I’m often challenged when it comes to choosing health topics.  This week I was challenged by an individual who prefers to remain anonymous.  She said, I bet you can’t write about farts.  Fart, although considered a rude and vulgar term is one of the oldest words in the English language.   The more appropriate term is flatulence and it refers to the passing of gas from the anus.

Gas (Flatus) is made in the stomach and intestines as our bodies break down food to make energy.  This gas must be expelled from the intestines and it is normal to pass gas 6 to 20 times per day (or up to 20 times per hour if its Taco Tuesday).

So what causes gas?  The foods we eat can change both the amount and odour of gas produced.  This can vary from person to person and identifying foods that affect us is a good preventative step.   Common food choices which can lead to excess gas are:  Foods rich in fiber (fruits, beans, whole grains etc); Foods containing fructose — Fructose is a simple sugar that occurs naturally in many fruits, especially figs, dates, prunes, pears and grapes;  Vegetables containing raffinose — Raffinose is a complex sugar found in many cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, beans.)

Another source of intestinal gas is swallowing air. People swallow air in many different ways, particularly by: Unconsciously gulping air as they talk, especially when they are upset, excited or nervous; eating or drinking in a hurry; chewing gum; smoking; and drinking carbonated beverages.

Certain medications can increase the frequency and odour of flatulence. Medications such as orlistat or cholestyramine can increase the production of gas.  Medical conditions which affect the bowel such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome can have an impact as well.

Ways to reduce gas include avoiding foods that commonly cause problems; eating slower and chewing our foods; reducing stress; stop smoking; and avoiding carbonated beverages.  Certain over the counter remedies such as Beano® may help to break down raffinose found in certain vegetables.  Also Simethicone (Gas-X®, Ovol®) can help to break up gas bubbles and help to reduce gas. Probiotics may also play a role in assisting with digestion.  Take care of Yourselves and Each Other.