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Five Flatulence Factoids

Published on , Last Updated on June 14, 2013


Every person from every segment of society, every social and economic class, and every level of physical beauty has at least one thing in common: they all pass gas. Girls and boys, men and women, old and young, beautiful and more beautiful. Nobody is excluded and most people break wind at least 10-20 times a day.

It’s just the way our bodies work. When we chew or eat, we swallow air. The human intestinal system also contains flora that assists with digestion and produces gas as a byproduct. Only so much of this gas can be absorbed by the body, the rest has to come out through the mouth or anus. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the less discussed items concerning flatulence.

1. Flatulence May Be a Fire Hazard

The flammability of flatulence has always had a mystique around it. Many have discussed it, but few have tried. Although, a quick search on Youtube might have you believe it’s one of the nation’s new pastimes. So why does flatulence and a lit match have the ability to start your fireplace? According to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, flatulence is often comprised of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and methane. Methane, which also provides the distinct odor associated with flatulence, is highly flammable. [1]

2. Flatulence Affects Athletes

Among some, there is a misconception that flatulence is the result of an unhealthy body and “healthy people” aren’t afflicted. While excessive flatulence can, at times, be an indication of more serious health problems, most flatulence is normal and everyone’s body produces it, including athletes. In fact, some athletic-specific factors such as “body jostling” while running or rehydration during physical activity may actually prompt athletes to be more flatulent than their less active peers.

Endurance events such as triathlons and marathons require a great deal of energy. During which, it’s not uncommon for athletes to consume extra calories in the form of snacks, sports drinks, or water. If you’ve ever exercised with a full, or partially full, stomach, you know that it can produce discomfort. For that reason, gastrointestinal complaints are common during and after endurance athletics with flatulence among the most often cited. [2] [3]

3. Flatulence May Not Kill the Mood

The human body can be stinky and biological; it can also be a source of enjoyment and pleasure. Whether deliberately or by accident, those worlds often collide.

A few years ago, the University of California San Francisco-East Bay conducted a survey to explore the relationship between flatal incontinence and sexual activity in women. Nearly all the women surveyed were sexually active, and forty-three percent of them reported experiencing flatal incontinence within the previous three months. Although the women who experienced flatal incontinence mentioned they may be more likely to approach sexual activity with caution, they had no intention of ceasing sexual activity altogether. [4]

4. Charles Darwin was Flatulent

Charles Darwin, best known for his scientific research pertaining to the origin of species, lived a long life that was riddled with chronic, reoccurring illness. Many of his writings and personal letters document a number of abdominal problems that historians have hypothesized could have been undiagnosed Chagas’ disease, lactose intolerance, or Crohn’s disease. One of his most common complaints? Flatulence. [5]

5. You Can Buy Odor Suppressing Underwear

Unofficial research has determined that sound and odor are the two aspects of flatulence most likely to cause anxiety and panic; accidental undergarment soilage comes in a close third. Specific to neutralizing the anxiety associated with odor, charcoal filter containing devices such as briefs and seat pads are available and promoted as effective methods to reducing noxious rectal gas. The Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center tested the efficacy of several products and concluded the following:

  • Seat cushions absorb, at best, only 20% of odor
  • Pads inside underwear remove 55-77% of odor
  • Briefs constructed from carbon fabric provide the best coverage and neutralize almost all odors [6]

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM


  1. Sahakian AB, Jee SR, Pimentel M. Methane and the gastrointestinal tract. Dig Dis Sci. 2010 Aug;55(8):2135-43. doi: 10.1007/s10620-009-1012-0. Epub 2009 Oct 15. Review.
  2. van Nieuwenhoven MA, Brouns F, Kovacs EM. The effect of two sports drinks and water on GI complaints and performance during an 18-km run. Int J Sports Med. 2005 May;26(4):281-5.
  3. Pfeiffer B, Stellingwerff T, Hodgson AB, Randell R, Pöttgen K, Res P, Jeukendrup AE. Nutritional intake and gastrointestinal problems during competitive endurance events. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Feb;44(2):344-51. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31822dc809.
  4. Imhoff LR, Brown JS, Creasman JM, Subak LL, Van den Eeden SK, Thom DH, Varma MG, Huang AJ. Fecal incontinence decreases sexual quality of life, but does not prevent sexual activity in women. Dis Colon Rectum. 2012 Oct;55(10):1059-65.
  5. Orrego F, Quintana C. Darwin’s illness: a final diagnosis. Notes Rec R Soc Lond. 2007 Jan 22;61(1):23-9.
  6. Ohge H, Furne JK, Springfield J, Ringwala S, Levitt MD. Effectiveness of devices purported to reduce flatus odor. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Feb;100(2):397-400.

Posted In: Colon Health Blog,Poop Humor
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