Problems tackled: 18,709

Wind

 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?

Some of the intestinal gas is absorbed into the bloodstream and is eventually exhaled by the lungs. In social situations, we try to hold gas in and more passes from the gut into the bloodstream and then into the lungs; researchers have found that, in social situations, our breath contains increased amounts of hydrogen.
 
Most intestinal gas, however, has to be got rid of through the mouth (belching, eructation) or through the anus (flatulence, farting, breaking wind).

Why wind smells

The main gases in wind – nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane – have no smell. The unpleasant smell of a fart is due to very tiny amounts of sulphur-containing gases, which have a smell disproportionate to their volume.

Farting and belching – are they healthy or can they spread germs?

Some experts believe that our attempts to hold gas in are an unnatural result of our enclosed lifestyles and the build-up of pressure is responsible for bowel diseases, such as diverticulosis; when we lived mainly in the open air, farting was not a problem and no one was worried about letting wind pass out naturally. In the early 1990s, a publicity campaign was launched in Holland (by the National Liver and Intestine Foundation) to encourage people to break wind at least 15 times a day.
 
Wind is never serious, except as a cause of embarrassment, unless there are other gut symptoms as well, such as abdominal pain, constipation, loss of weight, pale faeces that are difficult to flush away, or blood in the faeces.
 
No one knows whether wind can spread germs. The magazine New Scientist (30 June 2001) reported an experiment in which a volunteer was asked to lower his trousers and break wind very close to a special dish (blood agar plate) used by laboratories to grow bacteria. The next day, there were lots of gut bacteria growing on the plate. At the edge, there were some skin bacteria that must have been blown onto the plate by the wind.

Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Friday, March 8th 2013

 


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Comments on this article

Posted by cat on 15/12/2013 at 12:59

Very interesting facts thank you.

Posted by Optional on 25/11/2013 at 09:02

whenever iam in a social situation i feel uncomfortable like sitting with friends,in a movie theatre e.t.c i think i pass gas unknowingly even though i dont smell it but i can see it from other peoples reaction.it is really embarrasing ..need help

Posted by Optional on 14/08/2013 at 03:40

I was diagnosed with IBS about 4 months ago. I get wind in my bowels whenever I'm nervous/worried and because my bowels make a weird gurgling noise whenever I need to fart, this makes my anxiety worse which makes the gurgling worse and louder, it's really getting me down and I don't know what to do about it. Please help me :( it really gets to me in silent/quite places

Posted by SWARIT KAMBLE on 03/03/2013 at 04:02

MY4 YEARS KID ALWAYS COMPLAINING BELCHING AND STOMACH PAIN PROBLEM AFTER EATING AND DRINKING.BUT IF BELCHING IS OUT HE FEEL RELAX.PLZ HELP ME,I AM DIVORCEE AND POOR WOMAN.MY KID IS ONLY MY SUPPORT.HIS BERIUM MEAL IS TEST IS NORMAL.PLZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ HELP ME

Posted by tina on 19/02/2013 at 02:56

Idon't want to have sex because i am so frightend of passing wind x

Posted by Optional on 13/01/2013 at 05:16

I'm on a Jenny Craig Diet and buy all my meals from the center. I only buy fruits, vegetables, fat free yogurt and fat free Lactaid milk from the market.I have lots and lots of wind. Not smelly wind just lots of wind. Sometimes I get collic when I eat the yogurt. I know I must be lactose intollerent, but even if I stop the dairy I have gas. The center told me that my body would adjust to the food and that my wind would begin to dimish but it's been since September and it's not getting better. I use gas x, beano and lactaid pills to help with the gas.

Posted by Optional t johns on 08/11/2012 at 09:01

why do my farts smell so bad like peutrid

Posted by Nicki on 13/10/2012 at 07:56

It was fun reading every ones comments. Looks like am not the only one with severe gas problem. Mostly I break wind without even knowing it. Other people around me become very uncomfortable and that's how I know that my gas has just arrived. Unfortunately I can't even smell it. It's so bad that I can't even go in the same car with anyone. I dont drink a lot of milk or eat alot of cheese. anybody Please advise .

Posted by optional on 07/09/2012 at 12:44

i suffer badly with a self diagnosed IBS. I'm intolerent to the normal white bread, milk containing lactose etc. I'm also constipated most of the time and have to take lactulose powders twice a day. I have introduced approx 5 portions of fruit and Veg per day to help keep me regular. Whilst this works to an extent, it has exacerbated my breaking wind. Sometimes they smell so bad when I'm at work that the whole of the staff thought there was a problem with the drains! I was so embarrassed. Apart from the smell, the main issue is that my skin around my rectum is getting very sore and uncomfortable. The skin is not broken yet but i can feel it getting moist when I've broken wind and this concerns me as I'm aware how quick the skin can break down. Sometimes the sore area rubs together when I'm walking so i have to apply sudocreme. The skin does sometimes sting when i pass water. I just want advice on what to do to allow it to heal please. I'm in a catch 22 situation. If i stop the fruit my ibs worsens and constipation becomes unbearable- if i increase it my skin becomes sore. Please help.

