Flatulogy: The news of the intestinal gases

Fudging is embarrassing for many - everyone really does it. It is not easy for fart research to fathom man's relationship to his flatulence. How a scientist became "Dr. Fart"

Researchers have found that men fart an average of ten times a day, women eight times

© plainpicture GmbH & Co KG / Jörn Rynio

When they enter new scientific territory, researchers go swimming.The two volunteers who worked for Dr. Michael Levitt wet, they did it for a noble goal: They wanted to give a boost to flatology, the science of rectally escaping body gases. For an hour they stood in warm water with a rubber tube with a collecting bag stuck into the anus. Levitt watched closely: no bubbles. The fart trap held tight. The research could begin.

Differences between the sexes

Since then, the gastrointestinal expert from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minnesota (USA) has made a name for himself. Also known as "Dr. Fart", Dr. So fart, Levitt made important contributions to basic research with his trap. Before his tests, it wasn't even clear how often a healthy person farts at all.

Today we know that men have an average of ten rearward emissions per day. This puts them a good two ahead of women. However, the noses of a jury sniffed: female winds have the stronger aroma. The odor testers were well paid, Levitt likes to emphasize. Only one person complained of slight dizziness and headaches at the end of the day.

How does a fart come about?

First of all: "In the event of persistent digestive problems or new changes occurring, you should always consult a doctor," advises Professor Christian Trautwein, Director of the Clinic for Gastroenterology at the University of Aachen. However, daily body winds are not included. "Everyone has to fart," says Trautwein.

An output every one to two hours is considered normal. The reason for this is the bacteria in our intestines. Experts estimate that up to 1,000 species help us with digestion. This creates gases, around 15 liters per meal. Ingredients: nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen, partly methane and sometimes also malodorous sulfur compounds. "Most of it is absorbed by the body," explains Trautwein. It enters the lungs through the blood and is exhaled. The rest escapes to the rear. The amount can vary significantly.

It increases when food reaches the lower small intestine or the large intestine, poorly digested. Almost all of the gases that are produced there escape to the rear. This happens, for example, when you eat legumes. They contain sugar that cannot be used in the small intestine. Stress increases the movement of the bowel - the food ends up in the large intestine faster and thus causes a higher wind force.

When farts burn

"Dr. Fart" even found an answer to the burning question of whether farts are flammable. It reads: Yes, almost one in three is. Namely, if the producer has bacteria in the intestines that produce methane. Such questions are definitely relevant for medicine. There have been reports of patients who caught fire during an operation - surgeons today often work with an electric snare.

The fact that flatology got going relatively late is certainly due to its disreputable subject. Just naming it is a problem. Fart? Too filthy. Pups? Only fits when you're talking to a three-year-old. In the past people liked to talk about winds. One thing left: Flatus. The Latin term is understood almost only in medical circles. The lack of terminology shows that we are embarrassed by farts. So embarrassing that we prefer not to name the item when we "let one go".

Although it is perfectly normal, many end up redheaded when someone escapes them in public. The louder and more odorous, the more embarrassing, as the American psychologist Dr. Louis Lippman found this out not entirely surprising for his study "The interpersonal regulation of natural gases".

The shame of past centuries

But has that always been the case? "It was even worse," says psychologist Dr. Michael Titze. The history of shame is one of the humor expert's specialties. In the Middle Ages, people usually let their body gases run free, according to Titze. As is well known, Martin Luther is said to have stated: "A hopeless ass does not produce a happy fart."

But just a few decades later it was over with such boldness. "The trendsetter was society at the French royal court," says the psychologist. She wrinkled her fine nose with every lack of body control. On the other hand, the strict rules of behavior put people in a dilemma: Holding back the wind was considered a major health hazard. The putrid fumes could ignite the intestines and even reach the brain, warned the doctors and advised to abstain from "unhealthy" foods such as vegetables and fruits.

No more fag jokes

At the end of the 18th century, the bourgeoisie took physical shame to extremes. Underpants were just the "unspeakable" ones. The very thought that gases were discharged there - scandalous. In comparison, the body winds are allowed to blow more freely again today. According to Titze, you can see that in the jokes. The biggest laughs come from those who break a taboo. "30 years ago fart jokes were the screamers," says Titze.

Today the air is rather out. It is different in circles in which farting is still extremely embarrassing. For example in Buckingham Palace. As aristocracy experts reveal, the royals like to slip whooping pillows under their guests and then - of course - enjoy themselves like a king.

Inhibitions in new relationships

However, the relationship between the normal citizen and body gases is not completely relaxed either. This is especially noticeable at the beginning of a new love. "Women in particular want to conform to an ideal," says Titze. That doesn't fit farting. But at some point the game of hide-and-seek is over. Biology demands its rights. Not infrequently loudly.

Thanks to a survey by the American news portal Mic.com, we also know when the "fart limit" is being exceeded. Of the 125 participants between the ages of 20 and 30, only seven percent suppressed their body winds permanently. Half of them farted within the first six months of the relationship, a quarter later.

Doctors recommend a relaxed relationship

As a psychologist, Titze rates this relaxation positively. "You accept the other person for who he is," he says. The ideal is crumbling. If you then laugh instead of turning away, you are saying: "I know that you are not perfect and that gases escape uncontrollably - and that's how I love you."

Doctors like Professor Christian Trautwein from the German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases are also happy when the relationship with the fart relaxes. "After all, the gases have to go out," emphasizes the director of the Clinic for Gastroenterology at the University of Aachen. Those who hold them back all day suffer from a painfully bloated stomach. After all, every healthy person has almost half a liter of rectal discharge volume per day.

Much is still in the dark about their origin in the depths of the intestinal convolutions. It is caused by bacteria in the intestinal tract. But which pathogens are behind which type of winds? Which are the most active gas producers? "There are hardly any studies on this yet," says Trautwein. It is known that the intestinal flora differs from person to person. "The composition is very similar within a family," says the intestinal expert. It is therefore conceivable that an increased tendency to fart is even passed on from mother to child.

What to do if someone escapes?

So flatology still has a lot of work to do. There is, however, a well-tried recipe against an unpleasant consequence of puffing: the embarrassing feeling when it happens in public. Titze advises: take the air out. With a sense of humor. Like the gentleman who noisily let you go at a fine banquet. "Don't you dare do something like that in front of my wife!" A gentleman in a tuxedo ranted across from him. Then the person who caused the fart: "Oh, sorry! I didn't know that your wife wanted to start."