What is flatulence?
Flatulence means excess gas in your intestinal tract.
Excess gas can occur when you swallow air, or when too much gas is produced in your intestines during digestions. Everyone’s gut will produce gas as a by-product of healthy digestion, but too much can cause a problem, and you may get symptoms of abdominal pain and/or bloating.
Why do I have flatulence?
Not only can excess and involuntary flatulence be embarrassing and annoying, but the causes of flatulence can indicate an underlying problem, for example:
- Swallowing too much air (called aerophagia) as a result of drinking too quickly, chewing gum, using tobacco products, sucking sweets, fizzy drinks, or hyperventilation
- Excess bacteria in the small intestine (SIBO)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food intolerances, especially lactose or fructose intolerance
- Delays in your food and drink moving on from your stomach (called gastroparesis)
- Ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), where the inner lining of the large bowel is inflamed and develops ulcers
- Crohn’s disease, the other form of IBD, where some parts of your colon become inflamed
How do we diagnose the causes of flatulence?
There are many conditions that flatulence can be a symptom of, so it is crucial to investigate and diagnose the cause of your flatulence to rule out any underlying conditions. We diagnose the causes of flatulence with:
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) breath test – which finds out if you have an overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine (called SIBO)
- Carbohydrate malabsorption breath test – which discovers if you have specific food intolerances (fructose or lactose)
- Whole-gut transit – a non-invasive test which looks at how long it takes for faeces to pass through your bowel
- Defaecography – which investigates any problems you may have when trying to open your bowels
- Gastric emptying test – to find out how quickly food leaves your stomach