Is Farting Good For You?

Cough in public, no one notices.  Sneeze in public, you get a “bless you!”  Fart in public…

As natural as farting is, we tend to look down on it in “polite” society; but flatulence may be a great way to let people know you’re eating healthy foods.

Some of the best nutrient-packed vegetables — such as cabbage, kale and broccoli — are the same ones that produce a little excess gas.   Breaking wind may just mean you’re getting the right amount of fiber-rich foods — including beans and lentils — and raising the levels of beneficial gut bacteria.

Gastroenterologist (which is latin for Fart Expert) Purna Kashyap at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesotta states, “Eating foods that cause gas is the only way for the microbes in the gut to get nutrients.  If we didn’t feed them carbohydrates, it would be harder for them to live in our gut.”

It appears an ounce of flatulence is worth a pound of cure.  Kashyap says that when these gas-passing microbes are producing fart fuel, they’re also making molecules that boost the immune system, protect the lining of the intestine and prevent infections.  “A healthy individual can have up to 18 flatulences per day and be perfectly normal,” according to Kashyap.

There are two main ways that farts end up exiting your body’s basement door:  swallowing air while eating, drinking, and chewing gum, and your microbiome. The microbiome is the collection of organisms in your gut, and includes hundreds of different bacteria.  These organisms are natural gas naturals.  They dine on unused food in your large intestine, like fiber and other carbohydrates we can’t digest, and deliver flatulence-producing gas as their waste.  They also produce  short chain fatty acids that may promote the growth of other beneficial bacteria.

The more fiber you feed these friendly fart-makers, the more types of microbes appear. Many people believe microbial diversity is connected to slimmer waistlines.  You may be getting skinnier with every fart!

Most microbiome gases — and the resulting flatulence — is odorless; largely made up of carbon dioxide, hydrogen or methane. Occasionally, a little sulfur is inlcuded.  “That’s when it gets smelly,” Kashyap says.  But guess what?  Many of the sulfur compounds in vegetables are beneficial to your health.  For example, brassica vegetables — broccoli, cabbage, mustard — have large amounts of the  sulfur compound, sulforaphane, which is strongly associated with a reduced risk of cancer.

Also, when it comes to farts, a little bit of smell can mean a lot less swell!  “Bacteria that make sulfide gas are really important,” Kashyap says. “They can cause smelliness, but they can reduce the total amount of gas flow.”  That’s because the flatulence fairies in your gut are creating small amounts of sulfur gas from larger amounts of other gases like hydrogen.

All that being said, it’ll probably be a long time before you can blast a fart in the elevator and get a thumbs up for health from the person sharing it with you.  But if flatulence indicates health, you don’t want to prevent it completely, so what then?  Two possibilities are to reduce the amount you break wind, or mask it easily and consistently with products like fart filtering underwear.