Last Update: December 21, 2023
When aren’t fart jokes funny?
Whether we’re watching them on the big screen in a goofy movie a la Dumb and Dumber or experiencing them in real life (remember how hilariously mortifying it was when you first let one rip in front of your significant other?), everything from the noise to the smell seems like something to giggle at.
But sometimes passing gas isn’t something to laugh about; it can actually be a symptom of underlying health issues. Flatulence is byproduct of indigestion, which can indicate anything from a food allergy to a parasite—eek! Read on to figure out what’s going on with your gut, and if your gas is normal or cause for concern.
Hate to break it to you, but you’re probably lactose intolerant. People with lactose intolerance can’t break down or digest lactose, the sugar found in dairy milk. Symptoms other than seriously stinky gas include abdominal cramps, bloating, and diarrhea. Unfortunately, 65 percent of the population loses the ability to digest milk after infancy.
The best way to test if cheese is the reason you cut the cheese? Eliminate dairy from your diet for a few weeks, and then try eating your favorite lactose-filled foods again. If you have the instant urge to cut one or run to the bathroom, it might be time to switch over to non-dairy milks. However, with diets like veganism or the Paleo diet gaining popularity, it’s much easier to find lactose-free versions of your favorite foods, like this vegan cheese log.
Celiac disease is far more well-known than it was just a few years ago, but it’s notoriously difficult to diagnose—especially for adults, who may be used to living with the symptoms of Celiac like indigestion, stomach aches, intermittent diarrhea, weight gain, or rashy skin. This autoimmune response to the protein gluten can also be the surprising cause of flatulence.
Poor motility, or the muscular contractions that occur in the small intestine and complete digestion and elimination, is often at the root of gas and bloating. Because Celiac disease impedes digestion and the absorption of nutrients, it causes poor motility and the production of hydrogen gas. Unsurprisingly, excess hydrogen gas has to escape somehow, and typically it’s in the form of flatulence.
If you think Celiac might be the cause of your wind woes, head to your doctor to get tested for the disease. Passing gas is the least serious symptom of the autoimmune disease, and the longer one goes without a diagnosis, the more damage may be done to the small intestine and digestive system.
Put down the aspirin. Yup, intestinal discomfort and gas can be an annoying consequence of some of the most commonly prescribed medications like antacids, narcotic pain medications, iron supplements, and even aspirin. Feeling the pain but don’t want to deal with the stinky side effects? Instead of reaching for the aspirin bottle, grab some turmeric. The bright yellow herb contains the anti-inflammatory compound curcumin. Research has shown that the effects of curcumin are so powerful that it can even match the effectiveness of some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin.
Then you might have irritable bowel syndrome. Characterized by abdominal cramping and discomfort, a main symptom of IBS is frequent gas and flatulence. IBS cannot be self-diagnosed, so head to a doctor in order to find out you’re suffering from this painful, chronic disease.
A parasite might be to blame. Giardiasis is an infection in the small intestine caused by the microscopic parasite called giardia lamblia, and one of the main side effects is excessive gas. Anyone can contract giardiasis by making contact with people who are already infected with the parasite, but it’s predominantly acquired by drinking contaminated water.
Although giardiasis usually clears up on it’s own, its symptoms (which include fatigue and nausea along with excessive flatulence) are downright annoying. A doctor can prescribe an antiparasitic drug that will clear up those unfortunate side effects in just a few doses.
But for most of us, passing gas is totally normal! It’s a natural side effect of digestion, and typically people expel gas 20 times a day. A fart here and there is actually healthy—especially for those following a high-fiber diet. So let it go… and just say “excuse me”!
Photo credit: Alicia Cho
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