What Your Farts Can Say About Your Health

Farts are nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone's been there at some point or another: you're at the grocery store or on a hot first date when all of a sudden, a small, windy noise exits your body without your permission. You look up to realize that everyone has just heard you fart. It can be seriously embarrassing, but, hey, everybody does it — it's normal! But it turns out that farts are more than just a little inconvenient or embarrassing. If you pay enough attention to them, they can actually help clue you in on your health.

Yes, just like everybody poops, everybody farts. And most of the time, even though there's nothing particularly flattering about passing gas, there's nothing wrong with a little flatulence. In fact, farting can actually be good for you, and the sometimes-stinky opportunity can provide some clues about what's going on inside your body. Here's what all that gas might be trying to tell you about your overall health.

Any kind of gas is pretty normal

Before you get too concerned about the gas you've been passing, it's important to note that passing gas is pretty normal. In fact, you might be surprised at just how much gas the normal adult passes on a daily basis. Dr. Svetang Desai, M.D., a gastroenterologist at North Carolina's Duke University Medical Center told Everyday Health, "The average person passes 500 to 1,500 milliliters of gas per day, but we only contain 200 milliliters of intestinal gas at any time." Apparently, it's pretty normal to pass gas up to 14 times per day, and usually, you don't even notice when you're passing gas (via Well + Good). 

Obviously, that doesn't make farting any less of an inconvenience or sometimes a downright painful side effect of eating too much cheese. But, as annoying as gas is, try not to fret. Most of the time, it's just your body regulating itself, and it's better to let a fart out than it is to hold it in.

This is when farting can be an issue

As stated above, farting is totally normal. After all, sometimes it just can't be helped, and there's nothing wrong with it! But there is one sign you can look out for. Functional medicine expert Dr. Aaron Hartman, M.D., told Well + Good that if you notice your farts are becoming more and more prominent, it's time to examine your diet.

"You will pass gas seamlessly, and you should not really notice you're doing it," Dr. Hartman said of someone in good health. "But if you do notice your gas, then you are passing more gas than typical and you need to think about what you've eaten and drunk." So, if you notice that you're farting a lot more than usual and it's becoming an issue, then your body might be trying to tell you something. Whether you have a food intolerance, an infection, or gut issues, farts can provide some interesting insights into your overall health. 

A sudden increase in farts can mean you're constipated

So, you know that gas is normal, but if you do find yourself letting out more farts than usual, it could also mean that something is wrong. But don't let that scare you; one of the most common issues people have when they fart more than usual is something that's not too big of a deal.

Dr. Niket Sonpal, M.D., a gastroenterologist, told Health that one of the main reasons you might notice some extra gas, especially farts, is because you're constipated. "If people eat an excess of fiber, this can begin to cause gas, bloating, cramps, and — paradoxically — constipation," Dr. Sonpal said. That might not make sense, but fiber can make your stool more bulky and difficult to pass, causing a ton more gas than usual as your body tries to do its job. The best thing you can do for constipation is to drink a lot more water, and if that doesn't work, then a stool softener should help you out (via Healthline).

Being bloated and farting may mean you've eaten too much processed foods

Have you ever been super bloated and farting more than usual? It's not a pleasant feeling, and as it turns out, what your body is feeling and doing can be telling you something about your diet. While some gas might mean you aren't digesting something properly, when you're super bloated and gassy, it can actually mean something pretty simple: You're eating too much processed foods.

Functional medicine expert Dr. Aaron Hartman, M.D., told Well + Good that too much processed foods or foods high in sugar can lead to unhealthy bacteria and yeast in your gut. That unhealthy bacteria then has to fight with the healthy bacteria already in your gut, and that's not good. "This battle can result in bloating and the formation of foul-smelling gas," Dr. Hartman said. So, if you're super bloated and your passing more stinky farts than usual, there's not necessarily anything to worry about, but you might want to change your diet.

