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A to Z: Flatulence, Eructation, and Gas Pain

May also be called: Intestinal Gas, Gas in the Digestive Tract, Gas

Flatulence (FLA-chuh-lents), eructation (eh-ruk-TAY-shun), and gas pain are signs of excess gas in the digestive tract.

More to Know

Flatulence is the medical term for passing gas through the anus. Eructation is the medical term for belching, burping, or passing gas through the mouth. Gas pain is often referred to as bloating. Any of these conditions can be a sign of a larger than normal amount of gas in the digestive tract. Gas, made up of carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane and sulfur, is always present in the digestive tract, but too much can be embarrassing and sometimes painful.

Gas gets into the digestive tract in two ways. First, people swallow air when they eat, drink, chew gum, or suck on a hard candy. Second, bacteria that live in the digestive tract make gas as they break down certain foods in the large intestine. Extra air can get into the digestive tract from eating or drinking too fast, drinking soda and other carbonated drinks, or smoking. Some foods – especially vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products – reach the large intestine undigested before the bacteria break them down. Too much of those foods can give a person excess gas.

Flatulence and eructation are normal ways of passing excess gas, but if they happen too often they can be signs of a digestive disorder. A person with excess intestinal gas may have celiac disease, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or gastroesophageal (GAS-tro-ih-saw-fuh-JEE-ul) reflux disease (GERD). If a child passes a lot of gas it may also be a sign that he or she is constipated. Treating and preventing the constipation may help reduce the gas.

Intestinal gas issues are usually treated by avoiding foods that make symptoms worse, changing certain eating habits, and taking medications that reduce gas and control symptoms.

Keep in Mind

In most cases, flatulence, eructation, and gas pain are normal responses to excess gas that should clear up on their own. If they’re severe or they go on for too long, however, these conditions should be checked out by a doctor. Identifying the cause of excess gas and taking steps to avoid it is often enough to control the condition.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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