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Passing wind

On average people pass wind about 15 to 25 times a day. But sometimes illness, what you eat, and stress can increase the amount of wind you pass.

What passing wind is

Passing intestinal gas is called flatus or flatulence and is normal for everyone. Although this is not a serious problem, or a sign that your cancer is getting worse, it can be embarrassing and worrying.

Causes of flatulence

Sometimes cancer or its treatment may create too much gas in the digestive system, making you pass wind more frequently than usual. Several things can make flatulence worse. These include:

  • eating some high fibre foods
  • swallowing too much air
  • drinking gassy drinks, including beer
  • smoking
  • lactose intolerance
  • not being able to absorb fat from the intestine

Tips to reduce wind

It isn’t possible to stop flatulence altogether but there are things that you can do to help control it. Try some of the following:

  • avoiding foods that make it worse, such as cabbage, corn, brussel sprouts, onions, beans and cauliflower
  • eating slowly and chewing your food for longer – this reduces the amount of air you swallow and helps to break your food down before it enters your stomach and bowel
  • activated charcoal tablets or powders - these can absorb smell and may help
  • eating ginger - this is said to help digestion
  • drinking peppermint tea

You may also find it better to eat 6 small meals a day, rather than 3 large ones. Smaller meals are easier to digest and may produce less wind.

There are some medicines that can help to reduce wind. Speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about which one may be best for you.

Some processed foods contain ingredients that can cause wind - for example sweeteners or preservatives. You can reduce wind by cutting out some foods. These include:

  • any foods that contain artificial sweeteners
  • sugar free sweets and chewing gum
  • fizzy drinks

What to do if the problem continues

Talk to your specialist nurse or doctor if the wind continues. They may be able to prescribe medicines to help. They can also refer you to a dietitian who will be able to recommend other changes you can make to your diet.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.