Have you ever been in public and realized you needed to break wind? Maybe you were alone with a significant other and accidentally let one out. Or were at a friend's house and had to go to the bathroom – only to realize it wasn't "number one"?
Everybody farts, and everybody poops. In fact, the average man or woman farts as many as 20 times per day. And even though this bodily function can be mildly embarrassing in the wrong social settings, your bowel movements may actually be a keen indication as to your overall health and wellness.
So when should you be holding it in, and when is it OK to let it all out? To help take the wind out these awkward moments, we polled over 1,000 people about their experiences passing gas. We asked them how often they farted, how it made them feel, and the lengths they went to avoid passing gas in public. Want to know how long most married couples go before flatulating comfortably? Read on to find out.
Feeling gassy isn't just about eating something you know isn't good for you. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), everything from chewing gum to drinking carbonated beverages can produce gas in the digestive tract that ultimately leads to the occasional fart. And if your farts are a little more occasional, don't fret. Because the body produces two pints of gas every day, breaking wind anywhere between 13 to 21 a day is normal.
When asked to reveal the details of their flatulence, women told us they farted six times per day on average, while men passed gas more than seven times. Although less than the average number of toots scientists suggest we dispel, this discrepancy may be due to roughly 99 percent of our farts having virtually no smell at all.
Smelly or not, a vast majority of men and women felt at least mildly self-conscious about their natural gas-passing tendencies. Nearly 1 in 5 women were "extremely self-conscious" of their farting, and 18 percent of men and 24 percent of women said they were at least "moderately self-conscious." Twenty percent of men and 10 percent of women said they weren't the least bit self-conscious when they had to pass gas.
Unwanted Side Effects
Given how uncomfortable farting can make us feel, there's probably a reason why even as kids we were wary of food leaving us gassy or, worse,constipated. "Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot" probably wasn't far off, but more than half of men and women said they avoided these fibrous legumes to avoid constipation.
According to a systematic review published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, ensuring your diet includes an adequate amount of fiber is an effective treatment for constipation. It may seem counterintuitive to consume legumes, which are so often avoided because of gas and bloating, but a cup of fibrous and protein-rich legumes like chickpeas can allot you nearly your recommended daily serving of fiber.
A quiet or odorless fart might not be so bad, but the more obvious signs of passing gas (including the smell or sound) leave most people feeling extremely uncomfortable. When asked about the noticeable evidence of farting, 36 percent of women and 23 percent of men said they were very embarrassed by their bodily functions. While nearly half of both men and women said it was somewhat embarrassing, 17 percent of men and 12 percent of women said they didn't care at all and that farting was completely normal.
If the smell of your farts sometimes leaves you wondering what's happening down below, it's important to recognize that even when gas has a particularly pungent odor, it isn't always a bad sign. The smell of your farts is a direct response to the bacteria and yeast hanging out in the large intestine. Despite what you might think, it's sometimes the healthier foods that leave you feeling the worst about your gas odor. The natural bacteria in the gut can produce a sulfurous gas when mixed with high-protein meals, making your farts particularly uncomfortable.
And when those moments do arise, how do most people decide to deal with their uncomfortable digestion issues? Nearly 80 percent of women and 75 percent of men said they held their gas in – although it may not do them any good in the long run. Experts say that gas will find a way out eventually, and you may not always be able to keep it contained until you find a private space.
Accidentally farting in public is one thing, but passing gas in front of a significant other is something else. No matter how long the relationship, farting in front of a partner will probably always make some people feel self-conscious.
When asked, 25 percent of men and 34 percent of women said hearing (or smelling) their partner pass gas wasn't very attractive. Of course, everyone has an opinion on the matter. Over 10 percent of men still found it attractive when their partner farted.
Women were far more likely than men to report feeling self-conscious farting around their partner. Regardless if they were single, in a relationship, or married, more than 40 percent of women said farting in front of a significant other made them uncomfortable. Roughly 1 in 4 men of every relationship status said the same.
Breaking (Wind) Barriers
You might not feel great about accidentally farting on your first date, but passing gas will probably come up in your relationship at some point – potentially when you least expect it.
For women, getting comfortable with farting around their significant other took over twice as long as it did for men – 1.3 years on average compared to 6.5 months for men.
Both men and women were more at ease with their bowel movements than they were with farting around their partners, though. Even when another bathroom is scarce and holding it in can be worse than letting it out, most people wait months before they're OK going "number two" in their partner's home. Women said they waited 9.4 months before pooping at their significant other's house, compared to 4.5 months on average for men.
Trying to Play It Off
Our respondents expressed that farting contributes to uncomfortable situations outside of romantic contexts as well. Of respondents who said that they'd farted during a presentation, 42% of women and 36% of men said that their mistimed gas yielded a negative outcome. Though women were more likely than man to perceive farting during a presentation had a negative effect, they were less likely to feel that farting in bed with someone had provoked negative consequences.
Women were less likely than men to think that their episodes of public farting generated positive outcomes. When specifically asked about farting in front of a boss, similar proportions of both genders indicated that the event had caused a negative outcome, but men were twice as likely to respond that farting in front of a boss had generated a positive outcome. Considering that men were only half as likely as women to feel self-conscious farting around a significant other and more likely to express that they farted freely without any qualms, it may be that they are less inclined to associate farting with embarrassment. This lack of embarrassment may allow them to perceive positivity and humor in situations that many women cannot, possibly due to social constructs of femininity and its effects.
At Peace With Our Bodies
Whether in front of our bosses, friends, or spouses, farting for most people is an embarrassing experience.
However, passing gas (even multiple times a day) is also a completely normal behavior. Even though people will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid making an embarrassing sound or smell in front of someone they love, there's no escaping a simple reality: Everyone farts, and everyone poops.
We collected responses from 1,009 people. Forty-four percent of participants were male, 50 percent were female, and 6 percent identified as nonbinary. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 80 with a mean of 34 and a standard deviation of 12. Participants were excluded if they were clearly not paying attention (e.g., failed an attention check question or entered obviously inconsistent data). Throughout the project, we used a Likert scale to collect answers on variables such as attractiveness and self-consciousness.
Fair Use Statement
No need to feel at all embarrassed to share our findings. Please feel free to share this project for noncommercial purposes, but don't forget to link back to us to give us some credit.