Ever been in a situation where you’re on a date with your Peter Kavinsky or you get stuck in an elevator full of people then suddenly you feel the urge to fart? However, you can’t always have the option to run off and just let it all out. So, the only thing that you can do to avoid the embarrassment (of course!) is to… hold it in.
Everyone has been in the same situation and yes, it is such a pain in the ass to ~let it go~.
But did you know farting is also connected to some legit health issues?
In fact, trying to hold it in can lead to a build-up of pressure and major discomfort. What we actually don’t know is that this build-up of intestinal gas can trigger abdominal distension, with some gas reabsorbed into the circulation and exhaled in your breath.
In some research, however, it isn’t clearly stated whether the rise in pressure in your rectum increases your chance of developing a condition called diverticulitis, where small pouches develop in the gut lining and become inflamed — whether it doesn’t matter at all.
Okay, we sure got a little tangled up in those technical terms, right? Before we end up freaking out, let’s talk about a very interesting subject called “flatus”.
So, what is a flatus?
According to The Conversation, flatus (farts or “breaking wind”), is the intestinal gases that enter the rectum due to the body’s usual gastrointestinal processes of digestion and metabolism, and then leave via the anus.
So here’s how it goes:
Our body digests food in the small intestine and components that can’t be broken down into itty-bitty pieces move towards the gastrointestinal tract, eventually into the large intestine called the colon. Through fermentation, intestinal bacteria break down some of the contents. This process produces gases and by-products called “fatty acids” that are reabsorbed and used in metabolic pathways related to immunity and preventing disease development.
Gases can either be reabsorbed through the gut wall into the circulation and eventually exhaled through the lungs or excreted via the rectum as a fart.
But how much flatus is released by a person?
To know an individual’s flatus count, researchers needed to conduct an experiment to measure… farts.
They asked 10 healthy adults to have the amount of gas they passed over a day quantified.
In a 24-hour period, all the flatus they released was collected through a rectal catheter.
During the experiment, they were still allowed to eat normally but they were also instructed to eat 200 grams (half a large can) of baked beans to ensure a boost in gas production.
The participants produced a median total volume of 705 millilitres of gas in 24 hours, but it ranged from 476ml to 1,490ml per person.
Hydrogen gas was produced in the greatest volume (361ml over 24 hours), followed by carbon dioxide (68ml/24 hr). Only three adults produced methane, which ranged from 3ml/24 to 120ml/24 hr. The remaining gases, thought to be mostly nitrogen, contributed about 213ml/24 hr.
It was also found out that men and women produced about the same amount of gas and averaged eight flatus episodes (individual or a series of farts) over 24 hours. But the volume varied between 33 and 125 ml per fart, with bigger amounts of intestinal gas released in the hour after meals.
Gas was also produced while they were asleep, but at half the rate compared to during the day (median 16ml/hr vs 34ml/hr).
After we figured out how much flatus is released by a person, it’s high time to ask this most important question: where do the gases come from?
Gas in the intestines comes from different sources. It can be from swallowing air or from carbon dioxide produced when stomach acid mixes with bicarbonate in the small intestine. Aside from that, gasses can also be produced by bacteria that are located in the large intestine.
While these gases are thought to perform specific tasks that impact on health, producing excessive intestinal gas can cause bloating, pain, borborygmus (which means rumbling sounds), belching, and lots of farts.
The smelliest farts are due to sulphur containing gases. This was confirmed in a study of 16 healthy adults who were fed pinto beans and lactulose, a non-absorbable carbohydrate that gets fermented in the colon.
The odour intensity of flatus samples was evaluated by two judges.
Yep, you read that right.
Well, we know that “that smelly smell that smells” can really be a huge turn off.
Good news was that in a follow-up experiment, the researchers identified that a charcoal-lined cushion was able to help quash the smell of the sulphur gases. But it’s the opposite for jet-setters: pressurised cabins on aeroplanes mean you’re more likely to pass flatus due to the gas volume expanding at the lower cabin pressure, compared to being on the ground. With modern noise-reduction features, your fellow passengers will more likely not hear you fart than they used to.
In reality, people can’t help but laugh when they hear the word “fart.” And when a fart is heard or smelled in public, expect even a bigger laughter from other people. Yes, it’s embarrassing to just let it out while there are strangers around you, but it’s a normal bodily function and everyone does it.
So the next time you feel the sudden urge to release some unwanted gas, try to move to a more convenient location. Because trying so hard to hold it in just to avoid “fart humiliation,” might just lead to an even serious problem.
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