Posted by Optional on 06/08/2012 at 02:23

Pls i have been flatuating too much for about five years now and at night when am asleep is wrost.i think i have gas

Posted by Optional on 03/07/2012 at 09:30

I used to fart well however it has become EMBARRASING since I gave birth. I feel so sorry for my husband and child. My diet is vegetables, fruits and lots of milk. Can milk make me farting???

Posted by Optional on 14/06/2012 at 06:23

When I significantly reduced processed foods from my diet I quit farting. Eating fruit, veggies, and whiole grains = no farts.

Posted by josh on 05/06/2012 at 07:48

i fart a lot at night. is this healthy? my fiancee breaths it in and wakes up gagging. i think its funny but could it eventually kill her? thnx

Posted by Brytta on 14/03/2012 at 02:14

Well-written

Posted by Adz on 16/02/2012 at 10:27

Hi there, I have had sulphur smelling wind for 6 months+ I didn't change anything in my diet and have eliminated various foods from my diet. I have taken over the counter medicines and been to doctors and prescribed medicines. I am now starting to think something is wrong as every single time I pass wind it is painfully bad and embracing. Any help appreciated

Posted by Optional on 19/12/2011 at 11:02

hi, * So I fart more when I sit. * I release foul smelling gas whether I eat or starve. * My breath also smells bad. * My anus feel warm and wet. * Feel of stomach or colon fullness * I didn't even know whether i pass gas or not but at time my anus will be warm and wet, people around me scratch their nose and face tests done /results Blood test : no problem found Ultra scan(routine abdomen) : no problem found Colonoscopy : no problem found please help me

Posted by Optional on 18/11/2011 at 11:37

when I was at the age of 20 -30, Inever noticed that wind is forming in my stomach but now every evening it is forming. Please suggest me a way out.

Posted by Shannon on 21/09/2011 at 05:54, United States

If people would only eat fruits,veggies,grains and healthy fats for all their meals we would never have all these problems. What we eat causes fissures,piles,gas,anal itching,stress and more.

Posted by Optional on 18/09/2011 at 09:51, United Kingdom

Its few years now I do have problem with my stomach i get gas/wind and also a rumbling tummy esp. can be noticed in the silence/night, and although i get my good motions in the mornings but the motions are not hard they are liquid type, the doctors even check my bowl and so too the stomach inserting camara what ever it is call and found nothing. what could be the problem

Posted by ethelberry on 20/07/2011 at 05:57, United Kingdom

Your description of flatulence is very informative but does not help with my problem of avoiding social situations because of embarrassing wind. I know everyone does it, but I do it about an hour after eating. Because of this I am reluctant to go out for meals with other people.

Posted by Optional on 20/07/2011 at 05:47, Ireland

Break wind smells very bad after I eat chicken or any meat should I stop eating meat altogether ??

Posted by tina on 23/06/2011 at 08:25, United Kingdom

suffer with terrible wind,had hiatus repair 6 years ago and have constant wind please any suggestions on how to stop it

Posted by Optional on 08/05/2011 at 05:29, United States

I found that avoiding milk and dairy products is most helpful. I suffered for years without knowing the cause of the problem. I now use soy milk as a replacement for cows milk. The flatulance is much less now.

Posted by Optional on 14/04/2011 at 12:48, Nigeria

please help me, i feel really sorry for myself and embrarresed. I can't sit with people because of the fart. I stoped going to church because of what happened to me every one around me was covering their nose. I must confess it is the most embrarressement day of my LIFE. GOD BLESS U.

