Second only to the topic of bowel movements is the subject matter of flatulence. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit around making “fart jokes” (though, I’m not too cool at admit they are still funny to me even at the age of 33) but I do find the topic fascinating. And, if this weeks earlier post on constipation is any indication, I gather from the site stats that The Health Junction readers enjoy these types of topics.
As we continue to truck through the month of March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, I thought it fitting to continue with our discussion GI health with a closer look at our friend, the fart.
First up, lets define gas. Basically, it is air, composed of carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and methane, which is trapped within the gastrointestinal system. When it exits the body via the mouth or anus, it’s gas and when it really smells, it probably has a some sulfur in it (ie: the rotten egg smell). Interesting little tidbit for you – burps come from air trapped from the stomach upwards, whereas flatulence results from air that has made the full trip down your digestive system. We pass gas on average, 14 times per day and generate a whopping 1/2 litre daily.
The “air” is a result of swallowing air when we eat but is also produced when food is broken down during the digestion. When food is eaten, it is mechanically chewed and further broken down in the stomach and then small intestine where nutrients are absorbed. However, some types of carbohydrates are not able to be broken down until they reach the large/lower intestines at which point they are chemically broken down by bacteria. The result is the release of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and other types of compounds that are indirectly created such as methane or sulfide – the later is the really stinky type that makes you want to quickly evacuate the room.
Let’s work our way back up the digestive track from the anus. From the anus, you’ll recall is the large intestine and above that, the small intestine. The small intestine usually has a very limited amount of bacteria but if that balance is thrown off and bacteria accumulates, gaseous compounds are bi-products and this is normally the result of consuming too many refined/processed carbohydrates, too much alcohol, or frequent use of antibiotics. In the nutrition world, we call this condition dysbiosis and it’s linked to intestinal disorders like Crohn’s and Colitis.
Some foods which are known to increase gas include beans, cruciferous veggies that are high in sulfur (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, onions, mushrooms, artichokes, and asparagus), fruit, whole grains, soft drinks, milk and milk products, processed foods, and sugar-free candies that include chemicals like sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol. You’ll notice from this list that the foods are either indigestible until the lower intestine is reached (beans), or a type of carbohydrate (fruit, grains, etc).
Farting is totally normal, but there are somethings you do to reduce the severity, smell, and frequency (SSF). First up, slow down and chew your food. Rushing to eat normally results in gulping air down which just hangs around in your GI track causing painful bloating and gas. Rotate through foods that are known offenders – for example if you love beans try having them every other day to give your digestive system a bit of a break. Also, you might be experiencing gas related symptoms (farting, burping, and bloating) when consuming food that you are perhaps sensitive or even allergic to – some of the most common culprits include dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs, tree nuts, soy, fish, and peanuts. Consult with a Nutritionist or Naturopath for a better understanding of how to identify and tackle suspected food intolerances or allergies.
THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)
“He couldn’t ad-lib a fart after a baked-bean dinner.”
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