Cedric W., 64, admits he has a problem and it is driving his wife, Marie, 60, crazy! Cedric passes gas all the time and has even made a game out of it particularly when they are lying in bed at night. Marie, however, used to find her husband’s flatulence funny but now, not so much. “On at least three days out of the week, I sleep in a guest room because my husband blows me out of our bedroom! He laughs when I get fed up and run out of the room,” says the New Jersey-based dental hygienist. “I love my husband, but enough is enough!”
Do seasoned folks break wind more than youngins’? Well, according to Dr. Terry Bolin, M.D., a gastroenterologist, associate professor of medicine at The University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and founder of The Gut Foundation, as we age, we get gassier. “As you get older, you do start to pass a little more gas. Men will always pass more gas than women in larger amounts and with greater frequency. Older women will break wind around seven times a day, while the average for men is 12 times.”
What is flatulence?
Whatever you call it–passing gas, flatulence, breaking wind, cutting the cheese, farting is a build-up of gas in the digestive system that can make you feel uncomfortable if you don’t pass it. We all have it. According to the National Institutes of Health, believe it or not, most people produce about 1 to 4 pints of gas a day and pass it, on average, about 10 to 18 times a day. Passing gas is normal and comes mostly from two sources—the air we swallow and as a byproduct of digestion.
Whenever we eat, drink or swallow saliva, we swallow air that accumulates in the gut. The buildup of internal gases that are formed during digestion and respiration is removed from the body via the anus. The release usually has a sound and odor but flatulence can also be odorless and quiet.
A typical fart is composed of about 59 percent nitrogen, 21 percent hydrogen, 9 percent carbon dioxide, 7 percent methane, and 4 percent oxygen. Only about one percent of a fart contains hydrogen sulfide gas and mercaptans, which contain sulfur, and the sulfur is what makes farts stink.
Passing gas and inhaling it is good for you!
Passing gas is a normal bodily function because it is the release of internal gas. It is harmless and necessary for normal metabolic functions, however, it can be an annoyance to others if the odor is offensive. Flatulence is also a sign that your “gut bugs” are well fed, working smoothly, and that your diet is on point. High fiber diets tend to cause gas but feed good bacteria that make up your immune system and protects you from many illnesses. So let it out if you need to do so!
Recent research in animals suggests that inhaling the smelly sulfide in flatulence might provide some health benefits in humans, from preventing heart disease to kidney failure.
Do you have excessive gas?
Even up to 20-25 times is considered normal for passing gas; more than this is excessive. Some chronic conditions can contribute to excessive flatulence such as ulcerative colitis, gallstones, diverticulitis or even some types of cancer can lead to a blockage in the intestines. In addition, several other underlying causes can lead to passing gas more than what is considered normal:
- Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection of the digestive system or food poisoning
- A Hernia
- Some prescription meds (like a few hypertension drugs)
- If you’re experiencing excessive gas that is released involuntarily, continuously smelling foul, or giving you sharp cramps/pain in the abdomen, consult a gastroenterologist, a physician who primarily deals with digestive system disorders.
Foods that can cause flatulence
- Beans (notorious for causing gas)
- Brussels sprouts
- Apples Pears
- Whole grains
- Carbonated drinks (like beer)
- Fruit drinks
- Foods with sorbitol (an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free foods)
- Dairy products containing lactose
What can you do to reduce flatulence?
If there is no serious underlying medical cause for your flatulence and you want to cut down on those gassy episodes, try these tips:
Eat smaller meals: Rather than three large ones, try eating four to six mini ones
Eat slowly: Chew food thoroughly before it makes its way down digestively
Steer clear of gum and smoking: Chewing gum and smoking makes you swallow more air
Look for beans that are fermented before cooking: These types of beans contain less soluble fiber and more nutritional content
Exercise: Moving, staying active can help reduce gas and bloating
Charcoal pads: Placed inside clothing, these pads absorb released gas and reduce the impact of foul-smelling gas
Try probiotics: Check out yogurts and drinks that are categorized as probiotics to reduce symptoms; cultured veggies like sauerkraut or kimchi are also proven helpful
Spices, herbs, teas: Can help combat digestive issues and facilitate nutrient breakdown, including ginger, turmeric, fennel/anise, cumin, caraway, licorice and curry
OTC treatments that help flatulence
If the suggested tips mentioned are not helping your flatulence issue, some OTC meds can reduce it. Charcoal tablets can absorb some of the gas in your gut but they might also interfere with a few prescription meds, so check with your doctor before you try this remedy.
Beano is another highly touted OTC product for flatulence issues because it contains a natural food enzyme that helps prevent gas before it starts.