Everybody Farts

Everyone passes gas. Sometimes it is audible and sometimes it can be really odoriferous. While I was seeking something a bit more glamorous for my first post of the New Year, I read an article about a formal reprimand that was issued to a Federal worker who released an excessive amount of flatulence in the work place. In the reprimand letter, it was noted that the worker was lactose intolerant and had promised to purchase Gas X. He worked in a module and disrupted his work environment with the odors he emitted.

As a review (and yes, I am in lecture mode and have again donned the white support hose, lab coat, diagrams and pointer): A fart (flatulence) happens when your body gets rid of excess gas or air through the rectum. Gas builds up from the action of bacteria on undigested food, and air is swallowed while eating. The gasses, nitrogen and oxygen, can travel through your digestive system and connect with other gasses (hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide) from food digestion. In the patient center area of the American Gastroenterological Association website, I learned that: “most people produce between a pint and a half gallon of gas each day. The unpleasant odor of some flatus is the result of trace gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, indole and skatole, which are produced when foods decompose in the colon.”

Think of the volcano you might have made for a science project when you were young. The gasses had to escape and go somewhere. So, quite simply, they leave through the end most part of your digestive system. Sometimes they are loud and mostly they are stinky. And yes, I am pointing at the rectal area of the human diagram, as I want to make sure everyone knows what I am referencing. (Done with lecture mode.)

There is another factor about audible flatulence that is interesting and that is most cultures find it funny. Not just polite smile humorous, but laugh out loud hysterically funny. Go figure!! Gene Weingarten writes in the March 8, 2012 Washington Post Magazine in a short article titled: Gene Weingarten, Hear No Evil, that the fart can be considered nonverbal communication. He said it is an object of amusement in Sanskrit, Old Norse and Aramaic, the language of Jesus. “It is rampant in Chaucer’s more ribald tales. Roughly 300 years ago, the Japanese had “fart scrolls” — cartoons of naked people engaged in ludicrous flatulence fights (you can see some on the Internet). I think it not reckless to surmise that the very first “joke” was likely a shared merriment at accidental flatulence — probably during the late Cenozoic era, when our human forebears began to intellectually distance themselves from more primitive hominids such as australopithecines and Neanderthals, establishing a de facto classist society where the notion of cultural sophistication, as a normative model, first arose. Ergo, unintentional deviations from this new concept of “dignity” exposed our pretensions, giving rise to mirth.”

Now you have it. From the beginning of time, gassing was funny. If you want to know more about the history of farting, there is a book: The History of Farting, written by Dr. Benjamin Bart (I did smile noting that Dr. Bart knows the Fart.) and published in November 1995. Interesting, is that his Grandmother Emily did the initial research on this. Seems that Dr. Bart found several papers on the topic in a chest that Grandmother Emily had in her attic.

Read on article on beinggirl.com that that while everyone has to pass gas, it can be somewhat controlled. (If you are a middle-aged woman in the upper ends of the age group, the reality is that control can be more of a challenge as flatus can happen despite our best effort to control it.).

What helps:

Eat slower so you swallow less air.

Don't chew gum, which makes you swallow air.

Cut down on sodas that produce gas.

Substitute another high-fiber food for major gas creators like beans or corn.

Note if there are trigger foods for you, such as onions or lactose in milk, omit those from your diet.

Exercise also helps, as it seems to help in most aspects of our lives.

There is some late breaking news about the Federal employee who received the official reprimand, IT HAS BEEN RESCINDED! I think it is head shaking crazy that this guy’s supervisors, actually took the time to estimate that he passed gas 60 times in about 80 days. Do the math. That doesn’t seem too terrible, as it only about one episode a day. Makes me wonder if personality or job performance had anything to do with this attention. Years ago, I worked for a scientist who emitted loud gas sounds at meetings. He used to carry around a charcoal type of pad, with handle that I guessed he felt would mute the sound while capturing the odor. Good idea in theory only. Since he was a really smart and kind man, we over looked his idiosyncrasy.

One point I want to make before ending is that if you have ongoing and uncomfortable bloating, belching and flatus you should see your health care provider to make sure that you don’t have a problem with your digestive system.

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