Affairs of the fart are no laughing matter

Listen to your farts—they speak a life-saving language

One of my cousins growing up had a thing about farting.  He thought it was terribly funny.  He thought it endeared him to everyone.  He laughed as he farted—nothing like laughing at your own jokes, right?  He took such pleasure in cracking these particular jokes that he did a little butt wiggle dance as he did it before bursting out laughing and doing it again.  He would go for as long as he could, until he was all gassed out, or rather the rest of us.

I don’t believe that I ever saw anyone encourage this behaviour, but there must have been a secret champion.  His father, my uncle, perhaps?  Or maybe as a family, with his sisters and mother, they all got together and chanted to him, egging him on.  Families are weird.  Amiright?

While I was pretty grossed out as a child—I mean how unladylike!  What I didn’t know then that I know now is that the fart is a sign of gut trauma…and gut trauma is the number one killer of the human organism.  Farts are no laughing matter.

And yet, this concept has yet to enter mainstream discourse.

The other thing I couldn’t understand at that tender young age, was why he farted so much, and I never farted.  Okay, once a blue moon.  So infrequently, in fact, that I noticed it and wondered what was wrong with my body.  The Freudians amongst you will likely conclude that I am an anal retentive—but I can assure you I am not.  I am its opposite.

I liked going to visit another cousin quite a lot.  His mother was super cool.  But there was something else.  He had a TV in his bedroom!  In my house growing up we had a small 1” TV screen, black and white, on counter in the kitchen.  It had a coat hanger for an antenna, and at times required us to stand in certain places in the kitchen to get a good reception.  The comic dance of my siblings and me trying to find exactly what position to be in or where to stand brings a smile to my face even now.  We still will break into fits of laughter as we re-enact the TV tuning process that was required to reliably watch a good show.

Well, this cousin not only had a TV in his room, but it was big, it was colour, and they had cable!  After a day of that came the inevitable whine, “Mom, can’t I just stay here?”  Sadly, the answer was no.  Said cousin introduced me to Channel J, a New York City local late night cable TV sex channel.  It was very amateur, and it was live.  But as a child of 5-6-7, no matter what they showed was going to be new to me.  We both watched in morbid fascination and giggled the entire time.

Why am I telling you this?  Because the first time I ever actually saw the sex act performed was on this channel.  Two thick-haired somewhat lumpy and misshapen people, in other words not at all airbrushed as everything must be today, were rolling about together moaning “yeah baby” and other nonsense, sucking each other’s toes (that really had us rolling around with laughter), but they were also both farting, and I mean constantly.  That had us in stitches too, mixed with “gross!”.  We talked about it.  “I’ll ask my mom,” he said.  The next day he did, and we had our answer.  “Sex makes the body make all kinds of noises,” she said.  She was way more avant-garde than her older sister, my mother, and took a perverse delight in being able to show us little fellas how cool she was.

So, while I might say that I have lived a relatively fartless existence and have taken their occasional appearance as an opportunity to re-calibrate my diet, it happens that everyone farts.  All the time.  Even if you don’t know it.

On the topic of farting, the google search statistics are rather amusing.  One of the most popular searches in relation to farts?  “Do women actually fart?”  Hey ladies, way to keep ‘em guessing.  As it happens, men do fart more than women, but this is mainly a function of a man eating more, and because men tend to swallow more air when eating—a leading cause of flatulence.  Chew your food more and slow down if you want to fart less.  But on a per calorie of identical food consumed basis, women’s farts are stinkier.  Women produce more of the gas responsible for the smell, hydrogen sulfide.  Men, however, fart twice as often.

Incidentally, the admonition to chew your food more fully and carefully is spot on–digestion begins in the mouth. If you masticate more, you will have less gas. If you masticate more, you are also going to lose weight…it gives time for your body to catch up, makes what you eat more accessible…in other words, if you are farting, you are also probably gaining weight.

The good news in the world of flatulence?  99% of farts are odourless.  They also pass without notice.  These are “good farts”.  But if you find you are farting loud and stinky, something is going on with your gut.  What got me on this?  A friend sent me a link to a bread recipe, called, This Bread Will Change Your Life.  It is a gluten-free, vegan bread, and let me tell you, it sure changed my life, but not in the ways they meant.  The bread is delicious.  But after eating two little slices of the stuff I farted almost constantly for the rest of the day and through the night.  So much that it was painful.  And boy, did it smell.

This give me a firsthand opportunity to experiment with my own digestive system. First, not eating the bread for 24 hours and the farts went away. Baseline re-established. Second time, chewed each bite 50 times. Yup. Until it was like pablum. No farts. Ate two slices the “normal” way just to see that it wasn’t me–farts came back with a vengeance. How we eat makes all the difference. This same friend suggested adapting their recipe by fermenting the grains before baking for several days, by inoculating them with probiotics or with the juice from naturally cured pickles. Incidentally, this also worked.

Some level of farting is normal.  Gases build up as bacteria in your gut digest and break down the foods we eat.  That gas has to go somewhere.  Under normal circumstances, this process happens slowly, quietly, and odourlessly, leaving us none the wiser.  When this goes from innocuous and unnoticed, what it means is that your system is temporarily overwhelmed—there is just too much stuff to get through.

This can happen following big changes in your diet—your gut isn’t used to it. Like going vegan.  It can also happen when what you are eating is hard to digest—for example, some parts plants can be tricky for the body to break down—after all, unlike ruminants we have only one stomach.  The way we eat can also affect things.  If we do not chew our food, what goes through the stomach and into the intestines is going to be larger and chunkier and not as easily or as fully digested.  This causes gas.

If you eat identical things on different days and simply change the way that you eat them—taking time to eat slowly, to rest, to chew each bite carefully and thoroughly, you will likely notice a difference in what it does to your body.

Shreddies Fart Protection Jeans

In one of the most amusing tales of product innovation, the brand Shreddies has even come up with an entire range of pants and underwear, for men and for women, that absorb fart odours. No joke. It is even in their tagline! I am not sure that this is a case where brand recognition would be a good thing. Can you imagine, someone sees you wearing a hot pair of curve fitting jeans and then they see the logo, recognise it, “oh, aren’t those the jeans made for people who fart a lot? Do they work? Well, I guess they must, because I didn’t know you were such a farter.”

When we overeat, we will also find that gas increases, a function of the stomach not being able to handle in optimum conditions that which we have eaten.  The stomach acids, for example, become more dilute, making it harder to break down the foods we ingest.  Eating like a bird is a great way to limit the effects of gas.

Please don’t think that farts are a sign of being unhealthy…it just depends on what kind.  If they are noisy, smelly, and or frequent, something is going on that diet and behaviour will correct.  If you can’t smell them, hear them, or feel them, then you are doing fine.  Out of sight, out of mind…

When in doubt, fast it out. Meaning? If you are farting, your body is telling you that it is overloaded. It is a good time to take a break and to fast.

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