We’ve all been there. You’re in a crowded, enclosed space- maybe an elevator, the back of a taxi, or standing in line at the coffee shop. You suddenly feel a small amount of pressure building up in your lower abdomen. You’re about to fart. You desperately try to hold it in, waiting until you’re alone before you let it out. Perhaps you succeed- you finally reach a safe space only to have it disappear. Or maybe you don’t, and you have to deal with the embarrassment.
While flatulence is often seen (or rather, smelled) in a negative light, it is a very natural, healthy function of the human body. There are actually many health benefits of farting, and your farts can give you a lot of information about what’s happening in your body.
Why We Fart
Niket Sonpal, MD, an internist and gastroenterologist in New York City, says that flatulence is a byproduct that occurs when your body digests food.
“Gas and air build up in your gastrointestinal tract when you eat, chew, and swallow—some of which is absorbed naturally by the body—and then gets released as a fart or burp.” 
While it may be a social taboo, farting throughout the day is actually good for you. Without it, gas can build up inside your body and make you feel uncomfortable and bloated. Your farts, if you pay attention to them, can also give you information about your health.
5 Health Benefits of Farting
There are a number of surprising health benefits of farting, they are as follows:
1. It Tells You if Your Diet is Balanced
A balanced, healthy diet produces gas. Why? Because foods that provide a lot of nutrients, such as lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, and grains, also cause gas.
This is particularly true for certain types of carbohydrates that cannot be broken down in your digestive tract. These carbohydrates sit in your large intestine for a bit and ferment, until you have a bowel movement. Some examples of foods that tend to cause gas include:
- High-fiber foods: fruits, beans, peas, and oat bran.
- Fructose-containing foods: fructose is a naturally-occuring simple sugar found in fruits like figs, dates, prunes, pears, and grapes. It is also present in smaller amounts in vegetables like onions, artichokes, asparagus, and wheat. It is also added to soft drinks, fruit drinks, and some cookies and cakes.
- Raffinose: raffinose is a complex sugar present in many cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. It is also found in beans.
- Sorbitol: sorbitol is used to sweeten many sugar-free gums and candies. It is also added to some medicines.
- Lactose: lactose is the sugar found in many dairy products like milk, cheese, and ice cream. Some people have low levels of the enzyme lactase, which makes it difficult for them to digest dairy products .
If you took many of these foods out of your diet, and ate just simple carbohydrates, you would pass a lot less gas. Farting, then, could serve as a sign that you are consuming a healthy diet. If you are not passing much gas, it may be time to look at your diet and make some healthy changes.
2. Farting Reduces Pain and Bloating
You collect gas in your digestive tract as you eat, chew, swallow, and digest food. Too much gas in the digestive tract can cause pain and bloating. Although it is not dangerous, it is uncomfortable, and, alas, farting can help.
Expelling that gas can release pressure and reduce the bloating that goes along with it.
3. Farting Improves Colon Health
Holding onto gas irritates the colon, and will irritate hemorrhoids if you have them. For this reason, releasing gas is healthier than holding it in .
It’s a Sign of a Healthy Gut
If you have a thriving colony of bacteria in your gut, it is naturally going to produce more gas. Why? Because those bacteria can eat and break down food in your stomach much more quickly and easily.
A healthy gut is extremely important for the health of your entire body because it ensures that food is broken down in such a way so that your body can use it. It also communicated with your brain through nerves and hormones, ensuring the overall wellbeing of your body .
Gas, then, is a good sign. It means that your digestive system is working well .
4. Farting Identifies Food Allergies
When your body has a negative reaction toward a food, it will produce symptoms to let you know. Common reactions to a food allergy or intolerance include diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and gas.
It will serve you well to pay attention to these signs. If you notice you are experiencing more gas than usual, take note of when it happens. If it’s happening everytime after you eat a certain food, an allergy could be the culprit.
Talk to your doctor if you think you might be experiencing a negative reaction to a certain food. They can order allergy tests to help you determine what the cause is so you can avoid that food .
5. Farting Acts as a Warning
Farting is healthy, but excessive gas or extreme odor could be a sign that something is amiss. The average person farts fourteen to 23 times every day. This number may fluctuate depending on what you eat and your lifestyle.
It may surprise you that gas is actually made primarily of odorless vapours, including carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sometimes methane. The smell, then, comes from bacteria in the large intestine .
If you are passing gas more than 25 times per day, or it is smelling particularly noxious, this could be a signal that you have a food allergy, or a more serious health condition .
Read: What is Candida Overgrowth, and Do You Have It?
