Hold those fart jokes


This is probably too much information, but for the first year after I had my kid I didn’t really fart, and also had bloating and constipation issues. It’s all sorted now I can pass gas with the best of them, but it was kind of weird.

Passing too little gas isn’t much of an issue for most of the population. Most complain about the opposite problem. We’ve all felt embarrassed when we fail to control it in public. You know, you let one out in a crowded room. If it’s really smelly, you do your best to look innocent and pretend you’re wondering what beast fouled the room.

Is there a way to mitigate your stench or cut down on gas output?

It’s long been thought that beans cause excess gas-passing, but in a recent Arizona State University study, less than 50 per cent of subjects reported increased flatulence after eating pinto or baked beans, and only 19 per cent for black-eyed peas. Make of this what you will.

What the experts say

“A foul odour is very rarely an indication of disease. No amount of gas is too little, except if there is bowel obstruction or dysmotility, which affects very few individuals and is associated with other symptoms like pain, nausea, vomiting, distension. No amount of gas is too much from a medical standpoint, although it may be a problem socially. Excessive gas can be reduced through diet, specifically one low in fermentable carbohydrates [a long list of fruits, vegetables and grains including apples, pears, broccoli, wheat and rye]. The low FODMAP diet [limiting lactose, fructose, fructans, galactans and sugar alcohols] reduces gas production, although these diets should still be balanced so they provide sufficient fibre and other nutrients.”

DAVID ARMSTRONG, professor, division of gastroenterology, McMaster University Medical Centre, Hamilton

“Farting in Chinese medicine is one of the ‘three jewels.’ The others are crying and sweating. If you fart, your digestive system is functioning properly, adapting to what’s in it and releasing the gas. Crying means the emotional system is functioning well, as sweating does for the immune system. Farts shouldn’t smell very much. If they do, something is wrong. It generally means you’re not getting rid of enough poo. Most North Americans don’t eat enough fruit and veggies or move enough, so we get stinky farts. Poisons like alcohol and foods that are no good for you also make them smell. You can tell what people have eaten – cheese, broccoli, beer – because foods smell a certain way. Bloating and gas can also be associated with irritable bowl and celiac disease.”

KALEB MONTGOMERY, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto

“Digestive bitters enhance overall digestive function and power, so they’re a very good way to stimulate production of hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and the different hormones important for breaking food down properly. The digestive bitters are gentian, wormwood, artichoke leaf and dandelion greens. These should be enjoyed as a tincture just prior to a meal. Also good for decreasing gas and bloating are what we call carminatives, aromatic herbs like dill, peppermint, ginger, anise and fennel. They can be taken as a simple tea after the meal. You could just do peppermint or ginger, but it’s nice to mix them up.”

CELINA AINSWORTH, herbalist, Toronto

“It’s normal to pass gas, but anything more than 15 times per day could indicate an underlying digestive issue. Food intolerances often cause foul-smelling gas and bloating. Any food triggers should be identified with the IgG blood spot test and eliminated from the diet for a period of at least three months. Before meals, drink 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar diluted in water. This aids digestion and reduces gas and bloating. I also recommend taking a probiotic with 100 billion active cultures of healthy bacteria, along with 500 mg of powdered L-glutamine daily for two weeks. You can make your own soothing digestive tea by adding crushed fennel seeds to near-boiling water.”

SARA CELIK, naturopath, Toronto

“For occasional gassiness, culprits are often legumes, oats and cruciferous veggies like cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. Soaking legumes overnight, rinsing and cooking in fresh water can reduce phytic acid, a compound in beans that contributes to gassiness. Other dietary measures like gluten-free, dairy-free and FODMAP diets are useful in specific conditions. Meet with a naturopathic doctor or physician who has a practice focusing on digestive health and can provide a proper assessment.”

JENNIFER BAER, naturopath, registered holistic nutritionist, Toronto

Got a question? Send your Althealth queries to althealth@nowtoronto.com



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