There are three main sources of wind.
- Everyone's gut contains gas because we cannot help swallowing air when we swallow food, when we drink and when we swallow our saliva.
- Carbon dioxide is produced by chemical reactions within the gut: saliva contains bicarbonate, which reacts with acid in the stomach to produce carbon dioxide gas; and stomach acid releases carbon dioxide when it reacts with pancreatic digestive juices in the upper part of the intestine.
- About 500 types of bacteria live in our intestines. Some of them act on food residues in the lower gut, releasing hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide gases.
What happens to the gas in the gut?
Why wind smells
Farting and belching – are they healthy or can they spread germs?
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Friday, March 8th 2013
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Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Cow's and sheep's wind is responsible for almost a third of the methane in Europe that passes into the atmosphere. A single sheep typically produces 25 litres of methane a day, while a cow can produce an amazing 280 litres a day (New Scientist 15 June 2002)
In the 1960s, NASA was worried that a build-up of hydrogen from astronauts' wind might accidentally explode in the spacecraft. This stimulated a lot of research into bowel gas
At any one time, there is about 200 mL (a mugful) of gas in each person's gut
Most people expel about 600 mL of gas/day, but some people produce up to 2 litres
Gut gases are 90% nitrogen; the remainder is carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and sometimes hydrogen sulphide
Healthy young men break wind 14-25 times a day and women half as often
Women produce stronger smelling flatus than men, but men produce a greater volume