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July 7, 2021 • read
Why do I fart so much and why does it smell so bad?
You know things are bad when the smell of your own farts is unbearable. While other peoples’ farts are gross, most people find that their own farts don’t bother them. If you’re passing gas smelly enough to offend yourself, or if it’s happening so often you’re embarrassed to leave the house, you know something’s up. Here’s what could be causing it, and how to treat it.
How do I know if my farts are normal?
Gas is a byproduct of the digestive process. And since we all have to eat, we all have to pass gas — potentially a lot of it. Most people vent somewhere around 600-700mL of gas a day. The average man does this through about 14 daily farts, but anywhere up to 25 in a day is normal. Since many of the discharges are small and odourless, most of us don’t realize we’re passing gas that frequently. That being said, if you notice that you fart a significant number of times a day, or if your farts are particularly smelly, your digestive system might be telling you that something else is going on.
What affects the smell of my farts?
A number of factors influence the odour of your gas, and how much of it you emit. Eating foods with a high sulphur content is the major driver of smelly farts. Foods from the cruciferous family — broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts — have high sulphur levels, which is why they often result in farts with that rotten-egg smell. Eggs are also predictable spawners of smelly farts, as are meat and dairy. More surprisingly, onions, spicy food, and dried fruit are all potential culprits when it comes to upping the stinkiness factor.
How can I fart less?
If you’ve always been on the gassy side, you’ll likely benefit from speaking with a healthcare provider. They’ll be able to help you rule out any underlying health issues and narrow down a potential cause. If, however, you’ve experienced a sudden increase in your flatulence, it’s worth taking stock of whether something has shifted recently. New diets, a recent bout of food poisoning, or age-related lactose-intolerance are all possible culprits. You can also try keeping a food journal for a few days to see if certain foods trigger a bout of gas. If you find that there are a few contenders, an elimination diet might be in order. Remove all the foods you think might be responsible and add one back every few days. If your symptoms reappear when a new food does, you’ve likely found the culprit.
Alcohol can also be a major contributor to gas because of its high yeast content — another reason that it’s important to drink in moderation. If you’re one of a number of Canadians who’s found themselves drinking more since the start of the pandemic, this could be to blame for an increase in gassiness. Try easing up on the hooch for a few weeks and see if that makes a difference.
Farts and fibre
If you think that constipation is causing your gas, incorporating more fibre into your daily routine and increasing your fluid intake will likely help. Before you go full force, consider that fibre can also cause gas, especially if your body isn’t used to it. If this is your first foray into a higher fibre diet, start small — by adding a bowl of high-fibre cereal in the morning, for example. Trying to add too much at once is a recipe for bloating and likely more gas, not less.
Non-dietary causes of gas
While gas is often attributable to diet, there are other culprits too. These can include:
- Lactose intolerance
- Swallowing air. While a certain amount of this is normal, chewing gum or smoking can increase the amount you swallow, causing a corresponding rise in flatulence.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
- Gastroparesis — also known as delayed gastric emptying, this condition keeps the stomach from emptying itself properly.
- Endocrine disorders, like hypothyroidism.
- Celiac disease.
- Difficulty digesting complex carbohydrates (like whole grains, starchy vegetables, and beans).
How to treat excessive gas at home
For occasional gas issues, it might be worth using an over-the-counter gas relief treatment. If gassiness is a regular occurrence, lifestyle and diet tweaks should be your first course of action. Quitting smoking, drinking without a straw, and eating more slowly will all decrease the amount of air you take in.
Once you’ve addressed the low-hanging fruit, the next step is to take a look at what you’re eating. Many of the foods we eat habitually cause gas — from processed sweets to broccoli. While cutting out anything with excessive amounts of sugar is beneficial, eliminating healthy foods like pears or lentils isn’t. Instead, try eating them in smaller amounts to see if your body tolerates them better. If you’ve tried all of these suggestions and you’re still not getting relief, your next step should be to see a doctor to rule out any underlying health issues.
While not socially acceptable, farting is a sign of a healthy digestive system, so you’re never going to be able to eliminate it completely. Though farting is normal, persistent, foul-smelling ones aren’t. If you feel your gas is especially smelly or frequent, it could be signalling a health problem. Speak to a doctor to rule out any health concerns and explore treatment options.