Farting constantly might just mean you're drinking too many carbonated beverages

If you've ever had one of those days where it just seems like you are constantly farting, then you should think about what you're drinking. Dr. Niket Sonpal, M.D., a gastroenterologist, told Health that if you find yourself farting often, and you also drink a lot of seltzer water or just carbonated drinks in general, well, they just might be the cause. Sonpal explained that any kind of carbonated drink introduces more air into your GI tract, which then causes more gas and farting. But if you don't want to give up all your sodas and LaCroixs, then there are other ways to avoid having a lot of gas.

Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, told Men's Health that if you want to keep drinking sparkling waters but avoid farting, there are some tips you can try. "Try drinking smaller portions, or try taking slower, smaller sips to cut back on swallowing too much air," Moon said. That way, there isn't too much air that's getting trapped in your GI tract.

Especially smelly farts could mean you have an infection

It's no secret that farts don't exactly smell like sunshine and roses. But not all farts are created equal, and those that smell especially bad might be trying to tell you that your body is fighting an infection of some kind.

Functional medicine expert Dr. Aaron Hartman, M.D., told Well + Good that he can actually identify infections based on smell alone. "You learn what scents signify what type of bacteria are predominant in the gut," he said. "When you have seen people with infections, colitis, C. diff, and so forth, after a while you learn to tell by the gas what kind of strange brew is going on in the bowels." Additionally, according to Healthline, bacteria that cause infections in your digestive tract and even your intestines cause you to have more gas and smellier gas than normal. But if you do have some kind of infection, you'll also probably have stomach pain and diarrhea. So, don't automatically assume you have an infection if you have a smelly fart, but pay attention to it, as it could be your body telling you something isn't right.

You might be anxious

Anxiety is a serious condition that 40 million adults in the United States struggle with, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. That said, there is absolutely no shame in having anxiety, even though it can cause some not-so-desirable side effects. For instance, if you're having a sudden onset of gas and farting, it might just be a byproduct of anxiety or stress.

"Upper digestive tract gas can also occur as a consequence of anxiety," Svetang Desai, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Duke University Medical Center, told Everyday Health. So it's completely normal to have an influx of gas due to anxiety, and nothing to stress too much about. According to Calm Clinic, your digestive tract is very sensitive to stress, so if you're anxious and that leads to stress, it can cause an increase in gas, which can then lead to farting. Anxiety can also lead to gas if you swallow air while having an anxiety attack or if you hyperventilate.

While this farting is totally normal, if it bugs you, taking an over-the-counter gas relief pill could definitely help.

Farts that smell like this are typically because you eat a lot of vegetables

If there's one smell that basically everyone wants to avoid, it's rotting food, particularly rotten eggs. Even just reading the phrase "rotten eggs" probably conjures up some not-so-pleasant feelings for you. That said, if you've ever let out some gas that smells like rotten eggs, it was probably more embarrassing than your average fart.  

Luckily, just because a fart smells absolutely awful, that doesn't mean anything is seriously wrong with you. Dr. Niket Sonpal, M.D., a gastroenterologist, told Health that super-smelly farts can actually mean you're super healthy. "Sulfur-rich foods like broccoli and Brussels sprouts will give off that rotten egg smell when broken down in the digestive system," Dr. Sonpal said. Turns out that a number of surprising foods can cause gas. That awful smell can also come from cauliflower, onions, cheese, garlic, beans, and even wine. So don't be surprised if you let one rip and are shocked at the smell. It could just mean you're eating plenty of vegetables!

If your farts produce blood, it's time to call the doctor

Now, as normal as gas is, there is one serious warning sign that you cannot ignore: If you notice blood when you fart, then that might mean something more serious is going on.

Michael Rice, M.D., gastroenterologist at the University of Michigan Medicine Gastroenterology Clinic, told Men's Health that if you have blood with your farts, or a number of other worrying symptoms, then you need to go to the doctor. "Consider seeking medical advice from your doctor if farts are associated symptoms of fecal incontinence, frequent involuntary passage of gas, persistent abdominal discomfort, abdominal distention or passage of blood," Dr. Rice said. According to Healthline, blood from farting could be caused by chaffing, hemorrhoids, side effects from a new medication, an internal injury, or even colon cancer. So definitely pay attention if you see blood after farting or any of the other warning signs Rice mentioned, and seek medical advice.

