Flatulence, often referred to as passing gas, is a normal part of the digestive process. It helps to release gas that gets built up in your large intestine, often as a result of consuming a gas-producing food such as beans. If it's excessive, however, it can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing, particularly in a social setting. Taking probiotics, as well as changing your diet, can help ease flatulence in many cases.
Flatulence occurs when gas is released through the anus. The buildup of gas is usually the result of the normal breakdown of food by bacteria in the large intestine or swallowing a lot of air, such as when you eat too fast. Certain foods -- such as beans, high-fiber foods and some vegetables and fruits -- can produce a lot of gas because they are hard to digest, which can then produce more flatulence. Everyone has flatulence, and the number of times it occurs varies from person to person, according to the NHS Choices website. In some cases, excess flatulence can be due to an underlying digestive disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotics, often referred to as "benefical bacteria," are live microorganisms -- similar to, or in some cases exactly the same, as those found in the intestines. They are cultivated in a laboratory, then used in supplements and added to some foods, such as yogurt, to help intestinal health. Probiotics mimic the effects of their naturally existing counterparts by fighting off harmful bacteria and boosting overall immune function. Additionally, adding probiotics to your diet may also help replace beneficial bacteria that are destroyed when taking antibiotics, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Several randomized controlled trials have shown that multiple probiotic formulations can reduce flatulence significantly, both in the short- and long-term, according to "American Family Physician." One study published in "Neurogastroenterology & Motility" in 2005 reported that patients taking a probiotic formula containing bifidobacterium and lactobacillus -- two common strains of probiotics -- reduced the amount of flatulence significantly in patients when compared to those who took a placebo.
Taking probiotics is considered generally safe, as it is found naturally in the intestines, and taking it in the form of foods such as yogurt may help ease your flatulence. If you decide to take probiotics in supplement form, consult a qualified health practitioner to ensure you take the proper formulation. Several strains of probiotics are used in foods and supplements, and not all of them contain the bacteria that may best suit your needs. A qualified health practitioner can also recommend dietary changes. If your flatulence persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as cramping or diarrhea, consult your doctor to rule out an underlying digestive disorder.
- NHS Choices: Flatulence
- NHS Choices: Flatulence - Treatment
- Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: Gas in the Intestines
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Oral Probiotics -- An Introduction
- Cleveland Clinic: Probiotics
- American Family Physician: Effective Management of Flatulence
- Neurogastroenterology & Motility: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Probiotic Combination VSL# 3 and Placebo in Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Bloating