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It’s the food that causes the pain

Many people feel embarrassed to talk openly about flatulence at the pharmacy. Instead, they often refer to it as »digestion problems«. During the consultation, it soon becomes perfectly clear to the pharma­ceutical assistant and the chemist what the customer’s real problem is.
Isabel Weinert & Marta Campbell
12.02.2019  16:36 Uhr

If there is an excessive amount of gas in the bowels, pressure on the intestinal wall causes a pain sensation. The belly bulges and feels tight. Rumbling bowel sounds and strong bubbling in the abdomen are also characteristic.

The affected persons often com­plain of a feeling of fullness and of being »bloated«. In severe cases, colicky pains can develop. In rare cases, heart anxiety and breathing difficulties – the so-called Roemheld syndrome – can also be observed with flatulence.

As burdensome and perhaps even painful flatulence may be, it does not in itself pose a health risk. Slight symptoms can easily be treated by self-medication. Various medicines are available, in particular defoaming sili­cone preparations and herbal medi­cines.

Dimethicone and Simethicone are macromolecules which reduce the surface tension of gas foams in the bowels, thereby allowing the intestinal gases to be better resorbed and to be easier removed in the form of small bubbles. The substances themselves are not resorbed and are very well tolerated. The medicines need to be taken regularly with or after meals. In the case of chewable tablets, it is important that these are finely chewed and then quickly swallowed. As drops, dimethicone and simethicone prepara­tions are also suitable for babies.

A large number of medicinal plants contains ethereal oils which, due to their spasmolytic, digestive and fermentation-repressive effect, can be effectively used for meteorism and flatulence. Peppermint, aniseed, fennel and caraway seeds as tea and tinctures have a long tradition as carminatives. Drugs containing bitter substances such as bitter orange peel, condurango rind, wormwood and gentian root stimulate the appetite and the production of gastric juices and bile. Many preparations and teas contain bitter substances as well as carmina­tives.

Camomile or peppermint tea as well as hot compresses can provide relief from light spasmodic symptoms. For severe spasms butyl scopolamine can be helpful – in the case of recurring spasms and severe complaints, however, it is absolutely necessary to have this examined by a doctor as flatulence can also be a symptom of an illness.

For example, flatulence often occurs in connection with an irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or if certain sugars, such as lactose, fructose or sorbitol cannot be digested or resorbed by endogenous enzymes. Pharma­ceutical assistants and pharmacists can advise the customer to keep a symptoms diary. In this it should be recorded when the symptoms occur, which food has been previously consumed, if there was a bowel movement and if there were any peculiarities in the course of the day. The patient is thereby helping the doctor to find the cause of those symptoms. If it is successfully treated, the pressure in the abdomen and the embarrassing gases will disappear.

If a lack of pancreatic enzymes underlie the digestive disorders, enzyme preparations can be helpful. They are also available in firm combination with defoaming active substances. After an antibiotics therapy or a therapy with acarbose, a disorder of the intestinal flora can occur and impede the enzyme α-glycosidase and thus the degrada­tion of carbohydrates. It is hoped this will only slowly increase the blood glucose level after a meal. But sub­sequently undigested carbo­hydrates increasingly enter the colon resulting in an increased gas formation after a microbial decomposition. The symptoms will turn out milder if medication is dosed gradually in small quantities. As serious illnesses such as intestinal obstruction, pancreatitis, peritonitis, liver cirrhosis or cardiac insufficiency show similar symptoms to meteorism, those concerned should always seek the advice of a doctor if the complaints are severe and persist.

Deutsch / German Englisch / English
Atembeklemmung breathing difficulty
Bauch belly
Bauchspeicheldrüse pancreas
Bittermittel bitter substances
Blähungen flatulence, bloating
Carminativa carminatives
Darmbakterien intestinal bacteria
Darmgeräusche bowel sounds
entschäumen defoaming
Flatulenz flatulence
Herzbeklemmung heart anxiety
Kolik colic
Meteorismus meteorism
Oberflächenspannung surface tension
Pankreasenzyme pancreatic enzyme
Prophylaxe prophylaxis
Reiseapotheke first-aid kit
Reizdarmsyndrom irritable bowel syndrome
Unverträglichkeit intolerance
Verdauungsprobleme digestion problems
Vocabulary on bloating

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