Abdominal distension and occurrence of gas need not be a complaint of elderly alone. Belching and farting are usually considered normal.
Abdominal distension and occurrence of gas need not be a complaint of elderly alone. Belching and farting are usually considered normal. However, if somebody passes gas (flatulate) more than 20 times a day, it may be due to some disease which requires evaluation. It can also be a major concern for the caregivers of elderly.
Chances of accumulation of gas increases with age due to alterations in digestion and multiple drugs consumed for several other illnesses. Gastrointestinal system normally contains gas from stomach to rectum which is due to the consequence of digestion and swallowing. If intestinal gas is too disturbing and causes abdominal pain, try to identify the exact cause and seek medical help. Many a time, heart disease is perceived as gas and vice versa which can be fatal.
Advancing age may cause digestive process to slow down, resulting in constipation and flatulence. Drinking more water and eating fibre-rich foods can help resolve this issue. Identify food items which can cause excessive gas such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, lentils, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners containing fructose, sorbitol etc. Some diseases such as peptic ulcer, diabetes, Irritable Bowel Syndrome can also result in excess gas. Disturbing belching can result from swallowing more air, smoking and overeating.
Treatment of underlying specific diseases are important. Antacids, probiotics etc. could be very helpful. Farting can be embarassing for households but apart from the smell and sound, it is normal in the majority of elderly and only rarely is a signal of a serious disease.
(The author is a geriatric expert and chairman and managing director of Jothydev’s Diabetes Research Centre in Thiruvananthapuram)