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What Are the Causes of Excessive Flatulence?

by
author image Ranlyn Oakes
Ranlyn Oakes is a business writer and journalist with more than a decade as either a staff writer or freelancer for a variety of regional and national publications, including newspapers and magazines. His specialties include health care, international trade, manufacturing and career advice. Oakes holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Kentucky.
What Are the Causes of Excessive Flatulence?
What Are the Causes of Excessive Flatulence? Photo Credit Alexandra Grablewski/Lifesize/Getty Images

Excessive flatulence is generally caused by bacteria that live in the intestines. Another, less common, cause is the swallowing of excessive air. Intestinal bacteria produce different amounts of gas depending on what you eat. Sugars and polysaccharides tend to yield flatulence. If excessive flatulence is a problem, adjusting your diet can make a big difference.

Sugars

Certain types of sugars are big offenders as far as causing excessive gas and flatulence. Because of their genetics, some people are unable, for example, to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. That leaves the job for intestinal bacterial, and they produce a substantial amount of gas as they perform the task. Fructose, a sweetener found in all sorts of goodies, and sorbitol, a sweetener in low-calorie food items, can also result in gas. You can cut down on gas by avoiding foods and drinks containing these sugars.

Starches

Starches can cause gas. They are found in foods such as potatoes, pasta, breads and cereals. Whole-grain foods tend to produce more gas than do refined products such as white bread. Certain fruits and vegetables contain starches that are not easily digested by the body and cause particularly high amounts of gas. Cabbage, beans and onions are examples.

Individual Variation

Even given identical diets, different people will produce different amounts of gas. For example, some people can digest lactose and others, because they lack the enzyme lactase, cannot---meaning consumption of milk will cause more gas in some people than in others. The amount and makeup of intestinal bacteria also varies from person to person. And people are prone to different symptoms as a result of gas. While some may suffer some flatulence, others tend to experience bloating or distention.

Considerations

Sometimes excessive gas is a result of a disorder. Some conditions prevent proper digestion, leaving more food for bacteria in the colon to digest. Celiac disease, in which the small intestines suffer damage whenever you eat gluten and absorption of nutrients is impeded, can cause gas, as can insufficiency of the pancreas and lactose intolerance. Treatments are available for the conditions or at least their symptoms.

Solutions

Remedies are available for most causes of excess flatulence. In most cases the obvious solution is a change in diet, eliminating or substituting for the foods that cause gas. But you may find that such changes leave you with few things left to eat. A popular remedy is the over-the-counter product Beano, which contains the enzyme alpha-D-galactosidase. It helps to break down certain polysaccharides, preventing them from reaching the colon undigested and causing gas, according to MedicineNet.

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