Flatulence: Definition, Causes & Process

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  • 0:00 Farting
  • 0:32 Flatulence: Causes & Process
  • 2:33 Symptoms and Treatment
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you'll learn the proper word and definition for farting, its main causes, and the process behind why a person farts in the first place. You'll also learn when you should go to the doctor.


SBD. Silent but deadly. No, not a ninja. Farting. It's ok, let's just get it out there and out of our system. I fart. You fart. Your dog farts. We all fart.

But why? How many of us have really stopped to think about why we're about to meticulously and cunningly poison the air around us? Ponder no longer! This lesson defines flatulence a bit more scientifically and explains the causes and process behind why we fart.

Flatulence: Causes and Process

Farting is more properly called flatulence, and there's nothing flat about the knife that cuts this cheese. That sharp smell is caused by the excessive formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract that is then discharged from the rectum.

While there are exceptions to this, the major process behind flatulence isn't too hard to understand. You need to eat. That food provides you with energy. Inside of your digestive system live little buggers called bacteria. The bacteria also need food to survive, so they mooch off some of the stuff you swallow in exchange for protecting you from deadly pathogens and helping you to digest your food.

Some parts of that food, especially the parts not digested by your body, are to bacteria like coal is to a power plant. It provides the raw ingredients that produce energy. But what do we know about coal plants? They have chimneys that send malodorous waste gases out and into the air around them. Same thing with the bacteria.

Using the process of fermentation, they produce waste gases like hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide as they convert the raw material into energy. These waste gases, including the malodorous ones like sulfur-containing compounds, are then expelled into the intestines and then into the air around you as you pass gas. Foods that bacteria love to use as raw ingredients include: beans, prunes, apples, cabbage, and more. So, the next time you eat a burrito, you'll know why all of your friends have gone running for the hills.

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