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Flatulence – the clinical term for intestinal gas. Flatulence indicates undigested food particles are present in the colon. Consuming large quantities of indigestible fiber (such as with beans and other legumes), eating too fast to thoroughly chew food before swallowing, and eating a larger quantity of food than the gastrointestinal tract can accommodate are common reasons for excessive amounts of undigested food particles to make it to the colon.
Bacteria naturally present in the colon act on these food particles. In addition to breaking them down into nutrient molecules, the bacteria also produce gas as a byproduct. These gases eventually make their way through the colon and escape through the anus.
The most common of these are methane and hydrogen sulfide, which give flatulence its characteristic odor. Excessive flatulence often causes lower abdominal discomfort and cramping.
It may occur with lactose intolerance, carbohydrate intolerance, and malabsorption and as a side effect of numerous medications. The herbs peppermint, ginger, and chamomile reduce intestinal gas, as do products containing simethicone, activated charcoal, or enzymes that help break down cellulose (residual fiber).
See also ANTACIDS.
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