A smelly start to a serious story about flatulence

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The other night I did something bad in bed.

It was only a little one, silent and stealth-like in its arrival, but my word it smelt and was bad enough to wake my partner.

She didn’t take it well. She abused me, got out of bed, came back with the air-freshener from the bathroom and sprayed the bedroom.

The next morning I found myself with not much to do, so I went to my laptop and googled flatulence, well actually I googled “how to stop farts from smelling”.

To my amazement, there were pages and pages of information, most of it serious and not just childlike blogs from pubescent boys.

Did you know, for example, that in 12th century England, there was  a court jester who became known as Roland the Farter. He performed an act that culminated in one jump, one whistle and one fart, and King Henry II liked it so much he gave Roland a manor in Suffolk along with 12 hectares of land.

Japan in the 17th century had professional farters, while Paris in the 19 century had a young man named Joseph Pujol who conducted regular 90-minute shows at Moulin Rouge where he was able to pass wind in time to music. His favourite was his rendition of Au Claire de Lune.

What price front row seats?

Now, while all this may have some mirth, there is a serious side, because farts, especially bad ones, can be linked to bad health.

For example, gluten intolerance, or Coeliac Disease in its more severe form, can cause smelly wind and can lead to fatigue, bloating, diarrhoea and weight loss.

Constipation can cause you to break wind, as can a build-up of bacteria in the colon, but the worst outcome is when polyps or tumours form in the digestive tract, causing partial bowel obstruction and resulting in gas build-up. That can result in colon cancer.

So we’re not laughing now, least of all those of us who have had to swallow that terrible salty/lemony liquid to clear the colon before a colonoscopy.

In most cases, however, smelly wind simply relates to diet, and we all have foods that we know can set us off. Who hasn’t laughed at the scene from the movie Blazing Saddles with the cowboys sitting around a fire eating beans and farting like crazy?

Why beans? Well, they are high in soluble fibre and when they break down they produce large amounts of hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases, all of which cause flatulence.

Wind that smells like rotten egg gas may, of course, originate from a diet of eggs, but it is more likely to come from eating too many fibre-rich foods that are high in sulphur – a natural compound but not one that smells nice. Many vegetables fall into that category.

So there you have it. Flatulence may not mean anything more than your dinner was too rich. But if it’s an ongoing problem, you might want to write a list of things you have eaten recently, including medications, and go to your GP.

And for my partner, I offer this message. It comes from French author Muriel Barbery: “A man who farts in bed is a man who enjoys life.”

Have you had a problem with wind? Or with your partner?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and should not be considered as not advice. For advice about your health, consult your medical practitioner.


Farting is healthy and may prevent Alzheimer’s and other diseases

How farting can help prolong your life and improve the health of those around you.

Fighting flatulence

Ever wondered if everyone farts, what causes farting and how you can fart less?

The reason food experts cannot agree on gluten

Why scientists argue over the merits of gluten-free diets

Written by Perko


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