Gaseous belching, bloating, and flatulence are common complaints. These symptoms may herald the onset of important and treatable gastrointestinal diseases or may represent functional bowel disorders. The clinical challenge is to identify a cause so as to exclude serious gastrointestinal diseases and provide symptomatic relief. Detailed history taking and examination provide the basis for appropriate testing that may provide vital clues. Among otherwise healthy patients, intolerance to lactose or other food items is a common source of symptoms. This cause can be evaluated noninvasively using the breath hydrogen test. A clear understanding of the underlying pathophysiology paves the way for a rational approach to treatment, such as withdrawal of an offending food item, enzyme supplementation, simple reassurance, or psychotherapy.
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