Facing Facts About Flatulence
Everyone farts — a lot — so let’s talk about why and what can be done
Let’s just pass this fact out right now: Farting is normal and everyone does it. Anyone who says they don’t is either lying or impossibly uncomfortable. But flatulence generates more snickers than thoughtful discussion, so I’m here to clear the air a bit.
By some estimates, a typical human generates about a third of a gallon of gas a day and lets it out in one or two dozen poofs of varying sound and smell levels. One study found that healthy people might fart about seven times a day, while people who complain about their flatulence are letting loose more than 20 times a day. Whatever the true total, rectal catheters long ago revealed that women fart as much as men.
Meanwhile, the impression of old farts — or rather old people farting incessantly — is a bit of a myth, though with a grain of truth to it.
Farting knows no age constraints
Younger adults appear to complain more about flatulence and discomfort with intestinal gas than older people, according to a new survey of 6,000 people in the United States, Mexico, and the U.K. Among the top complaints people cited, based on their uncomfortable experiences over the previous 24 hours:
61%: Stomach rumbling
47%: Trapped gas
The survey, presented at a United European Gastroenterology meeting but not peer-reviewed, generated an overall score of intestinal-gas problems based on seven measures. People ages 18 to 34 scored nearly three times worse than folks over 65.
Indeed, older people don’t produce more gas, says Kyle Staller, MD, a gastroenterologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. They may, however, be more aware of the gas they do generate. For one thing, sphincter muscles can weaken with age, Staller notes, allowing untimely squeakers. Aging can also bring on gas-producing food intolerances.