Friday Weird Science: What's your Farting Frequency?

May 17 2013 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

Have you ever wondered how much you fart? Or rather, not how much you fart (presumably you notice most of the time and have a general idea), but instead, how you rate against other people. After all, we humans tend to be competitive little snots. And if we're going to fart, we're probably going to wonder how much other people do. Do you fart more than others? Are you a "superfarter"? Are you magically gassless?

And are you willing to wear a tube inserted right up your butt to find out?

Beazell and Ivy. "The Quantity of Colonic Flatus Excreted by the "Normal" Individual" American Journal of Digestive Diseases, 1941.

Ah. The 40's. Back when you could fit up five dudes with ass-gas bags, make a single graph, cite one other publication in a two page paper, and still get published. I cry a single tear for those days...

Anyway. The authors of this study noticed a certain...lack of literature out there on gas. Specifically on fart VOLUME. We all know we do fart. And I imagine, when you let go a big one, you feel (possibly with relief) there's some major volume leaving the body. But how MUCH?! The only previous study on the topic had one guy, who passed 1 liter of gas per day. That's indeed quite a bit...but the authors of this study doubted those numbers. They needed more!

So they got five, healthy male (of course, who cares how much women fart, you know? All ladies' farts are is puppies and rainbows anyway) med students, and outfitted them with, well...

Screen shot 2013-05-15 at 5.48.48 PM

Nothing says science like a big rubber tube shoved up your butt and TAPED to the abdomen and back (did they just tape the poor guys package up in there as well? I mean, how do you fit the tape around...never mind). I'm having some issues with envisioning the setup, and unfortunately, it is lost to science, for there was no figure. Anyway, a colon tube. Up your butt, with a big rubber dam up against your rectum. The tube was connected to a thick walled rubber balloon which is also, presumably, somewhere about your person. And then whole contraption is taped up your back and over your taint onto your tummy. And the subjects still went about their daily tasks! With "surprisingly little discomfort". I have to wonder how much discomfort they were expecting.

The men they got for this study were as "normal" as possible. The kind of people who never really think about pooping, never really notice farting, and tend to poop at the same time every day like clockwork. The authors hoped that, by using these men with happy little poos, they'd get normal, "happy" (if they can be happy), fart volumes.

So they hooked up the ass-gas bags (that's the technical term) to the dudes immediately after their daily poop. The guys wore the bags around until evening, when they were switched out for new bags. The day bags and the night bags were then added up, and the results over the five subjects averaged to get a total daily anal venting volume.

And the results?

(Click to embiggen)

What you can see is the measures of how much gas the men passed when they pooped (none, a very little, some) and whether they noticed gassiness (two guys noticed it at night rather than in the day, which makes me wonder if they were waking themselves up with their gassy nocturnal emissions). And in the middle columns you can see the total averages of volume of gas passed.

The verdict? On average, 1/2 liter per day (around 527mL). Passing more than that? You might be a bit above average in the gas department.

Half a liter doesn't seem like too much. But of course, for this, they deliberately picked a bunch of guys who NEVER THOUGHT about their bowels. The kind of dudes who, so help them, poop at 2pm each day and are never more than 20 min off of schedule, and who were never aware when they perfumed the air. While I would hope that most humans are lucky enough to be like this, I have to imagine that those who think about their farts, or wonder about their farts, might not be in this population (and I also wonder what on earth those supermen EAT). And what about the latest obsessions with whole grains and high fiber diets? Are we cursing the planet with more odoriferous methane? And are people who more "aware" of their toots actually producing more gas? Or are they just more aware of it? Are people who suffer from gas as something uncomfortable really suffering excess gas? Or is it just going uncomfortable places?

We need more gas! Which means we need more...butt tubes. For science, you know.


*Today's post comes to you via the FABULOUS Mary Roach and her new book "Gulp, Adventures on the Alimentary Canal". I read it and loved it, and had to raid the reference list. Because, farts, of course!

9 responses so far

  • Janne says:

    Correction: "1/2" rather than "1/5" in your results section (as it were).

    Surely there must be more and more varied data out there? I mean, five people chosen very non-randomly to have as little gas as possible, living a sixty year old lifestyle, and at a time of low trade and possible rationing as well. Seems to me this would be a ripe (sic) field for follow up studies.

    And yes, I'm mighty envious over that publication as well. I'm getting convinced I'll see the average number of citations creep into the triple digits before I retire.

    • scicurious says:

      Thanks! That would be a bad typo...

      Really, this is one of the ONLY studies I have found on farting volume. Which means we definitely need a recount!

  • dr24hours says:

    A "friend" learned this when he was 12: In the bathtub, if you invert a cup full of water, and then fart into it, you can observe directly the volume of your farts. Use for good, not evil.

    (Ziploc bags allow you to make stink-bombs).

  • katiesci says:

    The ziplock bag idea is interesting. I've been wondering lately about the potency of farts. I mean, if one little puff of gas can stink up a room, can you imagine what it must smell like before it gets diluted?

  • szescstopni says:

    At least the pathogenic potency of farts seems to be low. Farting ino Petri dishes (for science) - Karl Kruszelnicki, IgNobel winner, tells the story

  • Ok wait right there... those guys carried 500 ml of gas in their pants!! How did they go about walking around (and concealing) a balloon inflated with gas!??

  • Will Robertson says:

    Ass-gas bags - a technical term . Science was so pure back then.
    I have always wondered if a stored fart loses or gains potency over time

  • […] On average, you’ll pass about half a liter of gas a day. […]

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