The medical term Flatus is used gas that is generated in the intestinal tract. Medical dictionaries describe flatulence as “flatus expelled through the anus”. “Farting” or Flatulence is often a cause of amusement for many, and awkwardness for others. It can cause a lot of uneasiness, especially when you are around people. At one point or another, all of us have felt the embarrassment at the worst moments- on a date, at a meeting or even in the examination hall. In this article, we’ll dig a little deeper to figure out the medical reasons behind this phenomenon.
Why do we fart?
There are a plethora of factors that can cause or aggravate flatulence. First, let’s talk about the underlying, natural reasons that are responsible for it. As we consume food, drinks or even swallow saliva, we swallow a little amount of air as well, which builds up inside the gut. Also, as the food is digested, gases like carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen are released. Over time, the gas inside mounts up, and of course, the body needs to let go of it. And when it does, you feel a sort of uneasiness, and then others around you feel a sort of uneasiness. Although, often there is no smell and only a little amount of gas is released.
What causes farts to smell?
If there is an odor, it means your food has not been properly digested, and is now releasing sulfur. Meaning if your stomach and small intestine are not doing their job properly, then your large intestine will make sure your date steps out for an ‘urgent phone call’. That is when you know you need to start looking after your digestive health.
The University of Minnesota did a research on flatulence and found that there are three types of fart smells – dimethyl sulfide (fruity-odor), methanethiol (decomposing vegetables’ odor) and hydrogen sulfide (rotten-egg odor). It was found that women’s farts have a higher degree of hydrogen sulfide compared to men. Though habitually, men tend to leave more, women’s farts are more concentrated.
Factors that cause farts
Food – Certain foods have a high content of polysaccharides, particularly oligosaccharides, consumption of which is likely to cause flatulence. Beans obviously are an example, as we all know from experience. A few other such foods are artichokes, Broccoli, Cabbage, Garlic, Sweet Potatoes, Baked products, Dairy products, Onions, Lentils etc.
- There is a reason why these foods aggravate release of gas. Let’s take the good old beans for example; there are certain complex carbohydrates in it that are not that easily digested. In the gut, Microorganisms known as gut flora digest them and produce methane. When these complex carbohydrates reach the lower intestine, bacteria feeds on them and thus, gas is released.
- All those candies and chewing gums you love munching on, they contain artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and mannitol. Doesn’t sound so appetizing, does it? And it isn’t. A lot of people develop gas or even diarrhea, upon consuming these in considerable quantity.
- If fibrous foods; especially the ones that have psyllium, are consumed regularly as a part of your diet, they are sure to cause flatulence.
- Beer or any sort of fizzy drink will lead to accumulation of gas in your intestinal tract.
- And if it needed to be said, overeating. But the reason behind it is that overeating results in belching. The stomach already contains some air, and when you dig into that extra slice of pizza, the stomach releases the stomach air upwards, so as to alleviate the distension and uneasiness. And you end up cursing Dominos for it.
Medicines -Those who consume Laxatives and Antibiotics regularly are more likely to develop gas. Antibiotics mess up the bacterial flora in the bowel, thus causing farts.
Health Conditions -Some chronic health conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can be a reason for excess flatulence. But these conditions are far less likely to occur than the ones mentioned below.
Lactose intolerance – For those who have this condition, they should be careful about that extra slice of pizza. When lactose containing foods such as cheese and milk are consumed, the lactose is fed on by the bacteria and thus excess gas is produced.
Constipation- The excreta make it more difficult for gas to be expelled, and leads to further building up of gas and discomfort.
Smoking – You probably didn’t know this, but smoking and sucking on pen tops can lead to excess gas. This is because excess saliva is produced because of these, and you swallow air when you swallow the saliva.
Skin-tight clothing – Tight clothes that might help you flaunt your shape can actually be a cause for flatulence. Constricting belts, tight underwear put pressure on your abdomen and causes trouble for wind to pass along normally. This finally results in belching and/or farting.
Post- Pregnancy – After childbirth, it is more difficult for a woman to hold wind in as the muscles of the anus or the nerves around it might have gotten damaged, particularly if the woman had a long labor. Not a lot of people know about this, but it is in fact, common.
Age -As you get older, digestive juices like saliva will not be produced efficiently. Meaning more carbohydrate foods will go to the lower bowel without being reacted upon. There, bacteria will ferment it, thus leading to flatulence.