Everyone does it but no one talks about it. It passes gas good or bad. What others fail to talk about is what I write about. In this article, I herein explore the health benefits of flatulence or farting.
Also called gas, “passing wind” or flatulence, did you ask yourself why we pass gas at all? The truth is that it is not a sin to pass gas. It is normal to have some air in the digestive tract. Air accrues when we swallow, and the process of digestion generates gas as well. However, when too much builds up, the body releases it. Passing gas keeps the pressure within the intestinal tract low and prevents painful stretching of the stomach and intestines. Burping accomplishes the same purpose.
When you fart, it is a good sign that your gut is in good health. But excessive farting may be a sign of another condition. Our body produces gas as part of breaking down and processing food. You also swallow air when eating, chewing, or swallowing. So where you fail to pass gas, you could experience uncomfortable, even painful, issues like bloating.
An article published by buzzfeed.com explained that ninety-nine percent of a fart is composed of odorless gases. The remaining 1% — usually sulfurous, like dimethyl sulfide and methanethiol — give farts their pungent aroma. Also, mostly healthy people might pass gas 14–18 times per day, sometimes not even realizing it because the farts are mostly silent and odorless.
Farting means your diet is balanced
A diet that includes lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and grains is considered balanced and healthy. But it will produce gas.
Certain types of carbohydrates can’t always be broken down in your digestive tract. Instead, they’ll ferment for a bit in the large intestine before being removed during a bowel movement. That fermentation produces gas.
If you ate only a diet of simple carbohydrates, you might not produce as much gas. However, that would be unhealthy for other reasons. A balanced diet is healthier for your body, and specifically for your gut, even if it does produce flatulence.
Reduces abdominal pain
As you eat, chew, swallow, and process food, gas will collect in your digestive tract. If you produce a lot of gas, it can eventually cause pain and discomfort. But farting eliminates that gas and any pain or pressure with it.
Improves colon health
From time to time, you may want to hold in gas to suppress flatulence when you’re in a room with others. But holding in gas too frequently can irritate the colon. It may also irritate hemorrhoids.
Farting protects you
Releasing gas is always healthier than holding it in. Don’t be afraid to let those farts fly. Diets high in fiber-rich foods after all tend to cause gas, but they also feed good bacteria that make up your immune system and protect you from various diseases, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Farts contain hydrogen sulphide, a gas produced by certain natural bodily processes and needed as part of cellular functions. Inhaling hydrogen sulphide (yes, from your very own farts!) in small doses might help protect cells’ mitochondria and stop cellular damage at some level.
Too much farting
Azpiroz F(2004) study found that too much farting could mean there is a problem with your digestive health though there could be an underlying condition. Some of the underlying reasons for excessive gas accumulation can include:
o food sensitives or intolerances;
o fermentation of bacteria within the gut from eating FODMAP foods;
o leaky gut syndrome or digestive disorders, including Crohn’s, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS);
o Constipation; and
o SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth)/excessive bacteria in the small intestine. Normally food intermingles with digestive juices in the intestines and nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream while waste is sent to the colon. But with SIBO, malabsorption occurs, particularly of fat-soluble vitamins and iron, leading to abnormal bacteria growth and gas.
When to worry
If you think the number of farts you pass in a day is increasing, and you also experience pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, make an appointment to see a doctor. These may be signs and symptoms of a digestive issue that need to be addressed.
Look out for the following abnormal symptoms:
o weakness or fatigue
o skin rashes, acne, or hives
o signs of allergies, like watery eyes, itchy throat
o constipation or diarrhea
o blood in your urine or stool
o pain around your lymph nodes, including in your groin, throat, or armpits
o changes in your body temperature, weight, sleep, and menstrual cycle
Some of the worst foods for gas:
o Beans: Winham and Hutchins’s (2011) study shows that beans are bad for causing gas. This happens because they contain a type of carbohydrate called polysaccharides, which easily ferment once they enter the gut. The bacteria living in the gut thrive off of these carbohydrates, which causes fermentation and an increase in gas. This is why soaking them overnight before cooking helps to make them more digestible (the same applies to nuts, which are similar in terms of their carb content), which is good news considering they can provide plenty of nutrients and fiber.
