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When flatulence is no laughing matter 

People may laugh when you pass wind but excessive flatulence can be embarrassing and make you feel uncomfortable around others. However, it can usually be controlled with changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Flatulence is a normal biological process and is some-thing everyone experiences regularly. Some people pass wind only a few times a day, others a lot more, but the average is said to be about five to 15 times a day.

When you swallow food, water or saliva, you also swallow small amounts of air, which collects in the digestive system. Gases can also build up when you digest food. The body then needs to get rid of the build-up.

Sometimes you may not notice you have passed wind because most of the gases are odourless and often released in small quantities. Flatulence usually only has a bad smell if it contains gases that smell, such as sulphur. However, it’s important to remember it’s normal for the gas you pass to sometimes smell a bit.

Excessive flatulence can be caused by swallowing more air than usual or eating food that’s difficult to digest. It can also be related to an underlying health problem affecting the digestive system, such as recurring indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

There are no medical guidelines defining the normal frequency or volume of flatulence. You’re probably the best person to assess your own symptoms.

See your GP if your flatulence is particularly troublesome or if you experience additional symptoms, such as persistent abdominal pain and bloating, recurring episodes of diarrhoea or constipation, unexplained weight loss, bowel incon-tinence, blood in your stools (faeces) and/or signs of an infection, such as a high temperature, vomiting, chills, joint pain and muscle pain.

These symptoms could be an indicator of a more serious health problem and may require investigation, such as a blood or stool test to look for an infection.

Controlling the

problem

Excessive flatulence can usually be controlled by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, such as avoiding foods known to cause flatulence, eating smaller and more frequent meals, eating and drinking slowly and exercising regularly.

There are also some over-the-counter medications that can help if your flatulence is troublesome, such as charcoal tablets or simethicone.