Farting or ‘passing wind’, also referred to as flatulence, is the passing of gas from the digestive system out of the back passage (rectum). Flatus is the medical word for gas generated in the intestinal tract.
How many times a day is normal?
Flatulence is a normal biological process and is something everyone experiences regularly. Some people fart only a few times a day, others a lot more, but the average is about 5 to 15 times a day.
How are farts formed?
You take in small amounts of air when you swallow food, water or saliva. This air builds up in the digestive system. Gases can also build up when you digest food. Some carbohydrates in food can't be digested and absorbed easily, so they pass down into your colon to be broken down by bacteria, producing gas. The body needs to get rid of the gas build-up by farting (flatulence) or burping (belching).
Why does it smell bad?
Most of the gases we pass are odourless and often released in small quantities. It usually only has a bad smell when it contains gases that smell, such as sulphur.
There are several natural causes of flatulence. Flatulence can also be caused by:
- Swallowing Air: Excess air can be swallowed by chewing gum, smoking, sucking on pen tops or hard sweets, having loose-fitting dentures or eating food too quickly.
- Food and drink: Food containing a high amount of unabsorbable carbohydrates include: beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, artichokes, raisins, pulses, lentils, onions, prunes, apples, Brussels sprouts, Bran in cereal, Sorbitol (in sugar free gum) and fructose (in fruit juice).
- Health conditions: indigestion, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), coeliac disease, lactose intolerance, gastroenteritis
- Medicines: Some pain relievers such as ibuprofen and laxatives.
When does Farting Become a Problem?
Flatulence can be related to an underlying health problem affecting the digestive system such as recurring indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
You should visit a doctor if farting is associated with any of the following:
- persistent abdominal pain and bloating
- recurring episodes of diarrhoea or constipation
- unexplained weight loss
- bowel incontinence (involuntary passage of faeces)
- blood in your stools (faeces)
- signs of an infection, such as a high temperature, vomiting, chills, joint pain and muscle pain.
Flatulence can usually be controlled by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, such as:
• avoiding foods known to cause flatulence
• eating smaller and more frequent meals
• eating and drinking slowly
• exercising regularly
There are also some over-the-counter medications that can help if your flatulence is troublesome, such as charcoal tablets or Simethicone.
If your flatulence is related to an underlying health problem, treating the condition may help resolve it.