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Flatulence, What a Gas!

Okay, so what is the lowdown on farting amongst humans? I am so glad that you asked!

Here are some funny, and interesting excerpts from Dr. Michael Greger’s excellent book “How not to Die.”:

“Flatulence may be more common than you think. Americans report passing gas an average of fourteen times a day, with the normal range extending up to twenty-three times daily. Flatulence comes from two places: swallowed air and fermentation in the bowel. Factors that might cause you to swallow extra air include chewing gum, wearing ill-fitting dentures, sucking on hard candies, drinking through a straw, eating too fast, talking while you eat, and smoking cigarettes. So, if the fear of lung cancer doesn’t get you to quit smoking, maybe fear of flatulence will.

The main source of gas, though, is the normal bacterial fermentation in the colon of undigested sugars. Dairy products are a leading cause of excessive flatulence, which is due to poor digestion of the milk sugar lactose. One of the most flatulent patients ever reported in the medical literature was effectively cured once all dairy products were removed from his diet. The case, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records, involved a man who, after consuming dairy, experienced 70 passages in one four-hour period. Cutting the cheese, indeed.

Long term, most people bulking up on high-fiber plant foods do not appear to have significantly increased problems with gas. The buoyancy of floating stools from trapped gases can in fact be seen as a sign of adequate fiber intake. The indigestible sugars in beans that make it down to your colon may even function as prebiotics to feed your good bacteria and make for a healthier colon. Of the spices that have been tested, cloves, cinnamon, and garlic seem to be the most gas reducing, followed by turmeric (but only if uncooked), pepper, and ginger.

Odor is a separate issue. The smell appears to come primarily from the digestion of sulfur-rich foods. So to cut down on the stench, experts have recommended cutting back on such foods as meat and eggs (Hydrogen sulfide is called rotten egg gas” for a reason). This may be why people who eat meat regularly were found to generate as much as fifteen times the sulfides as those eating plant-based diets.

Then there are the high-tech solutions, such as carbon-fiber, odor-eating underwear (cost: $65), which were put to the test in a series of studies that included such gems as “Utilizing gas-tight Mylar pantaloons, the ability of a charcoal-lined cushion to absorb sulfur-containing gases instilled at the anus of eight subjects was assessed.” The name of the charcoal-lined cushion? The “Toot Trapper.”

The bottom line: Intestinal gas is normal and healthy. No less an expert than Hippocrates himself was attributed as saying, “Passing gas is necessary to well-being.” In a review of degassing drugs and devices, Dr. John Fardy, a chair of gastroenterology, wrote: “Perhaps increased tolerance of flatus would be a better solution, for we tamper with harmless natural phenomena at our peril.” And, yes, Dr. Fardy is his real name.”  

Click here for a link to Dr. Greger’s book, “How Not to Die”.

And of course, I had to include a movie clip that still makes me laugh to this day from the great Mel Brooks!  🙂

Click here for the famous campfire scene from “Blazing Saddles”.

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