On a good day you probably fart between 8 and 14 times, but up to 25 times is within the normal range. It’s something we all do—sometimes discreetly and sometimes not-so-secretly (talking about you, super-bendy person in my yoga class). Farting is awesome—it’s how your body gets rid of excess air swirling around your insides.
Occasionally, however, that gas can get stuck and cause your belly to feel bloated, crampy, and uncomfortable. In serious cases, where there’s a shit ton (sorry) of air stuck in your stomach, it can be downright painful. Trapped gas is usually a relatively benign problem—but it still sucks.
Anytime you open your mouth, you’re essentially welcoming gas inside your body—it happens when you swallow air when you eat or drink, laugh, and talk. Bacteria also produce gas when they break down food in your intestines, especially anything high in fiber, dairy, starch, or sugar. Food intolerances and digestive disorders won’t necessarily make it harder to fart, but they can make you an exceptionally gassy person generally speaking, Lisa Ganjhu, DO, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF.
Whether you’ve got a bit of air you’re desperate to get rid of or full-blown indigestion, the problem is the same: “Eventually, that gas has to come out,” Dr. Ganjhu says. Thankfully, there are ways to kickstart things. Here’s how to get tooting.
Why you might have trouble farting
You have two sphincters, or the muscles that open and close passages in your body, located in your lower GI tract: There’s the internal sphincter, which your body automatically and involuntarily regulates, and the external sphincter, which you have voluntary control over. (If, for example, you ever held in a fart because, say, you were worried about stinking up your bedroom, you were voluntarily contracting your external sphincter, Dr. Ganjhu says.)
Your internal sphincter acts as an intestinal gas barometer. It tells your body, “Hey, there’s a lot of hot air in here—you need to fart,” and sends a signal to the external sphincter that it’s time to open up and bid adieu to the gas. So you let it rip.
Or not. If you can’t fart right away, you might just need to give things time. It takes gas a long time to travel down and out of your body (most people’s intestines are at least 15 feet long!), so it’s not always going to happen immediately. Most of the time, however, your external sphincter is to blame. When it’s not relaxed—a problem that often occurs when you’re stressed out, for example—it clenches up and prevents air from escaping your body, says Dr. Ganjhu.
She likens this dilemma to an expanding balloon (picture it with me). At some point, the balloon won’t be able to take in any more air and will pop or sputter out air. Fortunately, nothing inside your body’s going to pop, but it will hit a tipping point, since your body can only carry so much air, and you fart (phew!). “Ultimately, all air just lets go in some way, shape, or form,” Dr. Ganjhu says.
What to do to make it easier to fart
Move your body.
Moving your body is one of the best ways to clear gas from your digestive tract, evidence suggests. When your colon contracts, as it does when you move, it pushes stool, fluids, and gas toward the rectum, where it’s then liberated into the free world. “When you’re moving, your GI tract is moving,” says Dr. Ganjhu.