5 Things Your Farts Could Be Telling You About Your Health
While there are some health benefits of farting, they can also tell you a lot about your diet. They can also, as stated above, be a symptom of some other health condition. Your body may be trying to tell you something if you note any of the following conditions:
1. You Have Excess Gas and are Constipated
This could actually mean that you’re consuming too much fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient, but you can reach a point of diminishing returns when you eat too much of it.
Fiber bulks up and solidifies your stool, and if you have too much it can be hard to pass. Dr. Sonpal suggests drinking more water and slowly decreasing your fiber intake to fix the issue . Recommendations for daily fiber intake can range from 21 to 38g per day depending on your age and sex. of fiber per day is considered to be the optimal amount.
2. You’re Farting All Day and All Night
This could be from consuming too many carbonated drinks, like soda or beer. These types of beverages can introduce more air, and thus gas, into your digestive tract.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Sonpal recommends cutting back on the number of carbonated beverages if this is the problem .
3. Your Farts Smell Terrible
This could be from eating too many sulfur-rich foods, like broccoli and brussels sprouts. This, says Dr. Sonpal, is what gives off that rotten egg smell.
In many cases, the stink is nothing to worry about. If it persists, however, it could be a sign of a more serious issue (we’ll get to that in a minute).
4. Foul-smelling Farts Plus Digestive Distress
Farts along with abdominal pain likely signal a food intolerance or allergy. Pay attention to which food (or foods) trigger this reaction, and see what happens when you cut them out of your diet .
5. You’re On Your Period
As your estrogen levels rise, your uterus produces more chemicals called prostaglandins, which help shed the uterine lining.
“If too much is produced, it can work its way through your system and make other organs contract, including your bowels,” explains Sonpal .
Bacterial changes during your period could also affect your digestion, causing you to fart more. It may be wise, as your period approaches, to avoid harder-to-digest foods like beans. This will help to reduce gas and discomfort .
6. You’re Stressed
When you’re feeling stressed, you might be more likely to turn to foods you don’t typically consume, like ice cream or chips late at night. Stress and anxiety can also cause you to swallow more air, and can profoundly affect your digestive system.
This stress, in turn, can cause gas and bloating. Try using de-stressing techniques like meditation and deep breathing to help you relax .
Read: 7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Gut Health: Recognize The Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
When Farting Becomes a Warning Sign
As mentioned earlier, excessive gas can be a sign that there is something else going on in your body. Too much farting (or very smelly farts) can be a sign of one of the following:
- Autoimmune pancreatitis
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Dumping syndrome
- Eating disorders
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intestinal obstruction
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Lactose intolerance
- Peptic ulcer
- Ulcerative colitis 
If you have flatulence that occurs over a long period of time, or is accompanied with other symptoms like abdominal pain or a sudden change in your bowel movements, you should contact your doctor.
Smelling Farts is… Good for You Too?
Not only does farting provide health benefits, but smelling farts may actually be good for you, too. Research in animals suggests that the chemical in your farts responsible for that “rotten egg” smell, may provide some health benefits.
In a 2014 study, researchers noticed that when cells in arteries or veins were damaged or stressed, they used the body’s enzymes to create hydrogen sulfide. This gas allows the cell to better regulate inflammation-causing oxidative stress.
As the condition worsens, however, the body is unable to produce as much of the gas as it needs. They found that when they exposed the cell to artificial hydrogen sulfide, it helped just as much as the gas the body had created .
More research needs to be done, but these early results are intriguing to say the least. Though something tells me, people aren’t that keen on smelling farts, regardless of the theoretical benefits.
The Bottom Line
As we’ve seen, there are some health benefits to farting. Regular flatulence is healthy and is a sign that your body is functioning properly. The number of times you pass gas in a day will fluctuate, depending on small changes in your diet and lifestyle.
If, however, you think the frequency or smell of your farts is unusual, you may benefit from speaking to a doctor. They can help determine if what you are experiencing is normal, or if some kind of treatment is needed.
Keep Reading: Important Facts You Need to Know About Gluten (and Celiac Disease)
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- “Why Farting Is Good for You.” Healthline. Kimberly Holland. May 9, 2019
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- “Intestinal Gas.” Mayo clinic. Mayo Clinic Staff
- “The synthesis and functional evaluation of a mitochondria-targeted hydrogen sulfide donor, (10-oxo-10-(4-(3-thioxo-3H-1,2-dithiol-5-yl)phenoxy)decyl)triphenylphosphonium bromide (AP39).” Pubs. Sophie Le Trionnaire, et al.