Posted by Optional on 04/03/2011 at 04:29, United Kingdom

Everytime I fart I follow through, then the other day in school I farted and the contents of my bowels ended up in my trousers. It was highly embarrassing :(

Posted by Optional on 22/02/2011 at 10:22, United Kingdom

I'v heard that flatulence pads can help but where can these be purchased

Posted by windymiller on 22/02/2011 at 09:30, United States

Over the past several years I have started farting way too much all the time in fact. In bed I constantly let rip and frankly its pissing my wife off. I even fart when Im asleep which even wakes me up..haha. Yesterday I stopped mixing carbs and protein with my main meal in the evening and just had a massive salad with cottage cheese. I tell you what, I never farted once last night, no bloating, no pain, no need to rush to the toilet. Its all to do with our diet and what foods we eat,mix together or how late we eat. I truly felt like a new man last night and didnt get any moans from my dear wife about my huricane but hole. Look at your foods closely and start to rearange your diet, at least the main meal before bed to start with. cheers,

Posted by Optional on 03/02/2011 at 02:21, United Kingdom

why do i get pain inbetween my shoulder blades ,,,,,is this to do with wind or indigestion,its very painfull

Posted by Optional on 28/12/2010 at 12:54, Bangladesh

Well at least you dont have the problem i have where i was having sex with my girlfriend and i farted and she fainted.

Posted by Optional on 21/12/2010 at 06:17, United States

How to stop farting during/after sex? (it tends to happen more when i'm top) very embarrassing! thanks!

Posted by Zara on 19/12/2010 at 06:38, United Kingdom

im feeling so unwell becouse for the past few weeks my gut as got bigger hurts abit and i have so much wind i cant carry on like this its getting me down im not going to the loo very well and i have tryed to change my diet but its not helping please help

Posted by Optional on 10/12/2010 at 04:58, United Kingdom

I have very watery messy wind which is very embarrasing as it happens when I least expect it and I am messing the bed and my underwear. I am also constipated. I have a little pain but not much. I am going away for the weekend. HELP

Posted by sara on 11/11/2010 at 05:17, United Kingdom

I don't know about solving problems of wind but this article had me laughing so much I cried!

Posted by Flatulent Fred on 26/10/2010 at 09:34, United Kingdom

I fart about every 15 minutes. Mostly, they stink and even I can't stand the smell, even though as a schoolboy I would have felt smug and proud. The only time I feel comfortable is when I'm in bed, as I am sleeping alone (for other reasons). I sometimes enjoy the stench that drifts up from three feet down the sheets, as it makes me realise that I am in my own private space and the fart is all mine to enjoy - or otherwise. Only once have I had to get out of bed to escape a really bad fart. When sleeping with my partner, I'd go to the curtains, bend over and let rip into the window void. Usually there were no complaints, just an occasional chuckle. My rear end would settle down after about 20 minutes. It was fair enough really, as she snored in return. Hope this helps other sufferers.

Posted by Optional on 20/10/2010 at 08:47, United Kingdom

I have excessive flatulence which started about 10 years ago and has steadily got worse. It doesn't smell though. I don't eat fast and drink a lot of water (hot and cold). My friends all eat and drink faster than me and they don't suffer the same - why is this

Posted by lisa yoga on 21/09/2010 at 06:24, United Kingdom

hi, im a yoga teacher and i have a problem with one of my clients who keeps flatulating in my class how can i suggest that he may have a problem with his bowels as he is disrupting my fellows clients.

Posted by yvonne brown on 16/08/2010 at 03:43, United Kingdom

I had bowel cancer,3 years ago. I had an Ileostomy, then a reversal. I am on a low fibre diet,charcoal capsules and peppermint oil tablets and pro-bioitc tablets.,I'm also a Vegetanian. I need advice, I know I am luck to be alive and I am grateful, but I don't know what to do. Should I have the bag back????I drink pro-bioitc drinks,yogurts.

Posted by Optional on 10/08/2010 at 06:03, United States

I was diagnosed with croans a couple years ago along with some other problems I read your articles or most of them on the farting issues I seem to fart just out of the blue sometimes several times even during the night or day especially after drinking sodas or certian types of food or over eating for example now my butt is red/inflamed. From what I have read this could be due to farting and the moisture from your annus because of the croans or from using the wrong detergents or a combination including scratching among other problems I have not mentioned. I do beliieve that it is due to overscratching I have tried to look and well you know that it rather a task to do unless you have the right mirrors, as far as worms or anything of that sort I do not beliefve that is the problem. I do believe that it is the excessive gas and perhaps over usage of fabric softner. Now my question would be what would you suggest for the gas this is not every ten minutes when this happens this can just come out of no where and sometimes very loud and I do live in an apartment and I do know they have to hear me and I do not dought that it keeps them up at night as it does me sometimes it will last for several seconds. After reading on this site I do know this is my itching problem what can I do gasx does not really help? I really would like the itching to stop if at all possible. Thanks:

Posted by Optional on 07/08/2010 at 11:34, United Kingdom

When my partner breaks wind (which is at least 20 times a day) i have to run out of the room otherwise ill faint through the stench. Is it normal for the smell to be sooooo deadly and pungent? Also is there anything he can have to stop or lessen this? Thanks

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Fascinating facts

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

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