The Status of Flatus and Other Questions about Musical FruitsMar 06, 2013
March is National Colon Awareness Month, and a good time to answer a few questions about gas.
Dear Kaayla, How much gas do people pass? — Dick
Dear Dick, It varies from person to person, but it averages out as 1 to 3 pints daily with about 14 episodes.
Dear Dr. Daniel, I’ve heard it’s healthy to pass gas. Not doing much for my social life though. What do you think? — Bud
Dear Bud, Well Hippocrapes — I mean Hippocrates — himself proclaimed, “Passing gas is necessary to well-being.” And the Roman Emperor Claudius decreed that “all Roman citizens shall be allowed to pass gas whenever necessary.” That said, common sense should tell you what’s too much. If gas and bloating is excessive, that’s a clear sign of digestive distress, probable candida, and/or other gut health issues, and time to work with your health practitioner on some gut healing. That said, the idea of gas is definitely good medicine, at least according to Norman Cousins’ theory that laughter is good medicine. Gas has taken center stage in the entertainment for centuries, and long before Mel Brooks immortalized it in Blazing Saddles with his bean-butted cowboys.
Perhaps the most famous gas producer of all time was Joseph Pugol, a Frenchman who tooted to sold out audiences at the Moulin Rouge. Known as “Le Petomane” Joe had the unusual ability to pass gas at will and on pitch. Whether “Beans, Beans the Musical Fruit” was one of his rip-roaring numbers is not known.
“Hi, I was perusing the internet trying to see, for lack of a better way to say it, an explanation for my constant “gaseousness.” I have pretty much narrowed it to soy, which is how I think I got linked to your site. I found your article “The Flatulence Factor.” Your writing was hilarious and helped me to feel a little less alone. I loved the part where you mentioned a charcoal seating device (funny, is it true?) and that you provide a more lighthearted side. Thanks for the best laugh I’ve had all day. I’m sure that my soy consumption will continue to produce these lovely little all day and all night long side effects, but at least I can smile about it. Thanks, Veronica
Dear Veronica, Yes, the charcoal seating device is — or was — a real product. Best, of course, to just stay off the soy rather than on the cushion! Though gas is the butt of much schoolyard humor, the reality is it’s a symptom of serious digestive distress when experienced as an ongoing rather than occasional problem. I would also caution against consuming modern soy products because of known risks to the thyroid, reproductive and immune systems.
Dear Kaayla, Hey, in your book you mention a device called the TootTrapper. Where can I buy this? Thanks, Anil
Dear Anil, The TootTrapper– or things like it — is now available under other names. (See link below.) Products containing the gas-trapping charcoal filter include chair cushions, pads, briefs, panties, thongs and special products for ‘ostomy patients. Although the product launched with great fanfare on Regis and Kathie Lee and other shows, the inventors felt the TootTrapper name and accompanying publicity demeaned its importance. While it’s fun to joke about these products, the truth is they greatly improve the life of people with serious digestive disorders.Indeed, the importance of this invention to some patients was detailed in the respected journals Gut and Treatment Options in Gastroenterology. Interesting name you have. I’d say your letter was sent as a frat house joke, but I once knew an Indian medical student by that name at the University of Rochester!
Dear Dr. Daniel, I’m a college student, broke and eat lots of beans. Where can I volunteer for some of these studies? Do they pay their subjects? Frank
Dear Frank, Sorry, can’t guide you. Although in the past, scientists experimented on dogs, rats, college students and other animals, looks like they are now recruiting the fungus amongus. That’s the word anyway from Singapore, where Dejian Huang and colleagues developed a method of reducing the gas-creating oligosaccharides raffinose and stachyose in soybeans while raising the levels of the supposedly “healthy antioxidants known as isoflavones” (J Agri Food Chem, Nov 12, 2008). They accomplished this by fermenting black soybeans into soy yogurt in the presence of a fungus that produced enzymes capable of degrading the undesirable oligosaccharide sugars. Although Science Daily and others suggested that this novel new method would help “soybeans drop off the list of musical fruits,” consider this: It’s a worthy goal to stop gas warfare, but soy isoflavones represent chemical warfare. Soybean plants use isoflavones to sicken predators and affect their ability to live long, strong and propagate. Increased consumption of soy yogurt would not be beneficial to the human race.
Dear Kaayla, I heard you speak at the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP) conference in San Francisco. Loved your speech. Another speaker there said we should eat two pounds of broccoli a day. I try, but it gives me so much gas. . Do you eat that much broccoli? Janet
Dear Janet, No. Broccoli’s a good vehicle for butter, but excess cruciferous vegetables are not a cross I choose to bear. Find Chris Masterjohn’s articles on this subject at westonaprice.org to learn more about their goitrogenic properties and other risks.
Dear Dr. Daniel: I know you say soy is the King of Musical Fruits. What are the other biggest gas producers? — Jake
Dear Jake: It varies from person to person, but beans would be #1. There are lots of gas producing vegetables, including broccoli, caufliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Fruit, too, including apples, cherries, peaches, raisins, bananas, prune juice and pears. Dried fruit is a bigger problem probably because the product size shrinks, leading people to snack on way more fruit that way. Whole grains and bran with gluten sensitivity increasing the likelihood of gas problems. In terms of beverages, carbonated drinks obviously. Milk and other dairy products are a problem for people who are lactose intolerant, but such people often find the gas problem passes away — sorry couldn’t resist — if the dairy is raw. Diet foods can contain the gas producer sorbitol so steer clear of “sugar free” options.