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Herbs, Pills and Potions: Five Approaches To Excess Intestinal Gas

Updated on August 4, 2012

What To Do About Excess Gas.

Have you got a bad case of the gas? (Oh, all right, enough pussyfooting around: do you have dreadful wind? Awful farts?) Most of us are a little gassy from time to time, especially if we've indulged in, oh, baked beans, brussels sprouts, or whatever your personal gaseous bete noir may be. But some people suffer more than others! (And so do the people around them...) But is there anything you can do about a bad case of flatulence? Let's have a look at the ten treatments below...

boulanger.IE on Flickr - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
boulanger.IE on Flickr - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) | Source

Activated Charcoal Tablets

This is an old traditional one, probably recommended by your granny. Especially if she sat near you at teatime. Charcoal is the end-product of burnt wood and theoretically will soak up any noxious gases in your gastrointestinal tract. Does it work? Some people claim so: however in a 2006 review of the literature, Scarpignato and Lanas found it not to relieve flatulence in functional bowel disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.[6] As a substance it is available in many forms including tablets.


Simethicone is the medical or generic name for this treatment: you may be more familiar with it under 'brand' names such as Windeze and Maalox. It has a good reputation for being effective to some degree if eaten with meals: it has been approved in America by the FDA, and is described to work by gathering all gas bubbles together for easier passage via flatus or eructation.[2] This product is designed more for the easing of trapped painful wind rather than the noxious type. It may be found combined in formulations with antacids.

Peppermint oil

If you have complained of excessive gas - or even just really bad farts - to your medical practitioner you may possibly have been prescribed some gastro-resistant peppermint oil capsules. Perhaps the theory is that even if you do toot, at least your toots will smell 'minty'! Rather the same thinking as in the use of mouthwash and breathmints at the other functional end. However some study results suggest that peppermint oil may have some effectiveness against symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as described in the Rome II criteria.[3] In other formulations herbalists may suggest its use either externally or internally for various ailments. Herbalists view peppermint oil as being more stimulating than peppermint tea.

Peppermint tea

This herbal tea, widely used for many years to aid and relieve stomach troubles, is available in any health-food shop or supermarket. Herbalists may view it as being milder and more relaxing than the use of peppermint oil, which is viewed as being more stimulating. They may recommend its use either internally or externally, even possibly added to a bath. It can be found loose or packaged in teabags, and of course you can always go the route of growing your own for nice fresh leaves!

Indigestion tablets or antacids

These are the indigestion pills and potions you can usually buy over the counter. They tend to contain varying proportions of calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate and perhaps may be formulated in combination with other active ingredients e.g. simethicone. Most indigestion tablets claim to treat flatulence along with other symptoms of indigestion. They are at least usually reasonably inexpensive and swift in action: they may be combined with other products e.g. H2 receptor antagonists or proton pump inhibitors, to combine length of action with speed of effectiveness. The sodium content of antacids means your medical practitioner or pharmacist may not recommend them for individuals with kidney problems or other medical conditions.


1 De Stefano, M., Miceli, E., Gotti, S., Missanelli, A., Mazzocchi, S., Corazza, G.R. 'The Effect of Oral ╬▒-Galactosidase on Intestinal Gas Production and Gas-Related Symptoms.' Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 52(1); pp.78-83.

2 Pray, W.S. 'Nonprescription product therapeutics.' Baltimore; Lipincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2006.

3 Cappelloa, G., Spezzaferroa,M., Grossia,L., Manzolib, L., Marzioa, L. 'Peppermint oil (Mintoil®) in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A prospective double blind placebo-controlled randomized trial'. Digestive and Liver Disease. 39(6); 2007: pp. 530-536.

4 Gaeddert, A. 'Healing Digestive Disorders, Third Edition: Natural Treatments for Gastrointestinal Conditions.' Berkeley; North Atlantic Books/Get Well Foundation: 2008.

5 Zuccaroli, J., 'Abdominal Pain'. Professional Nursing Today. 11(4); 2007: pp. 35-37.

6 Scarpignato, C., Lanas, A. "Bacterial flora in digestive disease: focus on rifaximin." Bacterial Flora In Digestive Disease. 73.1 (2006): p.41.


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