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6-minute read

Key facts

  • Flatulence is when gas or wind passes from your intestine (bowel) through your anus.
  • Flatulence may make a sound, and sometimes smell.
  • Flatulence is normal, but excessive flatulence can be embarrassing and may be a sign of a health issue.
  • Flatulence can be related your diet, the type of bacteria that live in your gut and medicines you are taking.

What is flatulence?

Flatulence is the passing of wind (air or gas) from your intestine (bowel) through your anus.

It is often accompanied by a sound and smell. Flatulence is commonly called:

  • farting
  • breaking or passing wind
  • flatus

Most people pass wind between 7 and 12 times a day.

Excessive flatulence can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. It can sometimes indicate a medical problem.

What symptoms are related to flatulence?

There are usually no symptoms when flatulence is at a normal level. You might not even notice when you pass wind for much of the time.

Depending on the cause of your flatulence, you may notice that:

  • you have pain, bloating or rumbling in your abdomen (tummy)
  • your farts are sometimes loud or smelly
  • you have a rash or hives
  • you have headaches

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes flatulence?

Around 25 litres of gas are produced in your gut every day. Lots of this gas is reabsorbed or used by your body. The average person creates around 2 litres of flatulence.

Gas in your gut can come from:

  • the breakdown and digestion of food
  • swallowed air
  • bacteria that live in your gut

The amount of gas you create is influenced by:

  • the type of bacteria that live in your gut
  • what you eat and drink

Foods that may cause excessive flatulence are usually high in fibre or FODMAPs.

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are types of sugars that are hard to digest.

FODMAP foods include:

  • fresh and dried fruits, such as apples, pears and raisins
  • onion and garlic
  • nuts and seeds
  • beans and peas and some other vegetables
  • breads

Other foods that can cause flatulence include:

  • carbonated drinks
  • foods with additives such as artificial sweeteners and flavours
  • coffee
  • chocolate
  • shellfish

Flatulence can also be caused by:

Gas can also be caused by problems with the gut, such as:

  • lactose intolerance (not being able to digest dairy foods)
  • gluten intolerance (not being able to digest foods that contain wheat, barley, oats and rye)

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor if you have severe flatulence, especially if you also have other digestive problems, such as:

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How is flatulence diagnosed?

If you have excessive flatulence, visit your doctor. They can help diagnose the cause of your flatulence. They may ask you about your:

  • symptoms
  • lifestyle
  • diet
  • current medicines

How is flatulence treated?

Flatulence can be caused by many things.

Different foods affect people’s digestion differently. To treat flatulence caused by your diet, you can work out which foods seem to cause the problem.

You can then avoid these foods or cut back. But it’s important to remember that high-fibre foods form part of a healthy diet. Speak to a dietitian about what is best for you. They may recommend the low FODMAP diet to help control flatulence and bloating.

You can also discuss with your doctor or pharmacist medicines that may help you.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Can flatulence be prevented?

You can prevent flatulence by avoiding:

  • chewing gum
  • fizzy drinks
  • foods with artificial sweeteners
  • foods that cause your flatulence
  • smoking

Be sure to eat and drink slowly, and chew well before you swallow. If you need to add fibre to your diet, do it slowly.

Complications of flatulence

Flatulence can be a sign of other health issues. It can also be embarrassing and affect your confidence.

If flatulence is having an impact on your life, talk to your doctor.

Resources and support

You can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2023

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