Flatulence (Passing Gas)
What is it?
Flatulence is passing gas or passing wind. Everyone passes gas a number of times each day. When you are getting cancer treatment you may have an increase in the amount or frequency of gas passed. There are a number of reasons why this may happen:
- Constipation or diarrhea may cause an increase in how much gas is made. Colorectal cancer, stress, many medications, and radiation therapy can increase your risk of constipation or diarrhea.
- Chemotherapy drugs can change the speed of digestion, either speeding it up or slowing it down. Even when these changes do not cause constipation or diarrhea, they may cause an increase in how much gas is made. Chemotherapy may also change the bacteria that are present in the digestive system, increasing the production of intestinal gas.
- Other medications that can increase intestinal gas are antacids, antibiotics, nutritional supplements, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDS).
Passing gas is normal, but too much gas can be embarrassing or uncomfortable. It can cause cramping, pain or bloating.
How is it managed?
Activities that may help you control excess gas:
- Exercise can help manage constipation and help with digestion. Examples of exercise are walking, swimming or gardening.
- Minimize the amount of air swallowed when eating or drinking. Don't use a straw when drinking, avoid carbonated drinks, and eat slowly with your mouth closed to avoid swallowing air.
- Artificial sweeteners may increase intestinal gas. Limit the use of artificial sweeteners.
- Unless you are told not to, eat high-fiber foods in moderation. Beans, cabbage, many vegetables, and brans are all high-fiber foods. If you are constipated, increase fiber slowly, rather than quickly.
- Dairy products contain lactose. Lactose can be hard to digest and may cause excess gas. Limit dairy in your diet.
- Limit alcohol and smoking as these can interfere with digestion.
When should I contact my care team?
If intestinal gas is causing you cramping, bloating or pain, or you are having other digestive symptoms, such as new onset of constipation, "pencil" stools or blood in stool, contact your care provider.
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Gas (Flatulence). Breastcancer.org. 2019.