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March 28, 2022 • 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 everyone has to eat, everyone has 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.
Can flatulence be a sign of disease?
Flatulence itself isn’t a sign of disease, but excessive flatulence can be. If you find you’re farting far more than 25 times a day, it’s time to seek medical advice.
Celiac disease, for example, increases intestinal gas and bloating and abdominal pain. If left undiagnosed, this disease could result in anemia, osteoporosis, malabsorption — difficulty digesting or absorbing nutrients from food — and even colon cancer.
Too much gas and bloating could also be a sign of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease. With Crohn’s disease, food can be digested improperly by the small intestine, which means more undigested food reaches the colon. While colon bacteria can digest this food, it ends up producing more gas.
Gastroparesis is another disease associated with too much farting, and more often than not, diabetes is the underlying cause due to high blood sugar. Gastroparesis is the delayed gastric emptying of solid food, which can result in gas and bloating. Not only that, but high blood glucose levels in diabetics can also lead to increased farting since sugar build-up can cause an overgrowth of normal gut bacteria.
Other non-dietary causes of gas can include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Anxiety (aerophagia — excessive air swallowing caused by irregular breathing)
- Difficulty digesting complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, starchy vegetables, and beans.
What affects the smell of my farts?
Wondering how you can stop your farts from smelling bad? A number of factors influence the odour of your gas, and how much you emit. Eating foods with a high sulphur content is the major driver of smelly farts. Foods from the cruciferous family — broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels 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.
Food intolerances like lactose and gluten can also cause excessive odour. Avoiding dairy products if you’re lactose intolerant and gluten if you have gluten sensitivities can help keep this at bay.
Why do I get flatulence straight after meals?
Now that you know that what you eat affects the odour of your gas, you should also know that the way you eat — and what you do after eating — also impacts flatulence.
As you eat, you naturally take in air. This air goes down through your stomach, creating gas that can either be released through a burp or fart. Chewing gum or smoking, for example, can increase flatulence because of how much air you swallow. There are small things you can do to help decrease how much flatulence you experience after eating, such as:
- Avoiding gulping your food — slowing down and chewing well before swallowing
- Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day
- Sticking to drinks that aren’t carbonated
- Walking after big meals
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 and bloating.
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 and bloating because of its high yeast content — another reason that it’s important to drink in moderation. One drink a day for women and two for men could be to blame for an increase in gassiness. Try easing up on the alcoholic beverages 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 high-fibre foods 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 — add 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.
Is it bad to hold in a fart?
Holding in a fart isn’t dangerous, but it’s not good for your body either. Doing so can lead to bloating, discomfort, abdominal pain, and even heartburn.
While it’s completely understandable to not want to draw attention to yourself by farting, when you feel bloating and gas coming on, it’s much healthier for you to just let it out. If you’re feeling self-conscious, try stepping away from the situation you’re in to pass gas rather than trapping it in your digestive system.
Is farting good for you?
Not only is farting something everyone does, it’s also healthy for you. Passing gas releases a buildup of gas in your digestive system, and letting it out means you’re removing it from your body. Farting can also relieve any abdominal pain you may be feeling due to bloating, gas, and indigestion — not being able to pass gas and feeling backed up could be cause for concern.
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.
You can also try a low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) diet as the next step. While a FODMAP diet might sound a bit intimidating, you’re simply cutting down on short-chain carbohydrates that aren’t always easily digested. A dietitian will be able to walk you through this diet or any other nutritional changes and provide a custom meal plan with health benefits based on your goals.
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 always socially acceptable, farting is a sign of a healthy digestive system, so you’re never going to be able to eliminate it. Although 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.
Maple makes it easy to speak with a doctor for medical advice about flatulence in minutes. The doctor can rule out any health concerns and explore treatment options, including prescriptions, if necessary. There’s no time like the present to pay attention to gas and bloating, and if something’s off, you can find comfort in knowing help is available from your phone, tablet, or computer.