Farting is a very normal process in the body in which excess air/gas escapes from the gastrointestinal tract via the anus. But it can be very annoying. However, it is better to let the gas out than to withhold them, because the gases can cause bulges of the intestinal wall.
Indeed, an adult produces on average about 600 ml of gas daily, which usually escapes unnoticed. In some people, gas production can reach up to 2000 ml. A fart occurs when a larger gas bubble escapes due to the movements of the intestine. On average, people fart 14 to 25 a day. When someone produces more than 25 farts in 24 hours, one speaks of flatulence.
Where do farts come from?
There is always a quantity of gas in the gastrointestinal tract in everyone.
- With each swallowing movement you swallow a small amount (1-3 ml) of air (oxygen and nitrogen). Most of this, however, is pushed out.
- In case of tension and stress, smoking, drinking through a straw, chewing a lot of gum and badly seated dentures, you swallow a lot of extra air. Even people who talk quickly, eat quickly without chewing properly or drink quickly, swallow a lot of extra air inside unnoticed. Furthermore, you also intake extra air via air-containing foods (such as bread) and carbonated beverages.
- The main source of farts is gas formation in the large intestine. Bacteria in the large intestine break down foods that are not completely digested in the small intestine. This activity releases gases such as methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and sulfurous substances.
- The amount of gas formed in the intestines depends mainly on the diet. Vegetables with hard-to-digest carbohydrates, fructose in fruits and juices and indigestible sugars , such as artificial sweeteners, cause additional gas formation. Because plant-based food is harder to digest, vegetarians fart more than carnivores. However, their farts smell less.
- Also through the use of certain medications with a laxative effect. Bran, fiber preparations and lactulose can cause a lot of gas formation.
- There is also an extensive exchange of gases between the intestine and the blood vessels. These gases then leave the body through breathing. When the discharge of air and gas lags behind the supply and production, complaints arise, such as bloating, rearing and excessive flatulence.
- As people age, the number of farts increases. This is partly due to a decrease in the amount of digestive juices, which makes food less well digested. In addition, the strength of the pelvic floor muscles decreases, making it more difficult to hold gases.
- Excessive flatulence also occurs in anxiety and tension.
- Rarely does flatulence have a medical cause. When excessive flatulence is accompanied by other symptoms, such as weight loss, severe abdominal pain, prolonged diarrhea or blood in the stool, this may indicate a medical condition. Examples of conditions associated with flatulence include constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, giardiasis, diverticulitis, celiac disease, gallstones, pancreatic insufficiency, Crohn’s disease and lactase deficiency.
Why do farts stink?
Most of the gas that our intestines produce are odorless. The bad smell is caused by certain sulfur compounds and other substances (sulfuric hydrogen, ammonia gas, amines, skatole, indole, butyric acid) that are formed to a very limited extent. Furthermore, what you eat strongly determines the smell of winds.
If a fart smells sour, then there is fermentation in the intestine due to an excess of carbohydrates (sugars, starch). Smell of rotten eggs, then that is due to the digestion of mainly animal proteins from meat, chicken or fish.
What can you to stop farting?
Usually, it will be enough to adjust your dietary habits and reduce the consumption of difficult or non-digestible carbohydrates.
If the flatulence is the result of some disease, then this underlying disease must of course be treated. When flatulence is accompanied by other symptoms such as diarrhea or a loss of weight, there may be more to it. But below are things you can do to diminish your farting:
- The way you eat: It is important to regularly eat smaller meals and take enough time before eating. Eating quietly, chewing well, not slurping, not talking with your mouth full and sitting up straight ensure that you don’t swallow too much air. Drinking while eating can cause you to swallow more air. You shouldn’t drink through a straw, either.
- Adjust your diet: may cause additional gas formation. Take less of these foods or avoid them temporarily. However, these can be different products for everyone. Foods that produce a lot of gas in a large number of people are: white and brown beans, lentils; cabbages, brussels sprouts; garlic, onions, leeks; carrots, parsnip; bell pepper; mushrooms; salsify; unripe fruit, dried fruit; eggs; milk and milk products; foods high in protein and sugars; strongly seasoned food (ginger, mint, coriander, bean herb, sage…); fruit juices with a lot of fructose.
- Drink less or temporarily avoid carbonated beverages (beer, champagne, soft drinks) that can cause flatulence.
- Caffeine (in tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks) tend to make the intestine more active. That could cause more gas formation. Try drinking decaffeinated tea and coffee. After one to two weeks you can decide whether this is a solution for the gas formation. Conversely, some people notice a reduction in flatulence by drinking herbal tea (chamomile, peppermint or fennel).
- Light products are often sweetened with sweeteners (sorbitol and the like). The small intestine does not break down these substances, causing them to enter the large intestine undigested. Bacteria provide fermentation and therefore extra flatulence. This also applies to chewing gum with artificial sweeteners.
- There is no unanimity about the use of additional fibers. Adding fiber to daily meals reduces flatulence in some people. In others, it actually worsens it. Gradually increasing the number of fibers is a solution that you may try. After six to eight weeks, if the the gas formation does not decrease, you can try something else. In any case, fibers are really good against constipation.
- People with lactose intolerance cannot break down milk products properly, creating a lot of extra gas. If these products are (partly) omitted, the number of farts may decrease.
- Medicines that can cause flatulence should be avoided. This side effect is best known for codeine and laxatives. Baking soda (sodium hydrogen carbonate) also cause a strong carbon dioxide development in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Because smoking brings extra air into the stomach, it is better to stop.
- Opinions differ on sports and exercise activities as a remedy for excessive flatulence. Some argue that they benefit from it. Again, exercising is generally for health. So, it does not hurt to pick up a sport.
- Some probiotics (including lactobacillus, bifidobacterial, acidophilus) may have a beneficial effect. These change the bacterial proportions in the large intestine.
Keep in mind that there are no medicinal products that have been shown to prevent flatulence. There is also no evidence of the effect of remedies such as badger garlic drops, peppermint oil, cardamom, aloe vera capsules and so on.
Mandell is currently working towards a medical degree from the University of Central Florida. His main passions include kayaking, playing soccer and tasting good food. He covers mostly science, health and environmental stories for the Scientific Origin.