Farting. Gas. Flatulence. It’s a natural bodily function. But, for many, talking about farting feels like crossing a minefield of social taboos. How often do we resist the public urge to “cut the cheese”? We do it to avoid embarrassment or disapproval. We pivot between society’s rules and our body’s need to let go. In this blog, I’ll explain why it’s time to shed the shame around passing gas.

The Myth of ‘Polite Society’: Is Holding In Farts Harmful?

There’s a persistent myth surrounding the act of holding in gas: that it’s unhealthy. For decades, uncles at family barbecues have discussed the perils of ‘keeping it in.’ But the science disagrees. Holding it in won’t make our insides burn or bring any other wild fate for the gassy. When we exhale, it will just mean pain, bloating, and smellier gas.

Still, letting it out is not merely harmless but also healthy in moderation. It’s the body’s way of airing out the byproducts of digestion. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins, the average is a robust 14 to 23 expulsions per day. Is there any real danger in restraining the urge? The answer is a nebulous “not really, but…”. After all, there are incentives to stay poised in some scenarios — like a job interview or a first date. They outweigh the odd breakdown in digestive decorum.

Breaking it Down

Farting, also known as flatulence, is a natural and common bodily function that occurs as part of the digestive process. Here’s what happens in your body leading up to a fart:

Gas Production during Digestion

  • As you eat, you swallow air along with your food, which contains nitrogen and oxygen. Additionally, when you digest food, your stomach and small intestine break down the food into its components. Some foods, especially those high in fiber, are not completely broken down in the stomach and small intestine because the human body lacks enzymes to process certain substances (like raffinose, lactose, fructose, and sorbitol).
  • This partially digested food then passes into the large intestine (colon), where billions of bacteria begin the fermentation process. During this process, gases such as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide are produced as by-products.

Absorption and Release

  • Some of the gas in the intestines might be absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually exhaled through the lungs. However, not all gas can be absorbed, and the remaining gas builds up in the digestive system.
  • The body releases this excess gas through belching (to release gas ingested from swallowing air) or farting. The gas moves through the intestines and accumulates until the pressure triggers the anal sphincter to relax and release the gas.

Composition and Smell

  • The composition of fart gas is mostly odorless (nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and sometimes methane). The characteristic smell associated with farts is due to trace gases produced by bacterial fermentation, including sulfur-containing compounds like hydrogen sulfide, methanethiol, and dimethyl sulfide.
  • The smell and volume of fart gas can directly stem rom what you eat, the balance of bacteria in the gut, how much air is swallowed, and how well nutrients are absorbed in the intestines.

Home is Where the Heart (and Gut) Is

So while social mores have their role, what about at home? This is our sanctuary. Here, we shut the figurative door on the world’s expectations. So, flatulence should not warrant a second thought. Imagine a world where you could high-five the universe. You’d do it every time you released a “Silent but Deadly.” In this world, the love tank got refilled with giggles when the living room turned into a warzone of odors.

Allow me to draw upon the wisdom of my toddler. Her free-spirited approach to bodily functions borders on the revelatory. She unabashedly belches and farts. She follows them with cries of “burp.” This is a proclamation of bodily autonomy and, unwittingly, a family bonding exercise.

Signs of Digestive Discord

All that being said, noticing sudden changes in your body’s gas could be the digestive alarm clock. We all fear it. It might be nothing. But, it’s the potential of something that we should consider. If you think you need to get it checked out, please do.

Remember, farting is a normal, healthy part of the digestive process. It’s the body’s way of expelling unnecessary and excess gas from the digestive tract. While it can sometimes be embarrassing or inconvenient, it’s important to remember that everyone farts, and it’s a sign that your digestive system is active and working.

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