Passing gas is the ultimate human pastime, ubiquitous throughout culture, race, and religion. In fact, every species in the animal kingdom passes gas in some way, whether it is a booming fart or just noiseless, general seepage throughout the day. Did you know that some animals even use their flatulence to communicate?
Like most things that are taboo to talk about, there is no real rationality behind the hushed whispers of something so incredibly natural. However, I recognize that it would be strange to walk up to your neighbor and say, “Hey Ted, how often do you fart, and how bad does it smell?” So why not talk to Wondergressive instead?
What is Gas?
Gas is an interesting cocktail of different substances which burst out of your mouth or anus in varying mixtures depending on the food you eat.
Gas is primarily composed of carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane. Flatus, gas passed through the anus, may also contain small amounts of gasses that contain sulfur. Flatus that contains more sulfur gasses has more odor.
How Much Gas is Too Much?
While many people believe they pass gas too much and become worried, an abnormal quantity is VERY rare. Catapulting gaseous elements out of your orifices 13 to 21 times a day is average. Farting and burping even 30 times a day is, unfortunately for us, still a normal occurrence.
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There is only one time in your life when you are not filled with gas or passing gas, and that’s before you take your first breath. After that, well, welcome to the toot club; the only way out is death.
What Causes Gas?
Digesting food is the main cause of gas formation, but there are in fact numerous ways to get filled up and bloated:
- Breaking down of food in the large intestine by bacteria
- Swallowing air
- Eating or drinking too fast
- Chewing gum
- Sucking on hard candy
- Drinking carbonated or “fizzy” drinks
- Wearing loose-fitting dentures
Some of the gas created in the stomach comes out as burps. Whatever remains gets passed right along down the digestion train.
The stomach and small intestine do not fully digest some carbohydrates—sugars, starches, and fiber found in many foods. This undigested food passes through the small intestine to the large intestine. Once there, undigested carbohydrates are broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, which release hydrogen and carbon dioxide in the process. Other types of bacteria in the large intestine take in hydrogen gas and create methane gas or hydrogen sulfide, the most common sulfur gas in flatus.
The body does its best to break down all the diverse junk you cram inside of it. Gas is just its way of saying thanks.
Different Foods Cause Different Farts
The formation of gas is almost entirely dependent on diet.
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Some major types of food that cause excess gas are:
- Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, onions, mushrooms, artichokes, and asparagus
- Fruits such as pears, apples, and peaches
- Whole grains such as whole wheat and bran
- Sodas; fruit drinks, especially apple juice and pear juice; and other drinks that contain high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener made from corn
- Milk and milk products such as cheese, ice cream, and yogurt
- Packaged foods—such as bread, cereal, and salad dressing—that contain small amounts of lactose, a sugar found in milk and foods made with milk
- Sugar-free candies and gums that contain sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol
As a general rule of thumb, remember this: Most foods that contain carbohydrates cause gas. In contrast, fats and proteins cause little gas.
Okay, I’ll Alter My Diet, but I Still Don’t Want to Fart in Public. Is it Safe to Hold it in?
Contrary to popular belief, holding gas in the body actually isn’t biologically dangerous. It’s not going to blow out your small intestine and leave you leaking methane like a popped cow. But, there is a serious drawback to holding it in; it is incredibly painful and debilitating. As I’m sure you’ve experienced, holding in gas leads to bloating, stomach cramps, and even devastatingly serious pain, especially during those times when you’re sitting in a job interview after downing 2 or 3 triple layer cheese tacos and end up holding in an anal megaton explosion to avoid smelling like a herd of grazing horses.
If you are overly sensitive about your butt musk, your best bet is to pass gas in strategic places. Dr. Oz suggests:
You shouldn’t bother [holding it in], let it come out when it’s supposed to come out. Be smart about it. Do it in a place that’s airy enough that you’re not going to hurt your family and friends.
There’s nothing wrong with a nice strong fog horn resounding from between your cheeks, but in some instances, like a wedding or funeral, you might want to excuse yourself and blow your gassy payload outside so that it gets carried downwind.
As one of the single best pieces of information, Dr. Oz states that holding gas in for a prolonged period of time won’t make it smell worse. Smell is completely dependent on what you eat, not how long you let a fart fester.
Natural Ways To Reduce Gas
For those of you still not convinced that holding in gas simply isn’t worth all the abdominal pain and worry over being judged, here are some natural ways you can reduce your gaseous gifts to the world.
- Try to limit air swallowing. The prevention of air swallowing is important in limiting repetitive belching. A time-honored remedy for repeated burping is to grip a pencil between the teeth. It is impossible to suck air into the esophagus with the teeth parted this way.
- Eat slowly and don’t talk while eating. Chew your food thoroughly, instead of gulping it down.
- Avoid using a straw or drinking out of a narrow-mouthed bottle. It promotes air swallowing.
- Avoid carbonated beverages like soft drinks and beer. Carbonated beverages are an obvious source of swallowed gas as gusty belching is a familiar background sound in a barroom.
- Avoid chewing gum, or sucking on candy.
- Have loose dentures refitted. They trap air bubbles and saliva, causing you to swallow more frequently.
- Treat postnasal drip.
- Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Some people have a nervous habit of swallowing air. Use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or yoga, to reduce stress.
- Increase your physical activity. Any aerobic activity like running or even walking will speed up digestion and help eliminate gas, but might make things unpleasant for those bringing up the rear. If abdominal distension is a problem, try sit-ups to firm up the abdominal muscles. Walking after eating moves the air bubble to the upper stomach where it can be easily belched.
- Reduce your lactose load. Lactose is found in dairy products such a milk, skim milk, and cottage cheese. Aged cheeses, such as Swiss or cheddar, have little lactose. Yogurt is usually well tolerated by lactose- intolerant people. If milk bothers you, try Lactaid or DairyEase.
- Avoid sorbitol and fructose. Sodas and hard candies which contain sorbitol and fructose sugars cause extra gas and should be avoided.
- Go slow on high fiber. Fiber is healthy but it will increase your gas, especially if you increase the amount too quickly.
- Presoak dried beans and discard the water. This helps remove the gas-causing starches. You might also try a few drops of Beano before meals. This harmless natural enzyme can help reduce gas formation. It can be purchased without a prescription at your pharmacy.
Natural Ways To Remove Gas
You know now how to reduce it, but how do you get rid of it? The best way to remove excess from the body is by doing a few easy yoga poses. Not only will yoga remove excess gas from your body so that you will be ready for an embarrassment-free night on the boardwalk, it will also aid in digestion, flexibility, and overall well being.
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The best poses to remove excess gas from the body are:
- Cow/Cat Pose
- Wind-Relieving Pose (you can also pull both knees to the chest and stay in that pose for greater effectiveness and ease)
- Seated Forward Bend
- Child Pose
All of these poses are for beginners and place minimal strain on the body. The focus of these exercises is to remove gas, not add stress. Make sure to use a comfortable yoga mat or sturdy, yet soft surface, and to also slowly breathe in and out while doing the poses. This will also help rid the body of unwanted gas.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to enjoy every aspect of life, especially the most natural parts that are shared all across humanity. Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, especially your gas.Prrrrrrt!
Fish Flatulence – How Certain Fish Communicate in School
NDDIC: Gas in the Digestive Tract
The Merck Manual: Gas Related Complaints
Wondergressive: Save the Food Pyramid