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What Causes Bad Gas?

Technically called flatulence, passing bad gas can be really embarrassing. This article provides some information about flatulence, its causes and remedies.
Chandramita Bora
Excess gas in the stomach or intestines causes bloating, belching, or flatulence. Swallowing air through the mouth is the major reason for accumulation of gas in the stomach. Gas is produced in the colon, when bacteria break down undigested food. Intestinal gas is nothing but a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. Usually, excess gas is expelled through the mouth or the rectum.
When stomach gas is expelled through the mouth, it is known as belching or burping, and passing gas through the rectum is called flatulence or flatus. The gas passed through the rectum can be smelly, if it contains sulfur, which is generated by fermentation of semi-digested food materials in the colon. If such excess gas is not expelled, it will accumulate in the stomach and intestines, thereby causing bloating.
Bad gas and bloating can be caused by various factors. As mentioned above, swallowing air through the mouth (aerophagia) is a major cause for belching. However, belching is not usually associated with foul-smelling gas, which is produced when intestinal bacteria act on certain foods. Foods that contain a high amount of fiber and complex carbohydrates (like polysaccharides), are not digested completely in the stomach. This gives the intestinal bacteria an opportunity to act on these semi-digested foods, and produce gas as a byproduct. This is the reason why foods like beans, legumes, cauliflower, and wheat products cause smelly gas or flatus.
Ingestion of dairy products may cause excess gas in individuals with lactose intolerance. In that case, milk and dairy products are not properly digested in the stomach. This allows the intestinal bacteria to ferment the semi-digested dairy foods and produce gas. Certain medical conditions may also hinder proper digestion, and the undigested or semi-digested food passes to the colon, where bacteria act on the food and produce gas.
So, flatulence can be caused by conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. It has also been observed that overuse of laxatives like, sorbitol and lactulose; and intake of certain medications such as, antibiotics can cause this problem.
Symptoms of Flatulence
  • Farting or passing smelly gas
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Abdominal distension
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Burning sensation in the stomach
  • Rumbling in the lower abdomen
How to Get Rid of Foul-smelling Gas?
The best way to prevent this condition is to make some changes or modifications in your diet and lifestyle. First of all, try to eat slowly; and chew the food properly. This would reduce the amount of air that you ingest while eating. Along with this, pay attention to the kind of food you have been eating lately. This would help you to find out specific foods that can cause bad stomach gas. If a particular food item is responsible for causing bloating and bad gas, cut down its consumption.
If you have lactose intolerance, reduce or avoid consumption of dairy products. Avoid carbonated beverages, chewing gum, and cigarettes. Even eating too much of fatty foods can cause gas problems. Therefore, avoid or reduce intake of such foods and try to follow a healthy and balanced diet. Cut down intake of fiber-rich foods temporarily. As far as home remedies are concerned, you can try ginger, peppermint tea, clove, fennel seeds, cardamom seeds, cinnamon, and coriander. Cumin, turmeric, and asafetida may also prove effective for reducing bloating and gas.
Usually, dietary and lifestyle changes along with the above mentioned home remedies would help you to get rid of excess gas. Activated charcoal is very popular as a remedy for flatulence. Apart from that, probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements are also used for intestinal gas relief. If the problem worsens or persists, talk to your physician, who may prescribe medications for relieving the condition. Proper diagnosis is very important as excess gas can also be caused by some underlying medical conditions.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.