Asking for a Friend: What causes farts? Can you fix passing gas?
The story is told of an elderly gentleman who went to the doctor with a flatulence problem. In the examination room, he explained to his doctor, “Doctor, I have a problem with passing silent gas. It happens at the most embarrassing and inopportune times. In fact, since sitting here with you I’ve passed gas silently at least five times.”
Compassionately, the doctor listened to his patient’s troubles while taking notes in the man’s medical history. Then, removing his reading glasses, he declared, “Well, Mr. Johnson, the first thing we’re going to do is check your hearing!”
Seriously, I can’t think of a bodily function for which we have more descriptive terms: passing gas, flatulence, flatus, farting, letting one fly, letting one go, letting one rip, tooting, and passing wind. Ask any junior high age boy and he’s sure to add a host of other colorful expressions to that list!
And where would the Whoopee Cushion industry be without the fart? So let’s just air the facts on gas and get them out in the open, shall we?
If you experience frequent releases of gas, I could simply encourage you by assuring you that you’re in good company. After all, who hasn’t experienced the embarrassment of passing gas in a crowded elevator, at a poignant pause in conversation over dinner, or while bending over to pick up a box at the office. If only there was a dog nearby to blame it on!
We could also discuss the merits of which pain is greater: the social discomfort of letting one fly, or of clenching one’s buttocks to prevent that from occurring! Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the company you keep.
Hippocrates, the father of western medicine asserted, “Passing gas is necessary to well-being.” So there you have it!
The truth of the matter is that the average adult passes gas about 10 times per day, but up to 25 times per day is still considered normal. (Who monitors stuff like that anyway?) The Roman Emperor Claudius deemed this topic important enough to write a decree allowing all Roman citizens to pass gas whenever necessary. So when in Rome…
Delving the source
Where does gas come from? Most gas is generated in the intestine by undigested carbohydrates. The intestine does not produce enough of the enzyme required to digest some carbohydrates, especially raffinose and stachyose. As a result, these carbs sit there in the gut while friendly bacteria ferment them, causing gas. Yes, that cabbage you ate for dinner two nights ago is in the process of becoming sauerkraut in your gut!
Some of the most common carbohydrates in this category include:
- Legumes (lima beans, peas, lentils, navy beans, fava beans, soybeans, pinto beans, etc.);
- Starches (potatoes, corn, pasta, wheat);
- And cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc.).
A few other common sources of gas include:
- Carbonated beverages
- Fiber supplements
- Lactose intolerance
- And sorbitol
Flatulence can also be brought on by swallowing excessive air while chewing gum, wolfing food down without proper chewing, smoking, and rapid drinking.
People who suffer from bloating are more likely suffering the result of eating fatty foods than pressure due to gas. If you experience symptoms beyond what you consider excessive gas such as: severe cramping, diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stool, fever, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain and swelling, then you should seek medical attention.
Many of the carbohydrates listed among those that cause gas are really good for us. The legumes and cruciferous vegetables are also very healthful for diabetics. So how can we enjoy these nutrient-rich foods while minimizing the discomfort of the gas they produce?
Carminative herbs are those that have a neutralizing effect on gas either by suppressing its formation or promoting its elimination. There are many carminative herbs, some of which you may have in your pantry right now. Carminative herbs include:
- Dill weed
- And wormwood.
Degassing the bean
You either take a carminative herb as a supplement, or you can use them to season your beans and other starchy dishes in their preparation. Additionally, here are several ideas for degassing beans.
- Try soaking dried beans overnight and then pouring off the water and placing them in fresh water for cooking.
- The Chinese soak their beans overnight, but they also add the herb wormwood to the water when soaking the beans and then pour that off before cooking.
- Another remedy said to reduce or eliminate gas from the beans is to cook them with a small, whole carrot. If you like, you can combine all three methods.
For relief of gas, try taking a peppermint capsule. One brand combines the oils of peppermint, ginger and fennel to provide a quick, pleasant remedy for gas. Probiotics can also aid digestion and relieve gas.
You may find that your digestive system cannot tolerate a particular gaseous food. If so, eliminate it from your diet and along with it the gas.
When all else fails and you let one fly in public, you can always smile and say, “Pardon me for being so tart, it was not me it was my fart. It just popped out to say, ‘Hello!’ and then it cleared the room below.”