Breaking wind is perfectly normal, but some days you can be more gassy than others. So when should you be worried? Even the experts can’t agree what is ‘normal’.
The NHS, says it means breaking wind roughly 15 times a day, but according to digestive health charity Guts UK, anything up to 40 is healthy.
‘Frequency isn’t so important,’ says Dr Rehan Haidry, consultant gastroenterologist at The London Clinic. ‘But if it is very smelly and comes with bloating and pain in the tummy, it’s concerning.’
What causes it?
Even in healthy people, foods such as onions, garlic and beans generate a lot of gas, as do carbonated drinks. But some suffer more than others, and feel pain, bloating and a change in bowel habits.
‘The most common cause of excess flatulence is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small bowel, called SIBO,’ says Dr Haidry.
‘These bacteria release gases as they react with compounds in foods. And because the small bowel is small and narrow, the gas gets squeezed out.
‘It often results in bloating and pain, too.’
The condition, diagnosed using either a food diary or breath test, is considered to be a type of irritable bowel syndrome. But GP Sasha Green warns: ‘If there are multiple symptoms, more serious problems such as lactose intolerance, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel conditions and bowel cancer may be to blame.’
What can be done about excess flatulence?
Dr Green recommends trying the over-the-counter medication simethicone, which can help some people as it breaks up gas bubbles in the stomach.
As for SIBO, antibiotics usually kills the nasty gut bug within a month, stopping symptoms, says Dr Haidry.
‘Reduce foods such as beans, onions, garlic, cabbage and artificial sweeteners – those prone to SIBO find these particularly difficult to digest,’ he adds.
Dr Green adds: ‘A study has shown that underwear made with charcoal absorbs smell.’ These are available online.