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General characteristics

General characteristics

Flatulence is described as the passing of gases, formed as a result of the digestion of food, through the anus.

The flatus itself (the fart) is composed mainly of nitrogen and oxygen which are swallowed when eating; and carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane which are the natural byproducts of the action of digestive juices and intestinal bacteria on foodstuffs passing through the digestive tract. The majority of these gases are absorbed into the intestines and pass into the blood to be dealt with accordingly while some remain in the intestines and need to be expelled physically in the form of wind.

A 'normal' person produces about half a litre of gas a day and passes wind between 3 and 40 times daily with the average being around 14 times. Some people may not consider flatulence to a be a problem but it can be embarrassing if the wind is smelly or particularly noisy or frequent.

Diet and eating habits often have a big role to play in the amount of wind passed, as does the bacterial population of the intestines and the presence of bowel and digestive disorders such as Crohns disease or food sensitivities. Other possible causes include low or excessive amounts of stomach and digestive juices, hiatus hernia (belching), certain prescription medications and nervous tension.

Herbs and natural healing aim to correct any underlying causes and provide symptomatic relief.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Try to be relaxed when eating and eat slowly, chewing thoroughly to allow the process of digestion to begin in the mouth. Saliva is an important digestive juice that needs to be mixed thoroughly with each mouthful of food. If you can recognise certain food stuffs in your bowel movements then you haven't chewed enough!

Foods such as fresh pineapple and papaya contain very potent and effective digestive enzymes which facilitate healthy digestion and can reduce the amount of flatulence. Eat a small piece of either after meals or use in capsule form.

Try eating smaller meals as large meals may not be completely digested by the time they reach the end stages. Food then tends to ferment which causes excessive gas production.

Avoid artificial sweeteners and foods containing them (including low sugar and diet foods). Xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol all promote the excess production of gas and other digestive problems such as diarrhoea or loose stools.

Always sit down to eat as you ingest less gases this way.

Don't lie down straight after a meal or eat before going to sleep as this encourages gas production.

Certain sugars and starches present in processed wheat and carbohydrates can cause excess gas production, as can vegetables such as beans, fruits, members of the cabbage and onion family, milk products and carbonated drinks so limit these while you have the problem.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

The carminative herbs such as dill seeds, aniseed, fennel seeds, star anise, celery seeds, caraway seeds, chamomile, ginger and peppermint calm the intestinal muscles and can lessen the production of gas and ease its passing, making it far less explosive. Make a tea of all or some of the dried herbs and sip after meals.
The bitter digestive herbs such as dandelion root, angelica root, gentian, thyme, sage and wild yam promote the healthy flow of digestive juices and can prevent excessive gas production. Make a mix using equal parts of the tinctures and take a teaspoonful after meals.
Lemon balm is very good at relaxing and calming the entire body and can be drunk throughout the day to relieve tension and lessen flatulence.
Buchu leaf is rich in volatile oils that have a benefical effect on digestion and soothe flatulence.
Chew 5 juniper berries daily.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Take a daily probiotic for a few weeks to re-balance bacterial population in the gut.
Cider vinegar can also help reduce flatulence by encouraging a more healthy bacterial population in the gut. A teaspoon in a little water after meals can be of benefit.
Try a quarter teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a little water an hour before meals.

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