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Quick Facts: The Science of Farting

Posted by: Patrick Catanzariti on February 16, 2016

Farting. We might not admit it, but everyone does it.

While they might be embarrassing, they’re actually a sign of good gut health! We get to the bottom of this pongy phenomenon.

What causes a fart?

First things first: Farting is completely natural. Good bacteria live in our gut and feed on the things our bodies find hard to break down, like sugars, fibre and starches. As the bacteria digest these, they produce gases. These gases have to go somewhere…and go they certainly do!

Fibre is a major cause of flatulence. While fibre is important for our diet, unfortunately the more fibre, the more farts! Too much sugar including fructose and lactose, as well as artificial sweeteners, also cause us to fart more.

What’s in a fart?

99% of the gases in a fart are odourless! They’re mostly nitrogen and hydrogen. That 1% left over is hydrogen sulphide, and that’s what causes that tell-tale smell.

Your stench is special! Because everyone has a different collection of bacteria in their gut, farts can vary from person to person. This explains why some people don’t produce smelly farts at all, and others consistently clear the room.

As for the sound – this has nothing to do with our diet! It’s all dependent on the way the gases, ahem, exit the body.

The normal range is up to 15-20 farts daily, although this too varies from person to person. Research suggests that women might actually fart less than men, but this study was based on people self-reporting each time they let one rip – so it’s possible that women just don’t admit how often they do fart!

Should I be worried?

If you’re suffering from super smelly farts (or suffering from a loved one’s), don’t stress too much. When we eat food high in sulphites like broccoli, cabbage, onions and red meat and dairy, we produce smellier farts. It might be unpleasant, but they’re normal! Of course, if you notice anything unusual, excessive or painful, consult your doctor.

If you do want to try to reduce your stench, try reducing your intake of fart-producing foods. It might take a bit of trial and error to work out what’s producing the pong, since we’re all so different.

Even though some might seem deadly, especially for those unfortunate enough to be trapped in a room with one, farts just means that our gut is happy and everything is functioning normally!

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