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Monday, May 13, 2013

Can Flatulence Be Related to Serious Health Problems?

Published on May 6, 2013

People experience varying levels of flatulence for varying reasons. Although most flatulence is a normal part of digestion, sometimes flatulence can indicate the presence of health problems. Everyone’s body is unique and only a visit with your healthcare provider should be used to identify health problems. However, for the sake of discussion, let’s take a look at a few examples of when flatulence may be related to more serious health concerns.

1. Flatulence May Be Caused By Intestinal Imbalances

The human gut contains millions of microorganisms that either fall into the category of healthy probiotic colonies that support digestion, or unhealthy bacterial overgrowth that produces abdominal discomfort, bloating and flatulence. [1] Obviously, beneficial flora is more desirable as it aids digestion and will not produce the same intestinal ailments. Many people have found that adding a probiotic supplement to their nutritional protocol helps to encourage a balance of healthy intestinal flora that decrease bloating and flatulence. [2] Additionally, performing a harmful organism cleanse can help your body’s natural defenses against harmful invaders that are clogging your body and affecting your digestion.

2. Flatulence May Indicate Disease

It’s important to stress that most flatulence is normal and being flatulent doesn’t mean you’re ill. However, gas is a common symptom of several gastrointestinal disorders:
  • Diverticular disease, an uncomfortable ailment of the colon, is recognized by abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and flatulence. [3]
  • Lactose intolerance, triggered by the ingestion of dairy products and one of the most common digestive disorders, may produce nausea, cramps, and flatulence. [4]
  • Intestinal gas can be an early indication of pancreatitis. [5]
  • IBD suffers have reported experiencing flatulence with strange odors. [6]
Research has shown that intestinal disorders can affect the metabolism of intestinal flora and that may alter flatulence odor. If you or your peers notice that your flatulence is worsening in severity, odor, or frequency, it’s best to be on the safe side and talk with your health care provider.

3. Flatulence Affects Quality of Life

Flatulence should never ruin anyone’s day, but, unfortunately, persons who suffer from flatal incontinence often report feelings of embarrassment and isolation. It’s an intimate problem and can affect the most intimate areas of life, including social interactions, self-image, sexuality, and psychological well-being. [7] Surveys among colostomy bag users indicate that flatulence and odor are two of the top five fears they face on an every day basis. [8] Women who have experienced childbirth have an increased risk for pelvic floor dysfunction, which increases the likelihood of experiencing flatal incontinence; a condition many have reported as significantly reducing their quality of life. [9] [10] Although many people appreciate the humorous side to flatulence, for some folks who can’t control it, it’s just not funny. Sensitivity and respect for all people, especially those with medical issues, is appropriate protocol for all of us to follow.

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM

  1. Gasbarrini A, Lauritano EC, Gabrielli M, Scarpellini E, Lupascu A, Ojetti V, Gasbarrini G. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: diagnosis and treatment. Dig Dis. 2007;25(3):237-40.
  2. Quigley EM. Probiotics in the management of colonic disorders. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2007 Oct;9(5):434-40. Review.
  3. Augustyn M, Grys I. [Diverticular disease--the rules of management]. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2009 May;26(155):559-61. Review. Polish.
  4. Hutyra T, Iwańczak B. [Lactose intolerance: pathophysiology, clinical symptoms, diagnosis and treatment]. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2009 Feb;26(152):148-52. Review. Polish.
  5. Liu Y, Luo HS. Quantitative analysis of intestinal gas in patients with acute pancreatitis. Hepatobiliary Pancreat Dis Int. 2012 Jun;11(3):314-8.
  6. Probert CS. Role of faecal gas analysis for the diagnosis of IBD. Biochem Soc Trans. 2011 Aug;39(4):1079-80. doi: 10.1042/BST0391079.
  7. Annells M. The experience of flatus incontinence from a bowel ostomy: a hermeneutic phenomenology. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2006 Sep-Oct;33(5):518-24.
  8. Williams J. Flatus, odour and the ostomist: coping strategies and interventions. Br J Nurs. 2008 Jan 24-Feb 13;17(2):S10, S12-4. Review.
  9. Steinberg AC, Collins SA, O’Sullivan DM. The impact of flatal incontinence on quality of life. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Nov;201(5):539.e1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2009.07.050. Epub 2009 Aug 28.
  10. Altman D, Falconer C, Rossner S, Melin I. The risk of anal incontinence in obese women. Int Urogynecol J Pelvic Floor Dysfunct. 2007 Nov;18(11):1283-9. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

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