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Farting: What it reveals about your health

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  • 1. How many farts per day is normal?
  • 2. Why do people actually fart?
  • 3. What are the causes of frequent farting?
  • 4. Why do some farts smell more than others?
  • 5. What happens if you suppress farting?
  • 6. What helps against the fart smell?
  • 7. Anyone who farts in a relationship is serious
  • 8. When is frequent flatulence dangerous?

It is a taboo subject that, in addition to (smelly) air, can also produce social disadvantages: flatulence, farting, farting, or poetically “exhausting intestinal wind” – there are many descriptions for rectal deflation (in science the term ‘flatus’ is considered recognized internationally). Those who suffer from severe flatulence often have to deal with problems in their relationships and avoid social activities as much as possible.

But as frowned upon as it is, farting is normal. We clarify when it can indicate illness and which situations and foods you should pay particular attention to in order to prevent unnecessary gas formation.

1. How many farts per day is normal?

People fart 10-20 times a day, says Prof. Dr. med. Thomas Frieling, chief physician at the Helios Clinic in Krefeld and member of the German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS). However, this also depends on the food we eat and our digestion. The number is therefore only a guide. The average fart is around 14 times a day – regardless of age and gender. The human intestine produces on average around 700 ml of gas per day. If you fart more than 25 times a day, there could be something wrong with you. This helps with flatulence.

2. Why do people actually fart?

In fact, up to 1.5 liters of intestinal gas is produced during the digestion process of a single meal. Most of it is carbon dioxide and is absorbed by the cells in the intestinal wall. The gas travels through the blood to the liver and then to the lungs, where it is exhaled. And the rest has to go somewhere. Gas formation in the gastrointestinal tract arises from 4 main sources, explains Frieling, author of the book “Gut to Brain! The secret dialogue of our two nervous systems and its influence on our lives”:

  1. through swallowed air
  2. through bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates in the large intestine
  3. through a chemical reaction that results in the formation of carbon dioxide from stomach and pancreatic secretions
  4. when gas spreads from the blood into the intestines

Swallowed air (aerophagia) is a big factor. Because we swallow about once a minute. And each time we take in 2 to 3 ml of air. However, there are situations and factors in which you swallow more air than usual. These include:

  • Hasty eating
  • Talking animatedly while eating, for example at a business lunch or date
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Smoke
  • Suck lollipop
  • to chew bubble gum

As a result, you absorb more oxygen and nitrogen, but also carbon dioxide (found in carbonic acid). The result: You don’t just have to burp, you also have to fart – because sometimes the swallowed gases travel through the entire digestive tract: from the mouth and esophagus into the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and finally to the anus.

The other way gas is formed occurs when food is broken down by bacteria that live on our intestinal flora. These metabolic processes produce methane, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. And they are excreted anally.

3. What are the causes of frequent farting?

In addition to the above-mentioned situations in which you swallow more air than usual, these 6 reasons can be the causes:

  • Impaired transport of gas through the blood into the lungs.
  • diseases: including diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, gluten intolerance or lactose intolerance. Those affected by lactose intolerance experience cramps, diarrhea and severe flatulence between 30 minutes and 2 hours after consuming dairy products. Reason: The digestive enzyme lactase is completely missing or is present in too little quantity. Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be alone: ​​About 65% of people worldwide are lactose intolerant, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Darmflora: Inflammation in the intestines can lead to an overgrowth of “wrong” bacteria. A breath test at the doctor can clarify this.
  • Air travel: At lofty heights, gases expand due to the low air pressure.
  • Medication: metformin, acarbose or miglitol (which are prescribed for diabetes), as well as penicillin-containing antibiotics or laxatives.
  • Nutrition: It is the cause in most cases. Sugar substitutes and certain carbohydrates can make the job difficult for the bacteria and not only lead to so-called flatulence, i.e. increased gas formation, but also produce smelly farts.

