How many new parents have been elated by baby’s first smile, only to learn: it may just be a sign of passing gas.
For adults, though a little flatulence at an inopportune moment can be mortifying, it’s totally normal and can even be a good thing. If babies understand that, why don’t we? Here are five reasons why gas is good for you, so you can let that self-consciousness go—for good!
It’s the body’s way of getting rid of extra air
First things first: everybody farts. It’s a normal bodily function, and one that happens to all of us up to 20 times each day. Gas sometimes comes from accidentally swallowing air, but most of it is produced in your large intestine during digestion.
When you feel the urge, experts say it’s best not to hold it—keeping it in can cause abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, and even heartburn. Even worse, flatulence can build up in the intestine—meaning when you finally let loose, it might be three or four times more potent.
It’s a sign of healthy gut microbes
The gut microbiome is the colony of bacteria in our digestive tracts that’s responsible for breaking down food. All those tiny organisms feast on your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, producing gas that’s eventually released as flatulence. And that’s not all they produce: along the way, they create tons of beneficial compounds that can do everything from prevent infections to reduce inflammation. In fact, a healthy gut microbiome has been linked to a stronger immune system and mental wellness.
It shows that you’re getting enough fiber
Legumes, nuts, whole grains, and many fruits and vegetables are high in soluble fiber, which can lead to gas. But a little roughage not only helps regulate digestion and lower cholesterol, but also nourishes the specific types of bacteria that are associated with a leaner physique. Without fiber, microbes start to feed on the lining of the intestines, causing inflammation and disease.
It produces beneficial compounds
The naturally occurring chemical that makes gas smell so bad might actually have some exciting medical applications. Scientists believe hydrogen sulfide could prevent or reverse the type of cell damage that triggers dementia, heart attacks, and strokes. Promising as it sounds, that doesn’t mean that smelling farts is good for you—experts are more interesting in finding ways to deliver hydrogen sulfide directly to the cells.
It’s a sign that you’re comfortable with your significant other
According to a survey conducted by Mic, 25 percent of people feel comfortable farting in front of their significant other only after six months of dating. Another 7 percent of respondents said they try to never cut one in front of their partner, though that’s probably not realistic. Really, if you feel comfortable enough to let your bodily functions flow freely, it’s a good indication that your relationship is in a good place.
Embarrassing as it can be in the moment, a little toot here and there is totally normal. Of course, if you’re always uncomfortably gassy or notice some especially smelly farts, you might want to check with a doctor—that could be a sign of lactose intolerance, Celiac disease, or another serious health condition. Otherwise, let the smash hit from the movie “Frozen” be your inspiration: let it go!
Illustration by Foley Wu