Treating flatulence 

Excessive flatulence can usually be treated by making changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Several over-the-counter treatments are also available if your flatulence is becoming a problem.

Self care advice

Diet

You should try to avoid eating foods high in unabsorbable carbohydrates. For a list of these foods, see causes of flatulence. Certain processed foods should also be avoided as they can contain ingredients that cause flatulence, including:

  • any foods with artifical sweeteners
  • sugar-free sweets or chewing gum
  • fizzy drinks

However, it's still important to eat a healthy balanced diet, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Choose foods containing carbohydrates that are easy to digest. These include:

  • potatoes
  • rice
  • lettuce
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • citrus fruits, such as oranges
  • yoghurt

It's important to note that people react differently to certain foods, so some foods listed above may still cause flatulence. You may find it useful to keep a food diary to see whether certain foods make your symptoms better or worse.

You may also find it useful to eat six small meals a day rather than three large ones. Smaller meals are easier to digest and may produce less gas.

There's some evidence to suggest drinking peppermint tea can help improve the symptoms of flatulence. There's also some evidence that small amounts of ginger can help with digestion or an upset stomach, which may be causing flatulence. However, pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking ginger.

Swallowing air

When eating, make sure you chew food slowly to reduce the amount of air you swallow. This will also help with digestion. Avoid chewing gum as it can also cause you to swallow more air than usual.

You should also give up smoking, if you smoke. Smoking can cause you to swallow more air than usual, and tobacco smoke can irritate your digestive system. See stop smoking for more information and advice about quitting smoking.

Exercise

Getting plenty of exercise can help improve the functioning of your digestive system and bowel. It has also been shown to help with bloating and the passage of gas.

Medications and other remedies

There are several over-the-counter remedies that can help treat the symptoms of flatulence, some of which are described below.

Charcoal tablets

Charcoal tablets are a type of medication available over the counter from pharmacists. The charcoal absorbs gas in the digestive system, which helps reduce symptoms.

Charcoal tablets may not be suitable for you if you are currently taking other medication. This is because the charcoal might absorb the medication and make it less effective. If you are taking other medication, ask your GP or pharmacist for advice before taking charcoal tablets.

Clothing containing activated charcoal, or charcoal pads placed inside clothing, can help absorb foul-smelling gas released during flatulence. These products can be purchased online.

Simethicone is another over-the-counter medication that can also sometimes help with gas problems.

Dietary supplements

Alpha-galactosidase is a dietary supplement that may help improve the digestion of carbohydrates and reduce symptoms of flatulence. It's found in a product called Beano, which has been shown to have some effect in reducing flatulence and is available from some pharmacists and health food shops.

Probiotics may also be useful in treating flatulence. Probiotics are a dietary supplement, usually sold in liquid or capsule form, which encourages the growth of "friendly bacteria" in your digestive system.

The "friendly bacteria" should help digestion and reduce the symptoms of flatulence, particularly in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Probiotic yoghurts may also help, but avoid those with artificial sweeteners or added fibre.

See flatulence medicines information for more information about treatments for the problem.

Page last reviewed: 20/03/2015

Next review due: 20/03/2017