Synonyms: Gas, Farts

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Gastroenterology, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Flatulence is gas in the intestines or stomach that is expelled from the anus.  Gas in the digestive tract originates from the normal breakdown of undigested foods by bacteria that normally live in the colon, as well as from swallowing air. While some gas is expelled by burping or belching, other gas is absorbed by the small intestine. Other gas travels to the large intestine and is released through the rectum. On average, people have gas 14 times a day. 

In Our Own Words

Flatulence, more commonly called gas or farts, is the release of gas in the digestive system through the rectum. Foods high in carbohydrates (e.g., bread and potatoes) can cause gas, as can beans, milk products, onions, carbonated beverages and soluble fiber (found in oat bran and most fruits). The odor of gas originates from bacteria in the large intestine that release some gases containing sulfur.


Flatulence is rarely a serious condition, although it can cause abdominal pain and embarrassment. It can be reduced by dietary changes; by decreasing the amount of air that is swallowed; or by taking medications, either over-the-counter or prescription. 

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  • Cleveland Clinic. "Gas." Updated August 2013. http://my.clevelandclinic.org. Accessed August 2013.
  • American College of Gastroenterology. "Belching, Bloating, and Flatulence." http://patients.gi.org. Accessed August 2013.
  • Harvard Health Publications. "Medical Dictionary of Health Terms." http://www.health.harvard.edu. Accessed August 2013.
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