May 27, 2006
Farting is a natural part of life
By MIKE STROBEL
The latest Wellness Letter lands on my desk.
This is the famous monthly bulletin by the University of California at Berkeley, my mother’s alma mater.
The editorial board has eight MDs, six PhDs, four MPHs and a FACP.
The current issue includes useful tips on trans fat, arthritis, pH balance and your thyroid.
Then, it gets really down to earth.
Farts. (You can write that in a family newspaper. I checked.) From the Old English "feortan, to break wind.
I do not know how often your thyroid acts up, but now I can tell you that you are flatulent 15 to 20 times a day.
Some days, of course, are windier than others.
On average, we expel one to three pints of gas, says the Wellness Letter. In Canada, that is as much as three quarters of a litre. A buck at the pumps.
Man, if we could figure out how to bottle it.
We at the Sun would have no need for a Free Gas contest.
The Wellness Letter leads me deep into the bowels of the web.
There I find flatulence is not a nuisance or an ailment so much as a culture.
Countless sites are devoted to all things feortan.
Health tips. Cartoons. Sound bites.
Jokes. Among the printable ones:
Husband: “Darling, let’s try a new position tonight.”
Wife: “Good idea! You stand in front of the sink and do the dishes … and I’ll sit in front of the TV and fart.”
Books. Who Cut The Cheese?, The Zen of Farting, and Fart Proudly are some of the offerings on amazon.com.
Be aware that W.O. Mitchell’s classic Who Has Seen The Wind is about something else entirely.
History. Hippocrates himself: “Passing gas is necessary to well-being.”
Emperor Claudius: “All Roman citizens shall be allowed to pass gas whenever necessary.”
Later, Emperor Constantine: “Okay, cut that out.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote: “All well-bred People therefore, to avoid giving such offence, forcibly restrain the Efforts of Nature to discharge that Wind.”
“That wind” is mainly bacteria and unscented nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane.
Farts would be no more objectionable than a yawn, were it not for the, whew, traces of sulfur.
That noxious gas is why flatulence has a bum rap, why “fart around” and “old fart” are uncomplimentary.
The noise? Well, it involves vibration of a certain opening. Let’s leave it at that. Hint: Between Saturn and Neptune.
Farts, by the by, have been clocked at up to 3 metres a second. I pity the poor sod who had to hold the stop-watch.
Cauliflower, eggs, meat, broccoli, onions, pears, artichokes and corn syrup are among the foods that promote flatulence.
Pumpernickel means “goblin that breaks wind” in Old German.
Beans are notorious, of course, because they are rich in oligosaccarides, poorly absorbed sugars. Thankfully, they are low in sulfurs. Their bark is worse than their bite.
And please, please DO NOT EAT YOUR HOUSE!
Termites are the worst farters in the world. The chemicals their tiny tummies use to digest wood produce fantastic amounts of methane.
Let’s blame the little beggers for global warming.
But we all chip in. Horses, cows, kings, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt. Men and women. Farts are non-sexist. Men just enjoy them more.
If you are nervous, chew gum or drink through straws you may have it worse because of extra air in your belly.
We all are very lucky not to be crinoids, God or evolution put this sea animal’s anus right next to its mouth.
Poor thing, though, it sure can suck and blow.
The strangest creature may be one Mr. Methane, an Englishman who bills himself as the world’s only professional “flatulist.” He has even cut an album.
Mr. Methane is the modern version of legendary early 20th- century Frenchman Joseph Pujol. Aka Le Petomane, he is said to have performed passable renditions of La Marseillaise and a 21-gun salute.
If you can do that, you’d better read the Wellness Letter.
Some of its hints: Keep a food diary to find what gives you grief.
Try Beano or other enzymes that break down sugars.
Don’t lie down after meals. Exercise eases gas.
Peppermint oil (but not with heartburn) and chewing fennel seeds might help.
Desperate and shamed? Carbon filtered undies are sold on the Internet. They also are sort of a sound barrier.
Or, hell, just do what I do.
Blame the cat.