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Farties in the 50s: Why men start breaking wind
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Farties in the 50s: Why men start breaking wind

Abdominal fullness, bloating and movement of gas in the abdomen are very uncomfortable, yet common and usually easy to deal with

flatulence

Flatulence may be an embarrassing bodily function but one thing we know for certain is that everybody has encountered it. But if you are a man over 50 and you are suddenly suffering from an excess of flatulence, you might want to take a step back and figure out what you are dealing with.

According to the US National Library of Medicine, gas forms in the digestive tract for two reasons: from the air that one swallows and from the breakdown of undigested food by the trillions of bacteria that live in the large intestine. And it is natural and healthy for people in general to experience intestinal gas and pass it several times a day varying from smelly to odourless.

“For some people, intestinal gas may be mild, while for others it can indicate a more serious digestive problem, such as a bowel obstruction or even a malabsorption disorder, especially in men over the age of fifty,” says Bengaluru-based integrative nutrition and health coach, Mariam Begg.

She further explains how gas moving through the digestive tract can stretch the stomach and intestines resulting in a sharp, jabbing pain and bloating or cramping that is highly uncomfortable. .

What causes flatulence?

“Food intolerance is a very common cause of bad odour flatulence. Typical conditions that can cause smelly flatulence include lactose and gluten intolerances. In both of these conditions, the body’s inability to break down lactose or gluten causes smelly gas to build up and eventually be released,” Begg elaborates.

“Fibre can aid digestion, but a sudden increase in fibre intake can lead to gas and bloating. Oat bran, peas and fruits contain soluble fibre and produce the greatest amounts of gas. If a person wants to boost the fibre intake, the best strategy is to add one serving a day. A person should also drink plenty of water to help the fibre dissolve better,” she says, adding that certain medications, while they digest, can cause smelly gas.

Dr Christopher Pais, an internal medicine specialist based in Mangaluru says how antibiotics can cause an imbalance in the digestive system and hence create gas. “Antibiotics for example may kill off some of the healthy or good bacteria in the digestive tract while they destroy an infection. The removal of the good bacteria causes an imbalance in the digestive tract. The imbalance can cause a person to produce bad-smelling gas leading to uncomfortable bloating and constipation. Many reasons for smelly flatulence revolve around food or medication. However, some causes may indicate an underlying health condition,” says Dr Pais.

How do you overcome flatulence?

The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, a non-profit education and research organisation based in South Carolina recommends dietary changes that may reduce gas, and can possibly be a quick and easy way to address the issue.

They suggest that keeping a food diary can help a person pinpoint problematic foods and food groups that cause the body to produce excessive gas. Especially dietary sugars, raffinose – an ingredient in beans and green vegetables, lactose present in milk and dairy products, fructose from onions, artichokes and wheat, sorbitol – an artificial sweetener in sugar-free foods and starchy foods like potatoes, corn and lentils, can cause gas. Keeping a weekly record of meals taken and accompanying symptoms can help a person identify specific trigger foods.

Begg also suggests eliminating one type of food that causes gas for a few days, observing changes in symptoms and moving on to the next.

When do you consult a doctor?

When there is blood in the stool, fever, vomiting, persistent diarrhoea, heartburn or unexplained weight loss, a visit to the doctor is advised.  Excessive gas coupled with other ailments like abdominal pain could be a symptom of gastritis, says the coach.

It can be tricky to decide if one’s gas production is excessive but if it doesn’t resolve itself or if it’s paired with other persistent symptoms, it may be wise to consult a doctor.

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