Farting is the emission of wind from the anus. In ordinary English, it is commonly used in relation to flatulence and is often considered undesirable in formal situations where many would consider it offensive and demeaning. It comes from an old English word, Feortan, which means to “to break wind.” Many people have considered whether farting can carry bacteria and therefore cause infections. In a classical experiment conducted in Australia, it was found that fart released at a distance of five centimetres did not grow any bacteria with the trousers worn but did so when the clothes were taken off by a member of the experimenting team. It therefore follows that the clothes we wear act as a filter for the gas we produce from the anus.
The act of farting means so many things to different people. Among children up to the mid-teens, it is a playful thing. Some children fart when people are gathered for the most telling effect, usually out of mischief. Others do theirs in some form of competition to determine whose fart smell the most. And it is a lively game especially among male teens. Among younger children, it is fun; they pass out the offensive sound and giggle mischievously while announcing, never mind the English: “I mess.” Among some of the major tribes in Nigeria, farting in private or in public demands not scorn or disrespect, but a greeting to acknowledge your sympathy and also to commend them for having rid their system of a poisonous disease. It is very interesting because these people are not alone. In ancient Japan, it was considered an offense to hold the fart in. As a result, people were encouraged to pollute the air as they wished so as to remain healthy. In ancient Rome, Emperor Claudius promulgated a decree making it an offense for people to hold their fart.
The activity of gut bacteria, those gram negative organisms that help us break down our foods are responsible for splitting off both methane gas and sulphites from those foods. The protein dishes are more likely to produce these gases than carbohydrates and fats, but that is only at the initial time of exposure to such foods. As time goes on, perhaps the bacteria in the intestine also adjust their mechanisms and the same composition of fart is produced no matter what is eaten. That said, it is important for you to believe that only about one per cent of all farts actually smell badly. We all fart in our sleep and do so frequently during the night. Seldom does it happen that someone sleeping in the same room is awoken by the offensive smell. Farts from females smell more badly than those from males. The reasons are unclear and it does go against conventional wisdom. But their fart is known to contain more hydrogen sulphide than that of males. Also, it is usually less voluminous. During any 24 hour period, the average person farts about 14 times and the volume is sufficient to fill a standard balloon fully.
Farting is not always a nuisance. Some people are sexually attracted to each other by farting and may use it to communicate in the privacy of their bedrooms. Such people are described as suffering from a condition known as ‘Eproctophilia,’ a psychiatric condition. Some species of fish also do this; the female fish use this as a sign to the male fish that they are available for mating! More seriously though, in another reality experiment shown in “One thousand ways to die,” a man chose to fart into a naked fire many hours after a meal rich in meat and eggs. The wind caught fire and his buttocks were badly burnt. He had to be rushed to an emergency room. And over a span of 10 years, it was noted that there were some 20 colonoscopies from around the world where an explosion occurred. This is a risk when the bowel is poorly prepared or not prepared at all. When a surgical diathermy is therefore introduced into such an intestine in the course of treating a lesion, a mixture of oxygen, methane, hydrogen and nitrogen respond to the naked flame and an explosion occurs. It is like placing a small bomb within a person’s body and death can result.
Farting produces some nearly indescribable relief. Many people would release theirs at a place where they consider it to be socially acceptable such as a rest room or while defecating. Others would do so in the open when they take a look around them and no one is near. Some would aid the quick emission of the gas by partly parting the buttocks. Occasionally, it is accidentally released when a person laughs really hard or when they accidentally, unexpectedly, lose their footing. In most instances, everyone knows instinctively when their rectum (this lies above the anus) is under pressure and needs relief. The decision whether to let what distends it to come out of the body is a conscious one and is regulated by an external sphincter which individuals learn to control from as early as the age of two.
The precise mechanism by which the anus and the rectum determine whether it is stool or gas is poorly understood because people do not usually make the mistake of releasing stool when all they want is to release a fart. One just knows and does what is required at a time of their choosing. It is one of the most remarkable things that occur in nature. The nerves within that part of the body are able to separate one from the other and relay that important information to the brain. The brain then activates the other senses to help clarify that the circumstances are favourable or acceptable to let the farting take place. The external sphincter is therefore released and the gas escapes.
When a person is unable to fart for several days, some serious disease is developing within the intestine. Often, it will mean there is a blockage to the flow of faeces and gas. The effects are telling as the abdomen will begin to swell and can hinder the person’s ability to breathe. Only desperate measures taken can then save life. These may involve the deployment of medications and appliances to overcome the problem or a major operation to bypass it.