Gas: The Embarrassing Body Function That Reveals Secrets About Your Health

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

It’s everyone’s nightmare: You’re in a small, but public space. There are people all around you. And suddenly… you feel it.

That little bubble rising inside. Oh no. It’s happening. Try as you might, you can’t stop it. And then…

It happens. You pass gas. You poot. If you’re lucky, it’s silent. If you’re really lucky, it’s odorless, too — but let’s face it, no one is usually that lucky.

But think about it this way. However nightmarishly embarrassing, this has happened to everyone. Everyone you know, your parents, your clergy, favorite celebrity, we mean everyone.

That’s because passing gas is actually a totally normal thing and a sign of a healthy digestive system.

You’re supposed to fart. And yes, it’s OK that it makes you giggle a little even if you’re a grown-up.

What’s more, your toots can actually tell you a lot about what’s going on inside you! And when you think about it, it’s actually pretty amazing that your body can signal you in these kinds of, erm, unconventional ways.

And while some of what our body does might make us squeamish, it can actually hold a wealth of important information. Just like how the color of menstrual blood can tell us what’s happening internally, so can your gas!

Read on to learn more about what’s happening when you’re feeling a little rumbly.

Why Do We Fart?

Why Do We Fart?
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Farting is totally normal. Basically, if a living creature eats, it farts. You could even say that plants fart out oxygen, if you really want to think about that.

Gas in your intestines comes from whatever air you may swallow during the day, as well as the bacteria that break down your food.

The bacteria produce gas when breaking down starch and sugar that our bodies don’t easily digest, mainly those found in healthy foods.

And that gas has to go somewhere. You know where.

Gas Reveals A Lot About Your Body

Gas Reveals A Lot About Your Body
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

The average person farts about 18 times a day (yes, even you). And that’s a good thing.

It means you have a well-functioning digestive system, and plenty of friendly bacteria helping you out.

But depending on the frequency and odor, your gas can also serve as a signal for what’s happening in there.

It’s like a smelly little report from your bacteria pals.

Types Of Gas And Their Meanings
Type #1: Odorless Farts

<u>Types Of Gas And Their Meanings</u><br>Type #1: Odorless Farts
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Don’t worry. Even if you poot 18 times a day, most of them are completely scentless, and no one will notice. Maybe not even you.

Most of the gas you expel is carbon dioxide, the same stuff you breathe out.

So most of the time you fart, you’re helping the plants grow!

Type #2: Smelly Farts

Type #2: Smelly Farts
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Of course, farts wouldn’t be so horrifying if they didn’t smell.

The smelly variety is caused by hydrogen sulfide gas, which is created when you digest foods containing sulfur.

Foods that are generally known for causing gas are ones with sulfur in them. Broccoli, cauliflower, dairy, and of course, beans are on that list.

Red meat can also cause some stank, but usually not as immediately, thanks to chemicals called thiols.

Type #3: Really Smelly Farts

Type #3: <i>Really</i> Smelly Farts
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

You know what we’re talking about. The kind that can ruin an entire busload’s commute, or force you to drive with the windows down even in the dead of winter.

Typically, although horrifying for everyone, it usually just means you have a super-healthy diet.

No good deed goes unpunished, right? If you eat a lot of fiber, or you just really like broccoli.

However, they can indicate that you might have a lactose sensitivity or intolerance.

You may not feel sick, but exploding like a little stink bomb shortly after consuming dairy means your body is having a hard time digesting it.

Type #4: Silent Farts

Type #4: Silent Farts
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

The noise your gas makes — or doesn’t make — actually doesn’t mean anything regarding your internal health.

It just has to do with the position of your muscles at the time.

So if you’ve stealth-farted in a public place and gotten away with it, don’t get too cocky. Next time you might not be so lucky.

Type #5: Frequent Farts

Type #5: Frequent Farts
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Frequent farting is not generally a bad thing.

But if you find it happening a lot, it might be a sign that you’re eating a lot of gas-inducing foods, or somehow getting a lot of air into your digestive system.

In some rare cases, it can signal something called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which is exactly what it sounds like, and can lead to frequent gas and bloating.

But usually, it’s nothing to worry about. Except in social situations.

Ways To Cut Down On Gas
Tip #1: Drink Less Caffeine

<u>Ways To Cut Down On Gas</u><br>Tip #1: Drink Less Caffeine
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Okay, this is kind of cheating. Drinking less caffeine won’t make you have less gas, but it can increase your chances of not making it a big, loud production.

Caffeine has been shown to relax the sphincter, making you more tooty.

Less caffeine will give you better control.

Tip #2: Eat Less Dairy

Tip #2: Eat Less Dairy
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Dairy is a major factor in most peoples’ gas.

That’s because it contains sulfur, and is also hard for many people to digest, even without a lactose intolerance.

Cutting down on your dairy intake will reduce gas, and will definitely make them less stinky.

Tip #3: Eat Slowly

Tip #3: Eat Slowly
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Eating too quickly makes you swallow air, which passes right through your system to become farts.

The same goes for chewing gum and drinking a lot of carbonated beverages.

Try slowing down when you eat. You’ll get the bonus of actually enjoying your food and feeling full more quickly, which will also help you eat less!

But at the end of the day, everyone poots. It’s OK.

Sure, it’s unpleasant and it makes people giggle like middle schoolers, but it’s actually completely normal and healthy. Don’t worry about it so much!

If you really feel something is amiss, though, talk to your doctor to get to the bottom (pun intended) of things.

And SHARE this ever-pertinent information with all of your gassy friends!