Flatulence is one of the few bodily functions viewed the world over as an embarrassing social transgression. Awkward elevator encounters in which someone is pretending they didn’t just gas the space, and uncomfortable shifting when sitting at the dinner table and praying for a soundless cutting of the cheese, all contribute to society’s anxiety about a bodily function that’s as natural as breathing. The sound—and occasionally, the accompanying odor—usually lead to rushed and murmured apologies or riotous laughter. There’s hope, however! Flatulence—or farting, for the mature crowd—is actually a very healthy and a good way to keep track of one’s colon health. Here’s why:
It removes a slew of unhealthy (and untasty) chemicals from the body
So the fart has happened, the smell is settling in the air like a dense and foul-smelling fog, and if one is lucky, they are among friends. At worst, one can expect to be blasted–roasted, if you will–for letting one rip so recklessly in a confined space. At best? High fives all around, congratulating you on your healthy colon and for risking eating the beans for dinner.
Gas is produced in the body constantly, and usually exits one of two ways: out the front door (a burp), or out the back (the other end). As explained by Unity Point, when the human body consumes oxygen, it’s not just oxygen being inhaled — it’s nitrogen and carbon dioxide as well. Most of the gas in your body tends to exit through a burp or belch, such as when one consumes large quantities of carbonated beverages. However, refusing to belch reminds the body that when the front door is locked, the back door is an equally viable exit. It’ll simply push the gas further down until it reaches the digestive track. And then, the roast material.
But there are more wonderful chemicals our toots force out of our bodies. The culprit behind what we’ll call That Face™ — the infamous “eww face” we make when we smell (or emit) something far worse than the rottenest of rotten eggs That’s due to traces of sulfur found in the foods you eat. Those got to go too, and if you have to apologize for the stench, both to others and yourself, that’s just a small price you pay for claner insides.
It’s a great way to handle our digestive tract’s many, many weaknesses
The cause of the gas can also be due to the fact that, according to Dr. Lawrence Kim, human bodies are ill-equipped for digesting certain foods properly. That’s right! For being the only species on the planet that has built the civilization, humanity’s still incapable of properly breaking down just so much yum-yums. Lentils, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, whole-grain foods like cereals and certain breads, sugars found in artificial sweeteners … we honestly might as well not eat those at all. When we do, our body works hard — and noisily — to both discharge what it can’t break down, and remind you to not feed it that garbage ever again. Seems like all that talk from Mom forcing us to eat our broccoli was simply a set-up for gassy times ahead, huh?
That stench might help you live longer
While it certainly seems weird, did you know that there are actually health benefits to smelling farts, including your own? See, the average human being releases gas 10-20 times throughout the day (or 10-20 per hour after a burrito run). Preliminary research from the University of Exeter suggests that the compound, hydrogen sulfide, which is produced in minute amounts within human farts, may have an impact on preventing mitochondrial damage. While toxic to the system in large quantities, getting a good whiff every now and again might actually benefit you in the long run! Guess whoever smelt it not only dealt it, but gets to deal for many, many more years to come.
Letting it go versus holding it in
There’s a common suggestion that holding in one’s farts can have detrimental effects on our digestive track, so you should just risk a few That Faces™ and just let it out. However, according to Dr. Lisa Ganjhu of NYU’s Langone Medical Center, research suggests that, while this may result in a very uncomfortable time for you and your guts, there is no long-term negative effect involved. The only thing you risk by holding it in is inflating your digestive tract like a balloon animal, only without the cool shapes or the happy ending. You’d be better served just taking the plunge and relieving yourself, social no-no or not.
Conclusion: let it out and feel awesome for it!
So, while releasing a fart can certainly be embarrassing, most of the embarrassment comes from society’s perception of farts: loud, smelly, and sloppy. However, scientifically, this gaseous phenomenon is no different than breathing, and should be just as wholly encouraged. Next time you feel anxious about whether or not to cut the cheese, remember that humans make terrible balloons, and that the first one who smelled it will probably outlast all of the people in the room.