We've all done it. Sitting in class, eating your lunch, during a movie, in a meeting, shopping, at a nightclub, on the elevator, on a date (!!), under the covers, even just some walkabout "crop dusting"…at some point, we've all passed gas.
Farting (aka flatulence) is totally normal, and it turns out it's actually good for you.
Intestinal gas is a natural by-product of digestion. Farts and burps are the body's way of venting excess air or gas from the digestive system. You may have noticed that you tend to pass more gas when you eat certain foods. That's because some foods contain more gas-producing components than others. Passing gas indicates that your digestive system is functioning as it should.
Burping is the upward release of stomach gases and typically happens if you've swallowed air. Some lifestyle habits encourage burping, like drinking carbonated beverages, eating too fast, smoking, and chewing gum. Our bodies tend to release gas more through farting than burping, so if you find yourself burping a lot, get checked out. Too much burping can be a sign of ulcers, gallbladder problems, a hiatal hernia, lower esophageal sphincter issues, or even erosion of the esophagus. That said, a big belch can be very gratifying and in some cultures is considered a compliment to the chef.
So What's a Fart?
Just a turd honking for the right of way!
Okay, that's a bad "dad joke," but let's look at what's behind the gas you're letting out.
Gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen are released as a by-product of food digestion. But excess gas can be caused by things like eating certain foods (like onions and dairy products), bacterial fermenting in the large intestine, swallowing too much air (when talking, eating, drinking, or even chewing gum), and even an imbalance in your gut bacteria or a digestive disorder.
On average, a person passes gas up to 14 times per day. This is because the friendly bacteria in your gut are constantly at work breaking down complex sugars and starches. Most of the time, passing gas is nothing to be concerned about; you probably don't even notice it half the time. However, if you're experiencing excessive flatulence and are farting consistently more than 20 times a day or if it's resulting in abdominal pain or discomfort, it may be time to talk to your doctor. You may have an underlying medical issue like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) that could be causing the increased gas production.
For most of us, our gut produces one to four pints of gas per day. If you're experiencing excessive gas and bloating, it could be some of the foods cause gas as they digest than others – like vegetables that begin with the letter b or c and every kid's favorite – the fruit that makes you toot - beans!
Time for another dad joke? Okay! Why should you always count out 239 beans for your chili? Because otherwise, it will be two-fauty. (This one goes over big if you live in Boston!)
What happens when a fart gets stuck?
Sometimes our bodies produce excess gas, or we have a blockage like constipation or an obstruction. This can result in trapped gas in our digestive tract. (Fun side note – in the Urban Dictionary, trapped gas is a slang term for farting in a car and rolling all the windows up to gas out your fellow passengers.)
Trapped gas often feels like a sharp, stabbing pain and typically comes on suddenly. Many people are caught so off-guard they go to the ER for help. About 5% of the trips to the ER every year are for abdominal pain. Gas that builds up on the left of the colon can radiate to your chest, and you might think you're having a heart attack. Gas on the right side of the colon feels like an appendicitis attack or gallstones.
Gas trapped in your abdomen, can make you feel like you're in a scene from the movie "Alien" – your stomach area can bloat, you'll feel acute discomfort, and you keep expecting a creature to explode from your gut.
When it comes to abdominal pain, it's better to be safe than sorry; however before heading out to an expensive ER visit, try some of these:
- Walk around a bit
- Massage your abdomen
- Do some deep squats – try swaying side to side for some added stretch
- Breathe slowly and deeply from your diaphragm so your belly expands on the inhale, and then pull your gut in on the exhale.
- Try some yoga poses like Child's Pose or Happy Baby Pose.
Ladies, What About the Other Kind of Farts….
Sometimes when we pass gas, those farts can redirect themselves to other parts of the female anatomy. Medically this is no big deal, but we girls have developed some fun new names for this, like "vart," "exiting through the gift shop," "cooter pooter," and "retweeting." The same rules of the road apply; however, if you're experiencing an actual vaginal fart, you may want to visit your OB/GYN to be safe.
When To See A Doctor
If you're experiencing excessive intestinal gas (more than 20 noticeable farts in a day) or feel that your farts are getting trapped too frequently or last a long time, it may be time to check in with a doctor. Likewise, if your tooting is accompanied by unexplained weight loss, blood in your stool, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive and continuous heartburn, or a loss of appetite, it's definitely time to get checked out!
Some things your doctor might suggest are increasing your fluid intake, adding more fiber to your diet as an over-the-counter supplement or as food, and addressing constipation if that's part of the issue. If your physician suspects you have an infection, you may need to take an antibiotic.
Our bodies are miraculous but sometimes surprising machines.
Rather than feeling shame about the things it does – that we all do – like pooping, peeing, farting, and burping, if we can accept our sounds and smells, we'll be more relaxed about them. That's not to say you should just rip a big one at the next dinner party; it's more to say if one sneaks out… don't freak out.
3 Things We Can Do To Help
Try Sculpt N Cleanse to clear out and detox a build-up of waste and overgrowth of gas-causing bacteria from it.
Get more fiber with liquid Ready Fiber. Just 2 teaspoons provide half of your Recommended Daily Allowance of fiber.
Use Restorit if you find yourself anxious and tired all the time.
Lisa Moretti is a Certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN), the largest nutrition school in the world. She was at the top of her cohort in 2015. She's been involved in the natural health and supplement world professionally since 1981.