By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Flatulence is the passing of gas from the digestive system via the back passage and is also referred to as “breaking wind” or “farting”.
Flatulence is a normal process that everyone experiences on a regular basis, with the average person passing wind around 15 times a day. However, excessive flatulence can become troublesome and uncomfortable. Diet and lifestyle changes can help to control excessive flatulence.
In many cultures, breaking wind in public is considered embarrassing and people often strain to avoid passing wind or take measures to do so in a discrete manner.
In other cultures, however, flatulence is considered akin to coughing and often laughed off, especially among children. Flatulence is often laughed about and is a source of humour in literature, the media and entertainment, although the degree to which flatulence-based humour is considered acceptable varies between cultures.
Impact on the environment
Flatulence has also been claimed to have an impact on the environment, mainly owing to the belief that methane is released in the gas expelled by livestock. However, while livestock do account for around 20% of the methane emitted globally, over 90% is released through exhalation and burping.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2014