Flatulence is a relatively common problem. In the vast majority of cases it is just an unpleasantly perceived natural process of intestinal gases formation and their evacuation in form of more or less odorous winds.


Intestinal gases are created in everyone. Main causative factor is intestinal microflora inhabitating colon in large numbers. The gas usually contains carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen sulfide. In addition to produced gas there is also gas swallowed when eating in the intestines.



Some food is known for its association with flatulence. It is especially food containing certain types of carbohydrates such as beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, cabbage, radish, cauliflower and turnips. It should be noted that gas production caused by eating these dietary products is individual. Some people have digestive problems and others do not.

Swallowed air

Air that we swallow (usually while hastily eating) is either belched out or it gets into the intestines.

Milk intolerance

This may be a congenital or acquired condition. It is caused by impaired function of intestinal enzyme (lactase) that disintegrates cow milk sugar (lactose). In European population, milk has always been an important source of calcium and therefore inherited forms of milk intolerance are very rare. The lactase enzyme, however, can be easily disturbed during various inflammatory bowel diseases including intestinal infections and untreated celiac disease. That is the reason why significant percentage of adults has troubles with milk digestion. When lactose is not properly disintegrated and digested, it travels to colon. Colonic bacteria decompose lactose producing intestinal gas.

Digestive tract diseases

Flatulence can sometimes accompany Crohn's disease, diverticular disease or intestinal infections, including parasitic ones. However, let’s repeat that flatulence is mostly just a banal symptom without any underlying intestinal disease.


Flatulence is accompanied with feeling of bloating and pressure in the abdomen. This is due to gas presence in the intestine. When a person breaks winds socially inappropriate sound occurs as leaving gas vibrates the anal sphincter. Escaped winds smell because of methane and hydrogen sulfide presence.


The above processes are quite natural to some extent. Stoppage of winds is a much bigger problem as it is one of possible symptoms of intestinal obstruction. It is wise to start the therapy by diet changes. Food composition is of a great importance. Great importance has food composition. The patient should avoid food causing him troubles or eat smaller portions. Probiotics can also help by adjusting imbalance of intestinal microflora. Meals should be eaten slowly without haste and every bite shall be cautiously chewed. It is advisable to drink non-sparkling fluids. People with milk intolerance should avoid it and possibly replace milk for other diary products such as cheese and fermented milk products that are usually much better tolerated. Even pharmacotherapy is possible; there are some preparations with anti-foam effect that reduce gas formation.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources