjoying your favourite beverages.

·Don’t talk and chew at the same time.

·Avoid carbonated drinks or beer.

·Eat smaller meals at more frequent intervals.

·Take probiotics regularly to increase the amount of gut flora in your intestine. Daily intake of yoghurt, cultured milk or live cultures will help aid digestion.

Passing flatus and belching are considered impolite activities in public.

It is interesting to know that we pass flatus eight to 20 times a day, varying with dietary intake.

In fact, humans can still fart and burp hours after death, a phenomenon that occurs due to muscles in the body expanding and contracting prior to rigor mortis.

One should exercise regularly for a healthy digestive system, as well as practise good nutrition and healthy eating habits for a healthier lifestyle.

Remember that good digestive health is important for maintaining a more holistic well-being.

If you have any doubts or concerns about bloating, you should consult your doctor for further advice.

Dr K.C. Wong is a consultant physician (internal medicine) and a committee member of Digestive Health Advisory Board. The author is not associated with and does not endorse any brands or products. For a free digestive health info guide or more information, please contact 03-56323301.

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A gassy affair


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