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Investigation of normal flatus production in healthy volunteers.
  1. J Tomlin,
  2. C Lowis,
  3. N W Read
  1. Sub-department of Human Gastrointestinal Physiology and Nutrition, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield.

    Abstract

    Flatulence can cause discomfort and distress but there are few published data of normal patterns and volumes. Twenty four hour collections were made using a rectal catheter in 10 normal volunteers taking their normal diet plus 200 g baked beans. Total daily volume ranged from 476 to 1491 ml (median 705 ml). Women and men (both n = 5) expelled equivalent amounts. The median daily flatus hydrogen volume was 361 ml/24 h (range 42-1060) and the carbon dioxide volume 68 ml/24 h (range 25-116), three volunteers produced methane (3, 26, and 120 ml/24 h), and the remaining unidentified gas (presumably nitrogen) or gases contributed a median 213 ml/24 h (range 61-476). Larger volumes of flatus were produced after meals than at other times. Flatus produced at a faster rate tended to contain more fermentation gases. Flatus was produced during the sleeping period, but the rate was significantly lower than the daytime rate (median 16 and 34 ml/h respectively). Ingestion of a 'fibre free' diet (Fortisip) for 48 hours significantly reduced the total volume collected in 24 hours (median 214 ml/24 h), reduced the carbon dioxide volume (median 6 ml/24 h), and practically eradicated hydrogen production. The volume of unidentified gas was not significantly affected (median 207 ml/24 h). Thus fermentation gases make the highest contribution to normal flatus volume. A 'fibre free' diet eliminates these without changing residual gas release of around 200 ml/24 h.

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