Farting might be embarrassing—especially when it’s noticeable (sound, smell). But it’s actually important for your health.
There are benefits to letting it rip throughout the day (most of them go undetected, anyway.)
“Farting can tell us a lot about our digestive health. It’s actually very normal to pass gas over a dozen times a day, and lack of gas may indicate less diversity in lower digestive tract bacteria,” says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, of Kelly Jones Nutrition. Having a diverse microbiome is important to good health in many ways, including improved mood and fitness performance, better heart health, and a healthier immune system. If you aren’t farting enough, see a doctor to better understand why and how to get things moving better in your digestive system. In the meantime, start making your microbiome more diverse with these strategies.
But if you are farting frequently enough, here’s what it’s doing for you:
Farting is telling you you’re getting good, complex carbs
“A diet rich in legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains nuts and seeds has long been associated with health benefits, and a healthy amount of flatulence can be indicative of this,” says Jones.
These foods provide fermentable fibre, resistant starches and oligosaccharides, which are all complex carbohydrates that good bacteria ferment and feed off of in the lower digestive tract. Gas is a byproduct of this fermentation, and that’s what you release when you fart. So, by farting, you know you’re getting a good variety of these types of fibrous foods to improve your gut health and the microbiome that helps keep it going.
It improves colon health
Yup, that’s right—farting can keep your colon happy now and lower the risk of colon complications in the future. In the short term, “holding in gas can limit motility of bowels, leading to digestive discomfort, pain and even constipation,” she says, so letting the gas pas can keep you regular and comfortable.
“In the long run, regular constipation increases the risk for diverticulosis,” she says. So, don’t hold it in for too long if you’ve got to go.
Farting might help you eat better
While you should fart throughout the day, you don’t want to do it too little or too much. “If you’re passing heavy gas regularly and it’s often foul in smell, it may indicate your diet is too rich in protein, sugar, or saturated fats versus healthful carbohydrates and plant-based fats,” says Jones. “This may also be the case if your diet is rich in artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols,” she adds. It may be the result of healthy foods, too, like sulfur-rich eggs or broccoli. But if you didn’t just eat those and your gas smells pretty dramatically, then evaluate whether you should rebalance the amount of protein, sugar, and saturated fat you’re downing.
It can help you identify food intolerances
Farting doesn't mean you should automatically jump to conclusions that you have a food intolerance, and start cutting out entire food groups. But it's worth investigating a bit before consulting a gastroenterologist or a dietician specialising in gastrointestinal issues. “Difficulty passing gas, painful bloating, or foul-smelling gas may indicate food intolerances,” says Jones. (Although you probably don't need an off-the-shelf food intolerance test. Here's why.)
However, if a food you don’t consume regularly is causing gas, such as beans or cauliflower, it may be that your good gut bacteria are simply adjusting to the new food as they ferment the carbohydrates.
Give your body a few chances to become more familiar with the food before you decide you won’t eat it. “Often,” Jones explains, “more regular intake of these foods for several weeks leads to a healthier bacterial balance and less gas production.” But if that’s not the case and uncomfortable bloating and foul-smelling gas persist when you eat certain foods, talk with a doctor about what might be going on.
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