Friday, 7 September 2012

Cinema Junkie

A funny thing happened to us at the cinema recently. Having bought our tickets, my wife and i headed to the auditorium, where we had our tickets checked, received our 3D glasses as expected, along with 2 free samples of 'anti-flatulence' medication, which was quite unexpected. Now i know it was nothing personal because they were being given to everybody, but there is just something in this which just doesn't sit comfortable, like a bad case of wind.

There has been a lot written about the powerful and negative influence of pharmaceutical companies in healthcare, particularly over doctors prescribing habits and indeed ourselves as patients. If you are suffering with a headache, then what do you do? Do you simply have a quiet lie down for half an hour in a darkened room, or do you head straight for the medicine cabinet and pop a couple of pain killers? When you visit the doctor it always feels more justified if you walk away with a prescription for something, and adverts are all around us encouraging us to buy medication for conditions such as period pain, prostate problems and acid reflux. The question is do we really need these substances and their physiological effects, and are we too keen nowadays to pop a pill for the slightest symptom, be it a headache or a bad case of gas?

Without exposing the pharmaceutical company and the trade name of the product in question, the generic or chemical name of the drug is simethicone. Simethicone is an 'over-the-counter' or OTC preparation. This means that you don't need a prescription from a doctor for it. It is an 'anti-foaming agent' used to break down all the little bubbles of gas in your stomach and intestines into much bigger bubbles, which helps to release gas quicker in order to relieve bloating and excess wind. It allegedly has no side effects but people with any pre-existing conditions or allergies and women who are pregnant or breast feeding should seek advice from a doctor before taking it. It is also sometimes used in the manufacture of some detergents when "foam is not desired". Great on a first date i imagine as you are just about to get all romantic in the back row of the cinema when all of a sudden, "look out, there she blows!"

But is farting in the cinema really a major problem in society? Is there actual evidence to suggest that flatulence increases during cinema visits?  Maybe it could be the stress of the first date with that girl that you've being trying to impress for months. When the one thing you want to behave itself is your digestive system, but oh no, the unique conditions of  a darkened cinema auditorium has tricked your bowels into thinking that its safe to let loose, resulting in waves of smelly farts. Perhaps its the super-size barrel of coke and bucket of popcorn and nachos that people normally consume, because the larger deal just always makes more economic sense than the medium deal, even though the small deal is so expensive in the first place. Another strange cinematic phenomenon. You know consuming so much salt and sugar isn't healthy, but how can you watch a film without popcorn?

So the final question is this; is it ethical for pharmaceutical companies to give out free medication in public places, increasing our desire for pills, tablets and other forms of medication? Thinking about it, there have been a few awful films i've been to in the past when a couple of sedatives might have come in rather handy.

Medical Vocab Builder

  • junkie (noun) = very colloquial term for a person addicted to drugs, usually illegal drugs such as heroin
  • flatulence (noun) = when a person has gas in the stomach or bowels
  • wind (noun) = colloquial term for flatulence, "doctor, i'm passing wind more than usual recently"
  • pop (verb) = colloquial term to take pills or tablets by mouth
  • acid reflux = a medical condition in which contents (food or liquid) leak backwards from the stomach into the oesophagus. Also known as heartburn, dyspepsia and 'Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease' (GERD)
  • intestine (noun) = the main part of the digestive system divided into the small intestine (duodenum, jejenum & ileum) and the large intestine (colon), where food is broken down and absorbed
  • bowel = synonym and more colloquial term for 'intestine'
  • bloating (noun) = swelling of the stomach or intestines caused by fluid or in this context gas
  • fart (verb) = a very colloquial term to release gas from the intestines via the anus
  • sedative = a medication or drug used to calm a person or make them sleep

Make your own contribution to medical research.  Visit our Real Medical English facebook page to answer the following question "have you ever suffered from increased unexplained bloating or flatuelence as a result of a trip to the cinema?"