The key difference between flatulence and bloating is that flatulence refers to the passage of rectal gas, while bloating refers to a sense of fullness in the upper abdomen.
Intestinal gas is a subject that people often find difficult to discuss. But all people have gas in their intestinal tract. Normally, intestinal gas can contribute to a sense of bloating (fullness), abdominal cramps, belching, and flatulence (gas). These symptoms are usually brief and resolve once intestinal gas is released by belching or flatulence. However, some people may be more sensitive to even normal amounts of gas and may develop the above symptoms pretty quickly.
What is Flatulence?
Flatulence normally refers to the passage of rectal gas. The rectal gas is generally a combination of swallowed air and gas produced by the action of colon bacteria and undigested carbohydrates. It is commonly known as “passing wind.” Flatulence is a biological process, and everyone experiences this. However, it may also stem from a condition that affects the digestive system. Flatulence can be caused in two main ways: exogenous sources and endogenous sources.
Exogenous sources involve swallowing air while eating and drinking, which causes oxygen and nitrogen to collect in the digestive tract. On the other hand, endogenous sources involve incomplete digestion of certain food in the gut. If any food is not digested completely by the stomach or small intestine, flatulence can occur when it reaches the large intestine. Rarely, underline conditions like constipation, gastroenteritis, lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, diabetes, eating disorders, ulcerative colitis, dumping syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), autoimmune pancreatitis, and peptic ulcers can cause flatulence.
Moreover, flatulence can be diagnosed by examining symptoms and diet, medical history, physical examination, X-ray, blood test, and stool test. Furthermore, treatments for flatulence include avoiding food known to cause flatulence, eating smaller and more frequent meals, eating and drinking slowly, exercising regularly, and medications such as charcoal tablets or simethicone.
What is Bloating?
Bloating is a symptom that refers to a sense of fullness in the upper abdomen. Sometimes, people may confuse bloating with other reasons like abdominal wall laxity or looseness. The causes of bloating include constipation, gut sensitivity (people with inflammatory bowel syndrome), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), and gynaecological conditions such as problems with ovaries and uterus.
Moreover, bloating can be diagnosed through physical examination. The treatments for bloating include avoiding food causing bloating (bean and lentils, brussels sprouts, sweeteners like sorbitol, dairy products, whole grains), avoiding habits that cause bloating (drinking through a straw, chewing gum, guzzling carbonated beverages, sucking on hard candy), medication like alpha D galactosidase, buscopan, and simethicone.
What are the Similarities Between Flatulence and Bloating?
- Flatulence and bloating are two symptoms that develop due to intestinal gas.
- Both are associated with problems in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Both are diagnosed through physical examination.
- They are treated through diet management and medications like simethicone.
What is the Difference Between Flatulence and Bloating?
Flatulence refers to the passage of rectal gas while bloating refers to a sense of fullness in the upper abdomen. Thus, this is the key difference between flatulence and bloating. Moreover, flatulence is caused by two main ways: swallowing air while eating and drinking and incomplete digestion of certain food in the gut, and underline conditions. On the other hand, bloating is caused by include constipation, gut sensitivity (people with inflammatory bowel syndrome), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), and gynecological conditions.
The below infographic presents the differences between flatulence and bloating in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Flatulence vs Bloating
Intestinal gas is a mix of odourless vapours, including oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, and methane. Flatulence and bloating are two symptoms that develop due to intestinal gas. Flatulence refers to the passage of rectal gas while bloating refers to the sense of fullness in the upper abdomen. So, this is the key difference between flatulence and bloating.
1. “Digestion problems concept, stomach heaviness and flatulence” By Marco Verch Professional Photography (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
2. “Fast food effects on human body (en)” By Healthline (text captions)User:Adert (SVG human body diagram)User:Mess (text & diagram adaptation) – Ann Pietrangelo (2018-09-17). “The Effects of Fast Food on the Body”. Healthline. (text captions)File:Manifestazioni Sindrome Behçet.svg (SVG human body diagram) (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia