The passing of abnormal amounts of gas through the anus, with or without discomfort.

What Is Flatulence?

From Modern Western Medicine

Intestinal gas is created when air is swallowed and makes its way into the intestine. Fermented foods and bacteria in the intestines may also produce gas, which is released through the anus.

From Traditional Medicine

Flatulence occurs when imbalances exist within the digestive system, most often in the spleen. When the spleen is deficient of qi, it cannot send adequate life force to the small and large intestine, resulting in incomplete digestion. Partially digested foods easily ferments and produce gas, which becomes flatulence.

In addition to a weakened spleen, another cause of flatulence may be foods that the body has trouble digesting, such as beans, dairy products, and glutenous grains. Beans and grains can be made more digestible by soaking overnight and then cooking them in fresh water. Finally, certain foods and food combinations can produce indigestion and flatulence. Spicy and acidic foods combined with dairy products or sugar weakens the spleen and begin the cycle that results in gas.

Other factors include drinking with meals, overeating, rushed meals, eating when under stress, and failure to chew adequately. Finally, constipation may also contribute to flatulence.


General Recommendations

  • Eat as simply as possible.
  • Place highest-protein foods at the beginning of the meal.
  • Eat salty foods first, before foods of other flavors.
  • Proteins, fats, and starches combine best with greens and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Fruit and sweetened foods should be eaten alone or in small amounts at the end of the meal.


Foods to Eat

Chinese Medicine

  • Apricot, carrot, fennel, and black pepper congee (see the section on Herbology in Part III for how to make congee)
  • To remove liver excess, unrefined apple cider vinegar, brown rice vinegar, or other quality vinegar. Mix with honey to improve its effect. If someone has heat signs (see the section on Chinese medicine in Part III), vinegar may worsen the condition, as it is a warming food. In that case, it is better to use lemon or lime.
  • Grapefruit peel: simmer fresh or dried peel for 20 minutes, then drink
  • Lemon and lime are good for flatulence and all indigestion
  • Bitter foods such as rye, romaine, asparagus, amaranth, quinoa, radish leaves (use sparingly if you are a frail, generally deficient person; see section on Chinese medicine in Part III)
  • Coriander, cumin, and ginger; add to bean dishes
  • Watercress
  • Alfalfa contains eight enzymes that help assimilate protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Use as sprouts, in tablets, capsules, or powder.


Foods to Avoid

  • Fried foods
  • Hydrogenated fats
  • Sugar
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • All junk food
  • Ice-cold drinks
  • Poor combinations of food


Herbs to Treat Flatulence

  • Charcoal tablets: 1 to 2 per hour for acute flatulence (this treats symptoms and is not for long-term use)
  • Goldenseal: 25 drops in water, three times per day
  • Ginger tea: Grate 2 inches of fresh gingerroot to yield 1½ oz. grated root and make an infusion with 1 pint of water
  • Chai tea: make a big pot and drink regularly. Traditionally enjoyed in India.

1 oz. freshly grated ginger

7 peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

5 cloves

15 cardamom seeds

1 orange peel

1 pint water

Cover pot, heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey.


  • Carbo vegetabilis: for gas and belching one ½ hour after eating, times even the simplest food causes gas; the person wants their clothes loose around the abdomen, and the abdomen is bloated. Dose is 2 tablets, three or four per day. When pain is severe, take 2 tablets every 30 minutes to 1 hour. Decrease frequency of dose with improvement.
  • China: for gas that won’t come up or go down. Belching gives no relief. Stomach feels full and heavy. Dose is the same as carbo vegetabilis.
  • Chamomilla: for an abdomen distended with gas, a bitter taste, cramping, anger or irritability, and sweat after eating or drinking. Dose is the same carbo vegetabilis.
  • Lycopodium: for a feeling of fullness even before finishing eating or after a light meal, bloating, rumbling of gas, discharge of flatus, burning belching, heartburn, or craving for sweets. Dose is the same carbo vegetabilis.