What your farts say about you...
Farting, also referred to as flatulence or wind is completely normal. It results as a by-product of your digestive system breaking down and processing food and nutrients. In fact, farting is healthy and good for your body! Generally, flatulence/ farting is caused by factors that can be controlled. This is because intestinal gas usually comes from two sources – either swallowed air or the work of our intestinal bacteria on undigested food.
Farting throughout the day and night is usually beneficial, as the build-up of gas can result in uncomfortable bloating. About 10-20 times a day is regarded as “normal” and indicates that your inner community of microbes are happy and well-fed – signifying a healthy gut. But why is gut health so important?
When we talk about gut health, we are referring to the functioning of our entire digestive tract, a 9-metre-long tube that carries food from entry (mouth) to exit (stool). Numerous functions are occurring along the way like digesting food and absorbing important nutrients, along with a range of other activities – without us even knowing!
Good gut health is strongly linked with improved overall health. Taking care of your gut has shown to aid with weight management, better mental health, alongside decreasing the risk of a range of conditions from diabetes to heart health and even some cancers.
How can you start to look after your gut health?
Your gut flora can change quickly based on the foods you eat, what seems to create a wide range of friendly gut bacteria is a diet rich in fibre. For a healthy balanced diet, we are encouraged to have 30g of fibre daily. However, most adults in the UK only achieve around 20g of this recommended amount! Try out some tips below to increase your fibre intake.
- Aim for half a plate of fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables with every meal.
- Bulk up curries, stews, and salads by adding pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans.
- Choose wholegrain cereals (Weetabix, porridge, bran flakes), whole grain bread and brown pasta or rice.
*Top Tip: If you are increasing your fibre intake, this may result in increased flatulence if your body is not used to this quantity. When starting, aim to increase your consumption of fibre slowly over time and ensure you are also drinking plenty of water alongside.
Probiotics are often described as ‘friendly’ bacteria as they are thought to help repair the natural balance of bacteria in our gut. They are found in fermented foods including yoghurts, kefir and kombucha, or taken as food supplements.
When we eat, drink or supplement with probiotics, these beneficial bacteria enter the gut and compete for space with potentially harmful bacteria. The probiotics drive the harmful bacteria out of the gut and makes space for more beneficial bacteria. These potentially harmful bacteria often come from lifestyle factors such as the types of food we eat, smoking and alcohol. We now know that with dietary changes, or a probiotic supplement, we can indeed improve our gut bacteria!
If you want to try out probiotics and have a healthy immune system, they should not cause any unwanted side effects. However, if you do have a weakened immune system it is important to discuss with a professional before supplementing.
Stress or anxiety can directly or indirectly result in issues with gas. Stress affects the gut, which may cause digestive issues. Stress or anxiety can cause you to gulp and swallow more air without intending to. The gut-brain axis is powerful and recent evidence suggests that tapping into it can play a significant role in our mental health.
Consider utilising de-stressing techniques - just 15 minutes a day of mindful meditation has shown to have huge benefits and aid to relax the gut. Calm and Headspace apps are a good place to start or simply read a beginner’s book on how to meditate.
When to seek medical advice?
Passing wind is rarely a cause for concern. However, if you feel you are breaking wind more than usual or experience pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea, ensure to make an appointment to see your GP. These may be signs and symptoms of a digestive issue that needs to be addressed.
Regularly passing wind is a sign of good gut health and your digestive tract is working efficiently. Having a healthy gut has shown to provide beneficial effects on health-related outcomes, from stress and mental health to reducing the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Dietary and lifestyle factors such as sufficient fibre intake can impact our gut health and how many times we break wind throughout the day. Just remember, farting is normal and healthy!
This article was written by Fiona Power. Fiona is a registered associate Nutritionist and works as a Health Coach on the NHS diabetes prevention programme. She supports patients with a range of co-morbidities including gut-related issues such as IBS, IBD and coeliac disease. She also runs a personal Instagram page @powernutrition___ as she is passionate about promoting evidence-based nutrition.