Flatulence: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Flatulence?

  • Flatulence is a medical term for releasing gas from the digestive system through the anus. It is commonly known as farting, passing wind, or having gas. It occurs when food does not break down completely in the stomach and small intestine.
  • Gas collects in two main ways. First, when you swallow air during eating or drinking, oxygen and nitrogen collect in the digestive tract. Second, as you digest food, digestive gases such as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide collect. Either case can cause flatulence.
  • All people pass gas, some people more than others. It is normal to pass gas from 6 to 20 times per day.


The doctor will check the patient medical history, ask questions about dietary habits, and carry out a physical exam. He/she will check to determine whether there is any distension in the abdomen and listen for a hollow sound by tapping the abdomen (a hollow sound usually means there is gas).

FAQs prepared by doctor

Q1.  Where do farts go when you hold them in? Does it leak out slowly without the person knowing it? Is it absorbed into the bloodstream? What happens to it?
It simply migrates back upward into the intestine and comes out later. It is reassuring to know that such farts are not really lost, just delayed.

Q2.  Is a fart really just a burp that comes out the wrong end?
No, a burp emerges from the stomach and has a different chemical composition from a fart. Farts have less atmospheric gas content and more bacterial gas content than burps.
Q3.  Breastfed babies do they need to be burped?
  • No
  • Many breastfed babies don t swallow as much air as bottle-fed babies do when feeding. As a result, they don t necessarily need help to get air out of their tummies. Some, though like those who are upset when they nurse, or those whose moms produce an overabundance of milk or have a very swift milk letdown do gulp air as they take in their milk. And these babies may need some burping to get comfy again.

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