Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Tis the season to FART

 Tis the season for traveling to see family. A pad can be a handy traveling companion. On airplanes especially.

It was on a flight to New Zealand that a Danish scientist had a bit of a lightbulb moment. Noticing changes in the air of his water bottle, and feeling just a little bloated after the journey, Jacob Rosenberg began theorising about the human body’s behaviour on something that happens to all of us, something we never speak about, and something we never want to hear or really smell for that matter: ‘why do we seem to fart more on planes?’.
Very simply, it is gas in our intestines that needs to get out, but how it builds up can come down to a range of factors.
As we go through our day we are swallowing in air doing basic activities like chewing food or drinking. This swallowed air, known as exogenous air, includes oxygen and nitrogen which gets absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine, but any excess needs to be expelled.
There are also plenty of bacteria doing their job in the colon of breaking down food which results in something called endogenous air. Depending on what you have been eating, the makeup of this will mostly be hydrogen, but it could also contain methane, and the stuff that adds that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ stink aroma, hydrogen sulphide. But only 1% of the roughly 1.5 litres of gas we emit each day actually smells.
As you are no doubt aware, some foods you eat tend to make a difference on your flatus quota for the day with high fibre foods and undigested carbohydrates in sugars like fructose and sorbitol, starchy products like potatoes, high-sulphur items like garlic and onions, and cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower and broccoli making the difference.
As Rosenberg noted on that fateful flight to New Zealand, he saw changes to his water bottle. It had been “squeezed” after expanding in the low pressure and then crumpling back when the plane reached the airport.
“When we landed, my belly had grown. That led me to speculate what had happened. When I got back to work I discussed with two of my students, and we simply came up with the idea for the paper.”
It's really down to physics. The cabin pressure decreases, the air inside the bowel expands by up to 30% more than usual, and that needs to get out.
“Since there is only limited space in the large bowel, it is a natural consequence to fart,”