You might be pregnant

Another very common reason you might be farting a lot more than usual is that you're pregnant. Whether you know you're pregnant or not, if you're extra gassy and farting a lot, then you might want to pick up a pregnancy test.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, it's completely normal to fart more while you're pregnant. This is because pregnancy means more levels of progesterone, which is a hormone that causes all the muscles in your body to relax. This then leads to your digestive system slowing down, which can make gas build up a lot more in your body. Obviously, a build-up in gas leads to plenty of bloating, burping, and, yes, farting. An increase in gas can happen early on in pregnancy, so you might not even know you're pregnant when it happens. Additionally, as your uterus expands during pregnancy, you could have even more gas. Growing a human sure is glamorous, isn't it?

You might have a food intolerance

Perhaps one of the first thoughts you might have if you notice an increase in flatulence is that it's because of something you ate. And this can certainly be the case. While you might not be able to work out what caused your gas if you only randomly notice that you're gassy, there are ways you can tell if frequent gas is caused by a food intolerance.

Dr. Niket Sonpal, M.D., a gastroenterologist, told Health, "The prime example is if you drink milk or eat cheese and then feel cramps and have excessive flatulence that also smells like a manifestation of doomsday." That would obviously be a dairy intolerance. Having a gluten intolerance or celiac disease can also lead to an increase in flatulence due to a "breakdown in the lining of the intestine," as explained by The Healthy. "People without celiac don't have these same changes to the small intestine, but still may get gas and bloating in reaction to the gluten they can't break down," Dr. Rebekah Gross, M.D., a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone's Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health, told the publication. 

So, if you notice you get extra gassy after eating cheese or bread, it might be an intolerance you should get checked out.

You might be about to start your period

As if that certain time of the month wasn't already painful and uncomfortable enough, there's another nasty little side effect to go along with the cramps and bleeding you might not know about: gas. Yes, if you find yourself farting a lot in the days leading up to your period, don't fret. It's totally normal, and you can thank the hormones coursing through your body for that particular inconvenience.

According to Healthline, your body experiences higher levels of estrogen as your period draws near. This impacts the estrogen receptors in your stomach and even the small intestine, which then causes bloating, constipation, and a ton of gas. This can actually be the first sign that Aunt Flo is coming to town. Unfortunately, all of this is usually accompanied by painful cramps before and during your period, so you might not always notice a rise in stomach issues, but you probably will notice yourself farting a lot more.

Your body's bacteria might not be balanced

If you've found yourself farting a lot more than usual and you can't figure out a food you're sensitive or intolerant to, you're not pregnant, you're not waiting for your period, and you don't have any anxiety, you might be confused. But that doesn't mean anything is seriously wrong. It might just be that your body's bacteria is a little out of balance, which can happen for a number of reasons. According to Healthline, antibiotics are known to mess up your digestive tract. So, if you're farting a lot more than usual, it might be a bacterial buildup in your digestive tract, possibly an unpleasant side effect of an antibiotic you've been prescribed.

According to Medical News Today, consuming probiotics, prebiotics, fermented foods, fiber, and foods high in vitamin K can help ease the annoying side effects of antibiotics. Additionally, these foods can help balance your gut bacteria any time, even if you aren't on antibiotics. So, if you think your body's bacteria isn't balanced and it's causing a lot of farting, then add some helpful foods to your diet. It can't hurt.

You're eating too many starchy foods

As much as everyone loves French fries, pasta, and chips, there might be one pretty big reason you want to avoid them or at least cut back on them: Potatoes, wheat, and corn are all super high in starch, and as it turns out, starchy foods tend to produce a ton of gas, according to Medical News Today.

It might be difficult to avoid all starches, but you probably won't get too gassy just by eating some every now and then. After all, who would want to never eat pizza or tacos ever again? Fortunately, not all starches are created equal. According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, rice is the one starch that won't make you gassy. Still, if you've been eating out a lot more, indulging in fast food often, or just feeling very inspired by Italian cooking and whipping up pasta at home every night, don't be shocked if you start letting out a little extra gas.