4. Why do some farts smell more than others?

Your intestinal gas consists of 5 different gases. Most of this gas has no odor, only 1% is responsible for the smell. Sometimes there are too few enzymes in our stomach that are used to break down food. This particularly affects carbohydrates such as sugar, starch or crude fibers. The result: bacteria in the large intestine have to do the work. Problem: The bacteria then only ferment the food, so that the gas excreted stinks. From the smell in general, you can sometimes tell that you have probably eaten some of the following foods.

Which foods cause particularly smelly intestinal wind?

  • Beans and lentils
  • Types of cabbage, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
  • Vegetables containing sulfur such as onions, leeks, garlic, wild garlic, chives and peppers
  • Whole grain foods, including cereal cereals and cookies
  • Fruit because it contains fructose
  • Dairy products (see lactose intolerance)
  • Artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes. These include mannitol (additive number E 421), xylitol (E967), and sorbitol (E420 and E432–E436), which can be found in light drinks, dental care chewing gum, and also in wine. Which doesn’t mean you should never drink wine again. As is often the case, it depends on the quantity. Many people can tolerate 1-2 glasses of wine without getting a bloated stomach.

Caution: Don’t get the idea of ​​giving up vegetables or fruit just because you don’t want to stink anymore. Unpleasant smells are just part of your body. Plus: The sulfur-containing vegetables fulfill vital tasks in your body. And before you ask: No, there is no scientifically proven connection between the sound of your fart and its smell. If you generally have problems with digestion: fiber ensures a healthy intestine.

5. What happens if you suppress farting?

This is not necessarily harmful, according to the expert. But if you suppress farting, your intestines will naturally stretch due to the accumulation of gases. This can cause abdominal cramps. In addition, the pressure on the lungs can increase and the person affected comes under stress – this is not life-threatening, but it is sufficiently unpleasant.

6. What helps against the fart smell?

There are medications, including so-called defoamers (active ingredients: dimeticone or simethicone), which cause gas bubbles in the intestine to burst so that the gas can be absorbed through the intestinal mucosa. But: Defoamers do not reduce gas production per se, warns Prof. Frieling.

Those affected should first try herbal mixtures (phytotherapeutics): preparations made from caraway, anise, peppermint, chamomile, dandelion, bitter candytuft (Iberis amara). Probiotics can also help. They contain natural and living microorganisms (bacterial strains) that have a health-promoting effect on the (attacked) intestinal flora. This helps with the most common intestinal problems.

Our expert explains that the so-called FODMAP-reduced diet can also be used for irritable bowel syndrome. This involves reducing foods that have a high proportion of: fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans and polyols. However, anyone who sticks to this diet for longer than 6 weeks risks malnutrition. Therefore: Be sure to talk to your doctor about it.

For all other cases, there are underwear with active carbon filters. The manufacturer promises that it will neutralize your stink. If you have trouble believing that, just think of sole insoles. They work similarly, and so do extractor hoods.

7. Anyone who farts in a relationship is serious

When is it okay to fart in a relationship? From 2 to 6 months after you start dating, according to a survey by a US media and internet company. At least that’s what almost 30% of respondents between the ages of 20 and 30 answered. Only then does the relationship seem to be on such a solid footing that one person does not feel repulsed by what they themselves produce in abundance: gas in the intestines. A good 25% even said they would wait longer than 6 months and up to a year.

23% had no interest in waiting. They started farting in front of their partner immediately after a few weeks. And why not? Anyone who farts in front of their partner shows themselves to be human and proves that they trust the other person. Therefore, farting in front of your partner is a clear sign that he/she is serious about the relationship.

8. When is frequent flatulence dangerous?

Gas formation is usually harmless. Some factors, such as certain foods or swallowing more air, can increase gas production in the body. So if you have problems: First keep a food diary, advises expert Frieling. This makes it possible to determine which foods could be the trigger.

A doctor or Gastroenterologists You should only visit if severe flatulence occurs again. Or if they last longer and are also perceived as stressful. But especially if the flatulence is accompanied by alarm symptoms such as changes in the stool, blood in the stool or weight loss.

Farting is a natural process that is part of human beings, like breathing. If it bothers you, you can usually reduce it by changing your diet. Otherwise, stay relaxed and remember: everyone farts, it’s just part of life.

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