o Dairy: Wilt et al(2010) found that lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem worldwide. Milk and milk products contain high concentrations of the disaccharide lactose (galactose and glucose linked by a beta-galactoside bond), which can be tough to break down. For some people, lactose intolerance causes noticeable signs of indigestion in addition to flatulence, but for some the effects are milder so they may go untreated and unresolved.
o Sulfur-containing veggies: Diana Rodriguez’s (2014) article explained that veggies in the Brassica (or cruciferous) family are found to cause more gas than any other veggies as they have higher fiber, certain types of carbohydrates, and sulfur. They are cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. Hence, Dr. Axe.com advised that though they’re usually less gas-forming when cooked as opposed to eaten raw, even then they might still be problematic. It helps to eat them in small quantities at one time, avoid eating too many types in one day, and chew them well.
o FODMAPs: Magge and Lembo(2012) reasoned that FODMAP foods include onions, garlic, wheat, dairy, stone fruit, and legumes. FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) is an acronym for a collection of food molecules (mostly carbs/sugars) that are short-chained carbohydrates, which are fermentable and sometimes poorly absorbed. Their effects differ a lot from person to person, some causing an increase in gut bacteria and gastrointestinal problems more so than others depending on specific tolerances.
o Starchy, high-fiber foods: Starches and fibers like potatoes, grains, seeds/nuts, corn, and beans contribute a lot of healthy fiber to your diet, but they can also increase gas. Generally speaking, high-fiber foods are therapeutic to your digestive system and important for forming stool, but they also take some work to break down and can contribute to fermentation since they provide various types of carbohydrates.
o Processed, artificial, and high-fat foods: Dr. Axe.com also notes that some people lack the necessary digestive enzymes to fully break down fats, especially when the fats are rancid and highly processed — such as the hydrogenated types used in fried or fast foods. Packaged, processed foods also contain many synthetic ingredients like artificial sweeteners, preservatives, or colors that are tough on the digestive system. The more natural and unrefined a food or source of oil or fat is, the easier it should be to metabolize properly without causing gas.
Dietary and lifestyle changes to lower flatulence:
Dr. Axe.com provided the following recommendations:
o Try an elimination diet: Eliminating common digestive culprits one at a time helps you pinpoint which might be causing your gas. Take a look at your current diet and try to determine if there’s anything highly processed and likely to trigger your symptoms, then start there. Following an elimination diet, remove suspicious foods for several days (or even weeks) before introducing them once again, comparing your symptoms.
o Use probiotics: Probiotics help restore healthy bacteria in your gut that foster proper digestion. Include probiotic foods in your diet, such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and cultured veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi.
o Add spices to your diet: There are many spices, teas, and herbs that can help combat digestive issues and facilitate nutrient breakdown, including ginger, turmeric, fennel/anise, cumin, caraway, licorice, and curry. These have been used for centuries around the world in places like India and the Mediterranean to improve digestion plus in systems of healing such as Ayurveda medicine.
o Try digestive enzymes: As you’ve probably gathered by now, part of the reason you might be having gas is that you’re not able to properly metabolize the foods you’re eating. This is where natural digestive enzymes come in. They do some of the digestive work for you. These can be purchased from your local drug store or online and are usually completely natural, made from things like papaya and bromelain enzymes (from pineapple), for example. Digestive enzymes work to fully break down amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, simple sugars, and nucleic acids so they’re absorbed and don’t cause gas or bacterial residues as much.
o Exercise and drink more water: Both of these help move waste and nutrients around and out of your body. Water is important when eating fiber because it helps it swell up and stay lubricated, as opposed to remaining hard and lodged within the digestive system. Exercise also helps beat stress, which is linked to digestive complaints in all
Regularly passing gas is a sign that your body and your digestive tract are working as they should. Minor changes to your diet and lifestyle may increase or decrease the number of times you break wind in any day.
Overall, farting is healthy. Everyone farts many times every day, even if you don’t always smell or hear it.
Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu is a Professor of Naturopathy
E-mail: professor40naturop[email protected]. This article is for educational purposes only.