Tail Wind . . . (was not Re: Doing your part)
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 96 16:55:38 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Tail Wind . . . (was not Re: Doing your part)
Forwarded-by: "Cochell, Jim" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: The Sydney Morning Herald, February 2, 1995
column: MAN TROUBLE
The average healthy Australian bloke passes wind 12 times a
day. He releases about half a litre of gas, enough to blow up a
small balloon. These days, we know more about farting than ever
before. Fearless investigators have collected emissions from all
sorts of people on all sorts of diets and documented their
They know what farts are made of, how much they weigh, why
some are noisy and what different aromas can mean. They tell us
women average only seven a day and report more than half of these
are odourless. Men report an odour two thirds of the time.
Everyone has intestinal gas. People swallow air as they eat
and drink. Some gulp air when they are nervous. Often this comes
back up as a burp, but once the air gets through the stomach, the
only way out is the back passage.
Gas is also created in the intestines by bacterial activity;
while some is used or re-absorbed, the rest has only one escape
When Sydney gastroenterologist Professor Terry Bolin and
nutritionist Rosemary Stanton wrote a book on intestinal gas, they
were amazed at the response. Their book, Wind Breaks, is now in its
third printing and is also being published overseas.
They say the amount of gas a man produces depends on
his diet and the kind of bacteria living in his bowel. In a study
they conducted, men had farting-range from three to 38 a day.
(Volunteers were each given a hand counter to keep in their pockets
and click everytime they passed wind. Other researchers insert
a small catheter into the rectum to count emissions.)
Some men pass small volumes of gas often and others pass
larger volumes less often. Farting frequency depends on the
sensitivity of the walls of the rectum. If the walls are sensitive
to small amounts of distension, the man will pass small volumes
more often than if his rectum tolerates greater distension.
With age, the bowel becomes less elastic and more sensitive to
being distended. This means older men often can't hold in gas and
so pass wind more frequently, without actually producing more gas.
Dr Michael Levitt, of Minnesot , US, who has published widely
on flatus, says farts are made up of five main gases: nitrogen,
oxygen, hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide. All of these are
odourless; it is traces of other chemicals that give each fart its
Men who seek medical help for wind are usually concerned about
aroma, fearing that a pungent smell indicates bowel disease. But
Bolin says odours are usually the result of diet and rarely due to
colitis or bowel cancer.
Many protein foods, including meat and eggs, contribute to
flatal odour. Some spices and herbs also produce pungent aromas as
do onions, garlic and concentrates like shrimp paste. Writing in
the latest issue of Australian Doctor, Rosemary Stanton is
concerned that fear of flatulence is keeping people from increasing
their dietary fibre. There is a correlation between fibre and
flatulence, but people who don't eat enough fibre still
A Melbourne gastroenterologist, Dr James St John, says there
are different types of fibre: people who feel uncomfortable after
eating one type should find another that suits them.
Some foods have a reputation for causing flatulence, but there
are ways of reducing their gas-producing potential. For example
mildly cooked cabbage causes less flatulence than limp, overcooked
cabbage. Soaking beans and then discarding the soaking water
before cooking reduces their gas potential. Dr Levitt has found
(unsoaked) beans increase the average person's output of gas by a
factor of 10.
Beans have always suffered bad press. Even Saint Jerome is
said to have forbidden his nuns to eat beans, believing that in
partibus genitalibus titillationes producunt (they tickle the
"Remember, there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over".
- Frank Zappa
© 1996 Peter Langston