Worried about farting too much? So is everyone else
Ever let one rip in the middle of a yoga class? Or maybe you’ve gone for a run and taken fartlek training a little too literally? It’s OK. We all fart. But, have you ever worried about farting too much?
Each month, more than 1000 of your fellow Australians wonder the same thing about themselves. At least, according to the internet search numbers. Who knows?! It’s probably higher!
It’s time to stop worrying. We asked the health experts whether there is a magic number when it comes to farts and our health.
We also found out why some farts have such a distinctive smell. And why do some types of foods cause you to fart more?
But first, let’s answer the most important question: what causes farts?
What can cause farts?
Naturopath Jess Milford says that one of the reasons we fart is due to the behaviour of our gut bacteria.
“In the process of breaking down the nutrients in food, our gut bacteria creates gas,” Jess says.
Gas is also created when our stomach acid interacts with pancreatic juices, so it’s a normal by-product of digestion. Another cause of intestinal gas is swallowing small quantities of air while we eat and drink.
No matter which way your intestinal gas is created, it all has to go somewhere. We absorb some gas into the bloodstream, breathe some of it out and then fart whatever is left.
Why do some farts have a distinctive smell?
People have described their farts as smelling like popcorn, seaweed and even burnt rubber.
Our gut bacteria play a role in how our farts smell. Jess says that the type of farts that we produce depends on how many good bugs we have in our gut.
It’s also pretty normal for farts to have a little bit of smell due to the presence of faeces in the bowel. But if you start to notice that your farts constantly have a different, distinctive smell – and there’s more of them – then you might want to investigate further.
“If you're starting to get some sort of a bacterial infection in your gut, it can smell a little bit more like sulphur or methane,” Jess says.
The more yeasty-smelling gas can be caused by a yeast infection in the gut. Other really pungent gas can be an indicator that there’s either something not being digested or there’s an imbalance in the gut microbiome.
Some foods can make you fart more
If you’ve ever eaten baked beans, you’ll know that some foods can cause more flatulence. Jess says that high FODMAP foods are often the culprit.
“FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols,“ says Jess.
Basically, it’s all the different types of sugars that are hard for your gut to break down.
Some common high FODMAP foods include:
- processed meats
Jess says that high FODMAP foods can be difficult to break down for some people because they don't have enough of the right kind of bacteria.
As well as high FODMAP foods, dairy products can cause some people to fart more – especially if they’re lactose intolerant.
A wheat intolerance may also cause extra gas. So, if you consistently fart more or experience discomfort after eating certain foods then it may be worth speaking to a medical professional.
When farting too much becomes a problem for you
What you think is farting a lot might be the norm for someone else because the number of farts we do varies according to the individual. For some, it’s a few times per day. For others, it can be up to 40 times. On average, people tend to fart about 15 times a day (give or take a few air biscuits).
Jess says there are a few times when farting could be considered abnormal. These include if you’re farting so much that you feel uncomfortable, bloated or the sensation that you’re constantly “filling up with gas”.
Abnormal symptoms like these can be related to digestive system disorders. Be sure to talk to your GP if you start experiencing abnormal flatulence, digestive pain, changes to your toilet habits or any other related uncomfortable symptoms.
Make friends with your farts
Whether your farts are caused by gut bacteria doing their thing or you've swallowed too much air with your lunch, remember that it’s normal to fart.
Farts that smell like sulphur, methane or yeast can tell us a lot about the state of our gut health. It’s why we should make friends with our farts instead of feeling embarrassed.
Just remember that there’s no normal when it comes to how much we should be farting. But if you have any concerns about your farts, be sure to speak to your GP or dietitian.
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Jessica Milroy is a Naturopath who combines evidence-based functional medicine with a range of complementary therapies and lifestyle supportive strategies to find and treat the root cause of an illness, empowering her clients to be well in the process.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board June 2021