Flatus -flatulence-belch -eructation

Intestinal gases are originated from two main sources:

  they´re formed normally and result from the fermentation of food residues within the intestine
  a large amount of air is swallowed both by passing saliva down the throat and by alimentary habits

Food residues, due to the action of intestinal bacteria, undergo degradation, especially in the large intestine, which results in the production of nearly 3 liters of gases a day. All this gas is eliminated through the anus as flatus or farts. If the intestine is obstructed, these gases will be eliminated through the mouth.

Some foods are known for increasing the production of gases, for instance, black beans, lentils, peas and some green vegetables. There exist individual features that cause some particular foods to produce gas in some people.

The nearly three liters of intestinal gases produced usually result, on average, in the daily elimination of 17 flatus. A large part of these eliminations happen during evacuation.

The volume of gases swallowed as a result of certain habits ranges a great deal, making the total volume of eliminated gases increase considerably. When we speak, we form saliva in the mouth; this is foamy and while being swallowed it takes with itself a large volume of air. Some professions, of which speaking is largely required, as teachers, announcers and others, and those who are used to being talkative particularly tend to suffer from flatulence. The swallowed air will be eliminated both through eructation (belches) and through farts, so the number of daily eliminations will increase up to well over 17 times.

The habit of swallowing very hot liquids make the individuals sip liquids as soup, tea and coffee. Sipping also implies swallowing large amounts of inhaled air along with hot liquids, having the role of cooling them down, making it possible to swallow without burning the mouth or the esophagus. “Chimarrao” (infusion of mate leaves) can be included in this list.

The second factor that implies in an increase of gas elimination results from the habit of drinking gaseous beverage, such as beer, draft beer, soft drinks, mineral water with gas, etc. These drinks, once getting in contact with gastric juices, release a great amount of carbonic gas, which must be eliminated, as well as the air swallowed with the saliva.

To reduce the volume of gases to be eliminated, the habits that increase their production or intake must be brought back on track.

Drugs known as anti-gas agents are detergents that render the digestive fluids less viscous and hence less likely to form bubbles. Thousands of small bubbles, although containing the same volume of a gas, occupy a larger space than if the same volume were contained in a single bubble. These medications don´t reduce the amount of gases, they only reduce the volume when the gas is contained in small bubbles. Their action can relieve the so-called abdominal distension, but doesn´t reduce the elimination of flatus. We all know that when a flatus reaches the end of the intestine, it usually isn´t foamy upon its elimination. The odor is another issue related with gases. Some foods are known to produce malodorous gases. There are also variations from one person to another. The production of stinky gases usually is a result of the ingestion of some foods rich in sulphur, such as eggs, radish and certain canned foods.

The Romans, who had a god for everything, had as many as two gods for the farts: Perfidus and Flatus, from these arising the more polite designation for gases. For the Romans, perfidious were the silent and malodorous farts, while the flatus was odorless and noisy. As a side note, the noise produced by the elimination of flatus originates from the strain with which the gases are eliminated.

Usually, people don´t eliminate gases while sleeping, just like nobody evacuates in their sleep either. If someone is releasing gases in bed, they are awake. We all know that by the morning, when we wake up, the gases also “wake up” with their owner. Sick people and children, even sleeping, can eliminate gases, as well as other things.

In view of social conventions in western cultures, releasing gases is an impolite manifestation, despite being a perfectly natural organic manifestation. In reality, people are required to have a masochist social behavior: firstly, spitting is regarded as improper, that´s why the gases are swallowed; then, eliminating gases in public is said to be rude. In summary: people are requested to swallow the gases and then are recommended to hold them back when in somebody´s company. Since we aren´t always alone, embarrassing situations may arise.

The retention of gases may bring about severe consequences to people with diverticula in the large intestine, which is common. With aging, the diverticula become enlarged and their number increases, every individual over fifty years old virtually having them. The diverticula, due to an increase in the pressure within the intestines arising from the non-elimination of flatus, can rupture – this being the cause of peritonitis, and even death, when not treated at the right time. A very efficient manner of eliminating the disturbing intestinal gases is to place oneself at the same position Muslims use to pray, kneeling and holding the anus overhead, that facilitates gas elimination. It´s recommended that this measure be performed alone at home.