Health

Burning Questions You Have About Farting, Answered

Published On 09/02/2016 Published On 09/02/2016
farting illustration
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

While nobody wants to get caught ripping one, we're all secretly fascinated by farts. It's kind of like how porn is a $97 billion industry, yet somehow no one has porn sites in their search history… especially not fart-fetish porn sites.

Now, I'm not calling you an eproctophile, but you didn't click this link by accident, did you? Don't worry. This is a safe space for fart discussion. "Everybody farts," says gastroenterologist and wellness physician Dr. Rajiv Sharma, who authored Pursuit of Gut Happiness. "Gas production is normal. It's a sign of life."

So go ahead and relax (your sphincter, too, if the urge strikes you) as we delve into the burning fart-related questions that tens of thousands of people ask the internet each month.

Does farting burn calories?

Sorry, internet -- contrary to what you may have read, farts do not burn 67 calories each. I mean, think about it. If that were true, a person who farted 21 times a day would burn 1,407 calories from passing gas alone. That's ridiculous. Farting does not replace exercise. Even if it did, "I would prefer someone to take a seven-minute stroll and get some physical activity," says Gina Van Luven, a certified holistic health counselor.

Is silent really deadlier?

"No," says Dr. Sharma. "Silent or loud, they have the same constituents in terms of gases like nitrogen, hydrogen, methane, oxygen, and water." Water? Eww. This is venturing into shart territory.

Why are some farts loud and some farts quiet?

"Loudness vs. silence is determined by volume of gas, velocity of expulsion, and resistance felt by the expelled gases at the anal sphincter/tissue around the anus/butt cheeks," Dr. Sharma says.

I'd also argue that farts are sentient beings that can sense whether you're in a loud place like an airplane, or a quiet place like a library or yoga class, and roar louder than Katy Perry if it's the latter.

Are there really specks of poop within farts?

"Yes," Dr. Sharma says. "Since there's no way to determine how much and what type of stool (solid or liquid) sits in the various colon segments, it's safe to assume that there will be poop specks in farts. If you're constipated or have diarrhea, expect more flecks."

I don't know about you, but I have never been more grateful that wearing underpants, jeans, Spanx, and other garments to cover the lower half is a social norm.

Is farting frequently a sign of gastric health or distress, or both?

"Both," Dr. Sharma says. "One trillion microbes live in the gut. These microbes constantly break down the material in the digestive system and produce gases. Microbes are a crucial part of the gut ecosystem. Hence, gas production is a normal bodily function."

As Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, "It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind."

How great of a quantity? About 0.5 to 1.5 quarts or 13 to 21 farts per day. More than that might signify an issue.

"Too much gas production may indicate conditions like dysbiosis (imbalance of flora), gut motility issues (constipation, irritable bowel syndrome), inflammatory bowel disease with mucosal irritation and mucosal damage, or other diseases that affect the gut health," Dr. Sharma says.

Do dead bodies fart?

I've heard all kinds of creepy stories about the effects of rigor mortis, so it seems conceivable for a corpse to fart. It's kind of sweet to think that my grandfather, Sidney "Pull My Finger" Wilkinson, might be doing what he loved, even in death. However, unless there's a Taco Bell in the afterlife, his gassy days are over.

"Dead bodies typically do not fart," Dr. Sharma says. "One plausible [exception] would be someone who ate heavy Mexican food and then died. Since the gut motility may be active for a few hours after death, the gas may make its way to the sphincters and escape as a fart."

Dr. Sharma adds that "it would be scary to hear a dead body fart. Spooky."

Agreed.

Are farts flammable?

"Yes, but not all," Dr. Sharma says. "Farts have methane, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and some other inert gases. Methane and hydrogen are highly combustible. Oxygen facilitates the combustion. Based on the proportion of methane and hydrogen in the fart, a fart could be highly combustible."

Dr. Sharma remembers a case from a few decades back when sparks and fire resulted from a colonoscopy with a cauterization gone terribly, terribly wrong. "My advice: don't fart next to a fire to impress anyone, as you don't know what fraction of your fart is made of combustible gases," he says.

Honestly, you could boil that down to five words ("don't fart to impress anyone") and it would still be sound advice.

Did s/he who smelt it deal it?

Yes.

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Missy Wilkinson says a very snooty "Good day!" to the gastroenterologists who told her this topic was beneath them. Follow her on Twitter @missy_wilkinson.

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