The Taboo of Passing Wind: Facts About Flatulence and How to Reduce it
As Dr John Bennett, president of Core, a charity for gut and liver disease, notes: ‘It’s a curiosity of English social life that if you belch you say pardon, but if you fart, you just say nothing and walk away.’
Whilst most of us do not tend to get too embarrassed if we accidentally burp, passing wind is considered a serious social faux pas, and not one that anybody readily owns up to.
Everyone Does it…
Firstly, some key facts about flatulence. It’s a very natural bodily function, and is the body’s way of getting rid of excess gas in the digestive system, which if not dispelled can cause bloating and discomfort.
According to the NHS website, most men pass wind between 14 and 25 times a day, and women tend to pass wind between 7 and 12 times a day. As you get older, flatulence increases.
Surprisingly, passing wind is often associated with a healthy diet. Eating plenty of high-fibre foods can cause wind, as can eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. If you currently enjoy a healthy diet, you certainly shouldn’t stop; as the benefits that the nutrients offer your body considerably outweigh the negatives of experiencing wind.
However, there are other methods of reducing flatulence. Here are some suggestions:
- Eat easy-to-digest foods. If you suffer particularly badly from flatulence, try eating foods that are easy for your digestive system to process, such as potatoes, bananas and rice.
- Avoid swallowing air. Flatulence is caused by trapped air in your digestive system. You can reduce this by ensuring you chew and swallow food properly, making sure your dentures aren’t loose-fitting, and by not chewing gum.
- Steer clear of unabsorbable foods. Certain foods are well-known for producing wind, such as beans, pulses and Brussels sprouts. If you suffer with wind, you may want to reduce your intake of these foods. Other unabsorbable foods include broccoli, onions, cabbage, artichokes and prunes.
- Change medication. Certain medicines, such as anti-inflammatories, laxatives, statins and antifungal drugs, can cause flatulence.
Combatting Severe Wind
If you feel that your flatulence is particularly severe, it may be beneficial for you to try other forms of treatment. Regularly taking activated charcoal tablets can greatly help with the problem. It serves to reduce build-up of gas in the stomach, which in turn, reduces the need to pass wind.
Dietary supplements can also help. Alpha-galactosidase and probiotics have both been found to be useful in reducing flatulence. However, if you choose to eat probiotic yoghurts, make sure you avoid those with artificial sweeteners or added fibre, which can actually exacerbate the problem.
When Should You See a Doctor?
In the vast majority of cases, flatulence is nothing to be concerned about. Everybody passes wind from time to time, and it’s normal to experience periods of increased flatulence.
However, if you feel that your flatulence is severe, it may be worth speaking to your GP, as it can be a sign of an underlying gastric problem.