Blowing in the wind

What is the one thing that everyone does, but will often refuse to admit to doing? No Mr. Editor, it is not that. I meant flatulence.

Flatulence is known also as another name, but I do not know the laws, concerning usage of the that word in a newspaper, except that it is derived from the old English word “feortan” (meaning “to break wind”).

Passing wind is just another part of life. No one can avoid it or prevent it.

Flatulence is the act of passing gases from your intestines through your anus. Some will smell, others will sound like a musical instrument. Flatulence is the product of a mixture of air and gases in the digestive tract that are a by-product of the body’s digestion process. Because of this they are composed of a variety of gases in different proportions. Nitrogen is the main ingredient making up 59 per cent. Next behind it is Hydrogen, making up 21 per cent, the rest are fairly small with nine per cent Carbon Dioxide, seven per cent per cent Methane, and three per cent Oxygen, leaving one per cent other stuff. Hydrogen Sulfide is the compound in them than actually makes them stink.

The average person will actually pass wind up to 14 times per day to produce a half litre (500mls) of flatulence. This gases can travel as fast as seven mph and due to their composition are quite flammable. The top ten animals that can pass the most gas are as follows:

* Termites

* Camels

* Zebras

* Sheep

* Cows

* Elephants

* Labradors/Retrievers (that’s why we blame the dog)

* Humans (Vegetarians)

* Humans (non-Vegetarians)

* Gerbils

* Termites alone produce more methane than cows and even all man-made polluting machinery (but don’t produce other harmful chemicals). Surprisingly even dead people can pass wind.

Contrary to movies and television aimed at school age boys, a big loud one is rarely a stinky one. As you might expect there is actually some science behind this. Most passed wind comes from swallowed air which is mostly nitrogen and carbon dioxide and tend to be fairly odourless.

The bubbles from flatulence are large in volume and can obviously, produce the largest sounds. It is actually the bacterial fermentation and digestions process that produce the various pungent gases. The bubbles for these are usually much smaller and smellier and because of their size do not produce much sound.

Now we know that it is part of the bodies function to emit gases, but there are ways to reduce the amount of gas we produce. Reducing the amount of beans you consume is a start. Beans really do make you pass more wind because of their polysaccharide structure. Polysaccharides are carbohydrate structures that the lower intestine’s bacteria feed on producing extra flatulence.

Other foods that will produce more gas are: Corn, Bell Peppers, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Milk, Bread, Eggs, Beer, Raisins, Brussel Sprouts, Lentils, Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Oats, Yeast, Radishes, Sweet Potatoes, and Cashews.

As funny or annoying as it can be, gas build up in the stomach, especially bad smelling gas, can be a symptom of food allergies. Gas formation can be an allergic reaction. Gas is formed in the stomach and digestive system in several ways.

The first and most common reason for gas in the stomach is caused by eating too quickly and swallowing too much air. Accumulated gas from eating too fast is usually released from the system by burping. Gas taken in while eating doesn’t often have a chance to make it farther into the digestive system. Gas that causes bloating and forms further down in the digestive tract is caused by the body not being able to properly digest the food.

We have seen how some foods produce gas in the digestive system. Foods that contain certain fibre and sugar combinations can create a great deal of stomach gas. As these foods are digested and the sugars and fibres broken down in the stomach and digestive tract, gas is formed. Every kind of food affects different people differently. Some of these foods cause more problems with gas than others. And eating these foods quickly with almost ensure a gas attack.

Greasy, spicy, fried and processed foods can cause problems with stomach gas and flatulence. Foods that aren’t prepared properly will often set off a gas or indigestion attack. This is a warning system within the body that a possibly toxic substance has been ingested.

Sometimes however, an attack of gas occurs as an allergic reaction to certain foods. Gas, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) bloating, sour stomach, indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea all these are tools that the body uses to rid itself of substances it perceives as dangerous.

This type of allergic reaction is not so dangerous, generally as the anaphylactic shock allergic reactions, but it can be a warning signal and should not be ignored. Especially if the issue occurs repeatedly after consuming certain foods.

Apart from choosing the right foods, we can also use certain medicines to help. Simethecone or Dimethecone are both helpful. These molecules lubricate the alimentary canal, thus preventing gas build up. They also “cut the gas into little bubbles”, hence preventing the bloating associated with gas build up.

They are marketed as either Ovol or Infacol and when used should be taken or given over a couple days. Both of these products do not enter the blood stream, so they should not cause over dosage or interaction issues.

So in summary you all do it, so stop blaming the quiet or shy one in the room. It is natural. You can reduce the frequency based on what you eat and if it is frequent and smelly, consider seeing your doctor (remember it makes no sense being embarrassed to go — as the doctor may be passing wind whilst you are explaining).

Excuse me…

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