Health & Fitness | November 17, 2021 12:36 pm

What the Frequency of Your Farts Says About Your Fitness

Believe it or not, regular tooting is even connected to mental health

A man squatting in a gym.
This man farts over 20 times a day. So do you.
Sergio Pedemonte

Farting never really gets the “adult discussion” treatment.

It’s a hot topic at middle school recess, makes a comeback in college dorm rooms and maybe, depending on the partner, is openly acknowledged in romantic relationships. But in the public sphere? Absolutely not. Too silly, too smelly.

That’s a true shame, though, because flatulence is an effective bellwether for understanding various aspects of one’s fitness. The frequency and potency of your farts can illustrate everything from the efficacy of dietary decisions, to the risk of disease, to even mental health concerns.

Broadly speaking, there are a few rules you should know:

  • Everybody farts. It’s a natural byproduct when the digestive system breaks down food. Bacteria in the small intestine are charged with breaking down high-starch carbohydrates (fiber, especially) and expel gas as a result of that process.
  • The average amount of farts per day, according to Cleveland Clinic, is 14 to 23. There is no difference in the amount of gas produced between men and women.
  • More often than not, farts are “odorless and undetectable.”
  • There isn’t a single health benefit to holding in a fart. It’s purely psychological/sociological. On the contrary, you should let them loose. Holding them in causes bloating and abdominal pain in the short-term and poor colon health in the long-term. Some doctors have even linked the practice to diverticular disease, a gnarly condition where sacs form on the walls of the large intestine.

Great, you’re probably thinking, as you sit at a shared bullpen in your office, post-coffee and a banana. It’s true — the amount of time we spend with other adults gets in the way of letting farts fly. But it’s up to you to find times and situations (the bathroom, a midday walk, etc.) where you can release excess gas and give your gastrointestinal tract a chance. If you’re still predominantly working from home, well, take full advantage.

In general, however goofy or unpleasant it may sound, try to stay attuned to your toots. If you’re not processing lactose the same way you did as a kid, your farts will let you know after a few slices of pizza. Plus, particularly foul-smelling gas could also be an indicator of irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, or giardiasis; in this case, a doctor might help you develop an “elimination diet” to get to the root of the problem.

Meanwhile, flatulence can also be the sign of a healthy gut and balanced food choices. While fiber consumption does increase the build-up of gas and lead to farting throughout the day, keep in mind that regular farting is a good thing. It’s a sign that the digestive system is working. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates with fruits, vegetables and grains will give you a nice and diverse microbiome, alongside all sorts of other benefits (a healthier heart, a stimulated brain) that should supersede your fear of farting.

Remember: there are situations where farting will naturally become more common, like pregnancy, or old age (when you’re predisposed to more operations and illnesses that induce gas), or stressful events. It’s unfortunate, for that last one, that we’re at our gassiest when the stakes are at their highest, but “butterflies” in your stomach are actually a sign that gas production has ramped up in response to stress, anxiety or depression. The muscles in and around the stomach tense up, slowing down the entire digestive process.

One trick for keeping inopportune farting at bay — slow down while eating. The faster we eat, the more air comes down our gullets alongside the food. More air equals more gas. That’s another reason why carbonated beverages and chewing gum have also been linked to flatulence. The most important thing you can do, though, is embrace your farts. Let them out, take note if they smell absolutely insane (did you stress-eat last night?) and move on. It’s completely natural, much as we work to pretend that it isn’t.