DR. MOHLER: When it comes to passing gas, just let ’er rip | PostIndependent.com

DR. MOHLER: When it comes to passing gas, just let ’er rip

Phil Mohler, M.D.
Free Press Health Columnist

Last month, flying home from Ohio where I was visiting my son and his family, I inhaled the pungent “rotten egg” waft of …wind…gas…flatus…yep, a fart.

At 30,000 feet, there was no dog to blame. Farts or flatus or passing gas from the rectum is the subject of embarrassment, not infrequent consultations with physicians and humor, “pull my finger.” In 2008, a farting application for a cell phone earned nearly $10,000 in one day.

What’s the science of flatus? This gas is mostly the product of food digestion in the gut, although a small percentage may come from swallowed air. We all produce this gas (1 cup to 1 1/2 quarts per day) and it will escape whether we are aware of it or not. Beans, cabbage, cauliflower and onions increase the production of flatus. Those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or milk intolerance also produce more gas. Ninety-nine percent of the flatus we produce is odorless, but the sulfur compounds in the remaining 1% create the stink!

Remedies for flatus abound. Elimination diets, Beano and simethicone are basic therapies. Recently, American ingenuity has brought charcoal-lined underwear to the market to contain the odors of flatus. “Under-ease,” at $24.95 per unit with replacement filter pads (two for $12.95), was invented by a Pueblo, Colo., man whose wife suffered from “extreme flatulence.”

Trying to hold in gas may have unpleasant consequences. Bloating, indigestion, heartburn and bellyaches, as well as mental stress are common side effects. One study showed that prolonged “holding it in” can result in increased blood pressure and heart rate.


If you are unwilling to give up beans or wear briquettes in your underwear, the healthy advice is, “Just let it go!”

A Whizzpopper!” cried the BFG, beaming at her. “Us giants is making Whizzpoppers all the time! Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness. It is music in our ears! You surely is not telling me that a little Whizzpopping is forbidden among human beans.

— Roald Dahl, from his book, “The BFG” (The Big Friendly Giant)

Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 38 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Email him at pjmohler@bresnan.net.

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