Controlling wind and smells
When you have a bowel problem you cannot always control the passage of gas or wind (flatus) from your back passage. Any wind that you do pass may seem to smell offensive. This can often lead to a feeling of embarrassment. There is no simple solution if this is a problem. Here are a few things you can try.
Remember everyone passes wind many times a day. Most people expel about 600ml a day, but some produce up to two litres. The average person at any one time produces about 200ml in the gut. We are much more sensitive to our own smells than other people are. If you know that you have passed wind, you may detect a smell no-one else has noticed.
Food and eating
Some foods create more wind than others – especially foods high in fibre. When the normal bacteria in the bowel digest these, they produce gas as a by-product. However, this is very individual and not all foods will affect one person the same as another. It is worth experimenting to see which foods make things worse for you and avoiding them.
Foods which may increase wind
This list is not exhaustive:
- Beans (including baked and kidney beans)
- Peas, lentils and pulses
- Nuts (especially peanuts)
- Bran cereal or other foods high in bran, brown rice/pasta
- Cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and broccoli
- Milk and milk products
- Jacket potato skins
- Leeks, swede and parsnips
- Apples, raisins and prunes
Slimming foods containing fructose or sorbitol can also cause wind as well as hot, spicy and fatty foods.
Sometimes ways in which you eat can mean that you swallow a lot of air with your food:
- Eat a little more slowly
- Chew each mouthful carefully (especially if food is high in fibre)
- Avoid talking too much when you are eating
- Even if you are in a hurry, do not be tempted to wash half-chewed food down with a gulp of drink
Eating little and often can help make it easier for your intestines to cope and decrease wind production. Regular meal times can help as an empty bowel produces more wind and gurgles.
This does not mean you have to make your life miserable by avoiding things that you like. However, do try to eat a balanced diet and make a note of anything that makes a difference to you. Then you have a choice.
Caffeine (in tea, coffee, cola) has a tendency to increase bowel activity for some people and may increase wind. Try decaffeinated tea and coffee for a week to see if this makes a difference. Fizzy drinks, beer and lager also increase wind for some people. Excess alcohol intake will cause more wind than usual the next day for most people.
Eating and drinking at the same time can also increase the amount of air you swallow, so try drinking before or after a meal rather than with it.
There is almost no scientific research on this, so the following suggestions are simply products that some people have said they found helpful in reducing wind or the smell from wind (again very individual).
- Peppermint oil
- Charcoal tablets
- Aloe vera capsules or drink
- Cranberry juice
Controlling or disguising smells
If you are producing a lot of wind that you cannot control, some of these may help:
- Try to ensure good ventilation of the room you are in
- Use an aromatherapy oil burner, scented candle or incense stick
- Use aerosol air freshener sparingly. Some smell obvious, or even worse than the smell you are trying to disguise
- There are solid block air fresheners that will work all the time – available from chemists and supermarkets
- Essential oils such as lavender can be helpful
Your chemist may stock some deodorants specifically designed to control smells from urine and faeces. Neutradol spray or gel (MS George Ltd), Atmocol (Seton Healthcare) Chironair (Sims Portex), Daydrop (Loxley Medical) are among the most commonly available.
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