Farting guide: how normal is letting go and when is it a sign of a problem?

Boom, there’s no one who doesn’t let go. It can also cause discomfort in a crowded room during the meeting, especially when it makes noise, or embarrassment when we talk about it, but from the elderly to the child, it is normal to pass flatulence several times a day, sometimes even unconsciously.

According to Carlos Machado, doctor of nephrology and retired professor at Unifesp (Federal University of São Paulo), gastrointestinal gases are basically produced by the billions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract and participate in the digestion process, mainly after the metabolization of carbohydrates , fats and proteins ingested in food.

Vanessa Prado, digestive system surgeon and doctor at the Nove de Julho Hospital Digestive Specialty Center (SP), says that farts have no function: “When food is digested, there is fermentation for remove mineral salts and nutrients to be absorbed and another to make fecal cake, where there is gas production”.

However, have you ever wondered: how many times a day is it normal to fart? When can flatus be a sign of a health problem? Do they always stink? What foods can increase or decrease gas production? We have prepared a guide for you to understand the fart once and for all.

How much fart is it normal to pass per day?

The amount of farts per day can vary from person to person. According to Machado, the human being can eliminate 10 to 20 flatulence a day, while for Gustavo Lima, doctor of the gastroenterology clinic of the HC-UFPE (Hospital das Clínicas of the Federal University of Pernambuco), the quantity can vary between 14 and 18 flatus per day. In millimeters, the number can vary from 700 to 1,500 ml, however with a more careful diet, a reduction can be achieved to less than 1,000 ml per day.

Prado draws attention to an important factor that determines the amount of gas produced per day, intestinal dysbiosis (imbalance of intestinal flora). Each organism will have a number of beneficial bacteria and others not in the gut, when the patient eats well and has a healthy life, the dysbiosis will be less and with that they will have less gas production with less malodorous odours.

Why does it stink? Does it smell different?

The gases of the gastrointestinal tract are essentially composed of five elements: nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4). The five together add up to 99% of the elements present in the fart. Almost all farts are therefore odorless and, contrary to popular belief, the fault of the bad smell is not the faeces.

Also, the fart is not always a sign of feces and it does not smell bad because it passes through the feces before being eliminated, what causes a bad smell is that the 1% of the remaining gases are mainly composed of sulfur, the main is hydrogen sulfide (hydrogen sulfide).

The smell will depend a lot on your diet and some foods may be responsible for producing more gas.

What causes the gas production to increase?

Food is one of the causes of increased production. Among them are the types that during the fermentation process generate a strong odor:

  • Broccoli;
  • Cauliflower;
  • Bean;
  • onions;
  • Egg;
  • Milk;
  • Dark beer);
  • Potato;
  • Corn;
  • Asparagus;
  • Garlic;
  • Cauliflower;
  • Watermelon;
  • Waste;
  • Carbonated drinks.

There are types of carbohydrates that are more difficult to digest in the small intestine and, therefore, reach the colon in large quantities, where they are metabolized by bacteria. Eating proteins, such as pork, can also produce sulfur.

Lack of physical exercise, intestinal constipation, lactose intolerance and alterations of the intestinal bacterial flora due to the use of antibiotics can also cause an increase in gas production, in addition to passive anal sex. Medications such as metformin, sweetener, and gum can also cause increased gas formation.

Those who chew quickly, do not have adequate food and eat a lot of fat, the process of which becomes fatty acid which changes the smell of gases, excess flour and gluten, will have a greater fermentation of these foods in the stomach, and consequently will generate a greater production of gas.

To produce less smelly odors, the secret is to live a healthy life, eat vegetables, have routine tests to see if you don’t have colitis (inflammatory reaction of the colon, usually autoimmune or infectious) or gastritis, which can cause a change in absorption of nutrients and increased fermentation of food in the body, generating increased gas production.

What is the path of the fart?

Food is fermented in the stomach, where gas production begins and continues in the small intestine, also known as the small intestine. Subsequently, the farts go to the large intestine and may or may not increase in quantity due to intestinal dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance) or other diseases that cause chronic diarrhea such as colitis, rectocolitis (inflammatory bowel disease) or Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease illness). of the gastrointestinal tract).

Next, the fart passes through the colon, which is 1.5 meters long and is divided into four parts, the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon and the sigmoid colon. After passing through the sigmoid colon, the flatus leaves the body.

When can farting be a sign of illness?

Image: iStock

In the vast majority of cases, excess gas does not indicate any disease, whether or not there is a strong odor.

The doctor from the Nove de Julho Hospital Digestive Specialty Center says that if you pass a lot of gas during the day, after the 25th, you should see a specialist to do some tests, such as an endoscopy or even stool tests , to see how the digestive tract is doing. You can also consult a nutritionist to rearrange your diet based on the test results.

However, studies show that most patients who complain of excessive flatus actually have the same amount of gas as the average population. What happens is that this patient is more sensitive to the presence of gas. People with irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, or functional dyspepsia often tolerate small increases in gas production poorly.

The doctor at the HC-UFPE gastroenterology clinic points out that excess gas can be a sign of illness and a visit to the doctor is indicated when it is associated with a serious symptom such as weight loss, chronic diarrhea, anorexia, anemia, abdominal pain, bleeding in stools, vomiting blood and jaundice. But just the fact that you have a lot of gas is no cause for concern.

In the most common cases, with chest pain caused by gas, people may think they are having a heart attack. But if the discomfort isn’t related to other symptoms, it will likely go away with time.

In other uncomfortable situations, when gas causes the small and large intestines to distend, they end up compressing some organs. This distension can cause colic, a stewed feeling, and pressure in the stomach.

Lima also reports that patients who come to him don’t complain that they fart, in fact, that they don’t, which is why their abdomen is filled with gas, which is called bloating.

Most often, when patients come in with this complaint, there is an investigation into the cause, which may be parasitosis (any infectious disease caused by a parasite) or lactose intolerance. It could also be due to non-celiac gluten intolerance (difficulty digesting proteins, present in wheat, rye, barley and oats) and fructose.

Isn’t farting bad?

If you usually hold your fart, it’s best to stop. Holding flatus too much can cause intestinal loops to dilate. Also, contracting the anus muscle regularly throughout the day can increase the tone of this muscle leaving it hypertrophied and with that the patient will have some lifelong problems such as anal fissure (small cut that occurs on the anal edge).

“Not letting go can cause discomfort because you’re left with gas that needs to go out, so if it doesn’t come out it takes up space. But other than the discomfort, it wouldn’t cause worse problems, because it will come out sooner or later,” Lima says.

What can help?

The retired Unifesp professor informs that there are activated carbon tablets, on sale in pharmacies, which help to neutralize the gases. But be careful: if you take medicines regularly, activated charcoal can inactivate them, being contraindicated in these cases.

It also indicates that a drug called beano helps reduce gastrointestinal gas, and bismuth salicylate may be an option for those complaining of foul-smelling flatulence. The famous simethicone does not appear to be very effective, not showing good results in scientific studies.

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