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The Art of Flatulence

paoli.roman's picture

 It happens to all of us. “Passing Gas”, “cut the cheese”, or “breaking wind”; it could happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. Imagine standing in line at the bank and all of a sudden an uncanny sensation erupts in your stomach and an unpleasant smell ascends out of nowhere; and you think how embarrassing! Flatulence is a standard bodily function it has a purpose with a superfluous result that we wish did not happen at all. Many try to hide it but ideally it can not be concealed.  In this essay I will attempt to answer the following questions by going through material provided through the World Wide Web:  Why and how does flatulence occur? What type of diet has an effect on it? I will also explore the effects on human anatomy, the comic side of flatulence in a public circumstance, and possible remedies.

            What causes flatulence? There are many inferences about the causes of bodily gas. While researching the causes many websites made it clear that external air, for example, air that we breath, has no effect what so ever to flatulence that is there are other gases that we might breath that have other effects on bodily gas but for the purpose of this paper I am only researching gas that is produced through food and its effects on the digestive tract. Needless to say if we “swallow” air it has some affect on flatus this is somewhat true. (4) What mainly sets off gas in our body is food. Foods that contain polysaccharides are usually what create the gas in the intestine; such as beans, dairy products, onions, sweet potatoes, oats, wheat, some fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, and many more. (1) These foods simply do not break down correctly to be or during the digestive process. As a result of this the food makes it from the small intestine to the “large intestine in an undigested state” making the body have a moment of intolerance to the food that was consumed. (2) Another supposition about flatulence that was interesting but unfortunately there was not much information on was the idea of bacteria in our intestines that impinge on our insides while digesting our food.

            How does flatulence occur? Or in other words what is the mechanism involved while “passing gas”.  Flatulence can sometimes occur by accident/involuntarily. Usually a person knows when the gas might be released, especially if the food that they have consumed is not digested well or at all. The food goes through the digestive track after some time, as mentioned before of the digestion went well, the person might feel the urge to go to the restroom. But before this a person might feel the need to “pass gas”, the anus or rectum becomes tense and the nerve endings feel the push of the muscles or a boiling or bubbly sensation thus resulting in the flatus or gas. This process can be defined by peristalsis which is “the progressive wave of contraction and relaxation of a tubular muscular system, esp. the alimentary canal, by which the contents are forced through the system.”  (3)

            Why does flatulence create a smell and noise? Usually the act of “passing gas” might come with a little extra something. The smell that comes along is caused by the type of food intake. The main gas that releases the rancid smell is hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen. (1)  In other words “bacteria produce[s] the gas (hydrogen and/or methane) when [people] digest foods” which in turn produces the smell. The noise that is involved in the process of flatulence is how the rectum releases the gas through a tight buttock which does not allow passage for the air to go by. The sounds depend on the vibrations affected by the tightness of the areas muscles.

            As mentioned before a diet that includes anything with polysaccharides will create flatulence. “Certain foods produce more flatulence than others because they contain more indigestible carbohydrates.” (2) Foods that are high in sugar and starches create intestinal gas because these foods are sometimes poorly digested. Some of these foods include rice, vegetables, milk, among other foods which where previously mentioned. Beans are notoriously known for creating rotten flatus because of the sugars it contains which are usually difficult to digest. (6)

            It is always funny to hear someone “fart” in public but the truth of the matter is that we all “pass gas” and it is frequently many times in one day. If one holds “it” in, one will be creating an unpleasant feeling that is not normal. Flatulence is normal although embarrassing. Many people have found ways of hiding it by inventing certain undergarment that will conceal the smell and even the sound. A way of reducing the amount of gas one releases per day, or just reducing the smell and sound, is by monitoring their diet; watching out for foods that create a bad digestive process.       


  1. "Flatulence." Wikipedia. 2009. Web. <>.
  2. "What causes flatulence?"  01 April 2000. <> 27 September 2009.
  3. "peristalsis." The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company. 27 Sep. 2009. <Dictionary.com>.
  4. Marks, Jay. "Intestinal Gas." 03/10/2009. Web. 27 Sep 2009. <>.
  5. "Remedies for Flatulence." Home Remedies. 2004. Web. 27 Sep 2009. <>.
  6. Lorenz, Brenna. “Facts on Farts.” 1998. Web. 27 Sep 2009.


Paul Grobstein's picture

appreciating flatulence

From Garrison Keillor ....

There was an old man of Blue Hill
Who, when the church was quite still
During Christmas Eve mass,
Liked to pass gas
Toward a candle, just for the thrill.