Here’s What Your Farts May Be Telling You About Your Gut Health

Photo: Stocksy/Gillian Vann
It can be a little embarrassing to rip one in, say, a crowded elevator, but you know what? It’s natural. We’re human, and we all fart.

Some people, however, may pass gas more often—and with a little more aroma—than others. Knowing what causes particularly fragrant flatulence, including the best and worst foods for digestion, can help you manage your farts and gut health.

Experts In This Article

What causes farts?

Essentially, farts are gas expelled by your body. The cause is a combination of swallowing air or food, breathing, and how the liver and gut (and the bacteria in the gut) interact. “What ends up in the large and small intestines as a result of these interactions ultimately leads to the production of feces—and, of course, farts,” says functional medicine expert Aaron Hartman, MD, who practices in Midlothian, Virginia.

“Most of the gas you pass from your rectum is from swallowed air," he says. "The rest is produced by bacteria that live in your gastrointestinal tract and the interaction between the foods you eat, the liquids you drink, and those bacteria,” he says. This makes for an interesting (and sometimes stinky) milieu of gases.

Most of us don't think about passing gas—it just happens. This is the way it should be.

What about excessive farting?

So it's normal to fart, but what is too much farting? A healthy amount of farting is somewhere between 14 and 23 times throughout your day, per the Cleveland Clinic. If you're farting constantly (i.e., much more than that range), it could be a sign there's a health issue. But there are also factors that can make you gassier that usual, including:

  1. Carbonated drinks: Beverages like soda and seltzer add more gas in your digestive tract, causing increased farting and burping. 
  2. "Gassy" foods: Beans get a bad rep for causing us to fart, but other foods that create gas include dairy, starchy food like corn and potatoes, cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli, sugar alcohols, and high-sulfur foods like onion and garlic, per the Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Eating or drinking too quickly: Eating and drinking too fast makes us swallow more air, causing bloating and gas, according to Northwestern Medicine
  4. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy: Just like with eating or drinking too quickly, chewing gum or sucking on a hard candy like a Jolly Rancher, makes you swallow air and creates gas. 
  5. Food intolerances: Food sensitivities happen when your digestive system can't properly break down food, per the Cleveland Clinic. This can cause unpleasant (and inconvenient) symptoms like farting a lot.
  6. Certain medications: Excess farting can be a symptom of certain medicines like antibiotics, decongestants, blood pressure meds, antidepressants, and multivitamins.
  7. Stress: You've probably had that stomach-flipping feeling when you're nervous or stressed about something. Stress can make you swallow more air without even realizing it, then a fart comes out.
  8. Constipation: Being backed up is the pits. Constipation and farting go hand in hand, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. Any interruption in the digestive process, like constipation, can cause uncomfortable and gassy consequences.

How are farts and gut health connected?

It's no secret that good health starts in the gut. And despite how smelly they can be, farting is a healthy function of the gut.

The bacteria in your gut work to create postbiotics, or metabolically active chemicals, vitamins, nutrients, and fatty acids that affect our entire body's metabolism. Those things can boost our well-being, digestion, and immune system—as well as keep our farting less smelly and under control.

“If your gut is in good health, you will pass gas seamlessly, and you should not really notice you're doing it," says Dr. Hartman. "But if you do notice your gas, then you are passing more gas than usual and you need to think about what you're eating and drinking."

Most of us don't think about passing gas—it just happens. This is the way it should be. If you are gas passing noticeably more or experiencing an out-of-the-ordinary amount of bloating after eating, then you might want to have a chat with your doctor. You can fart up to 25 times a day and it's still considered normal, according to the National Institutes of Health. But farting more than that may indicate a GI problem, and you could be dealing with an underlying health condition such as: 

The benefits of farting

Farting is all about releasing gas. When too much of it builds up in the digestive tract, we let go of it by farting. It's healthy to fart because it keeps pressure in the intestinal tract low, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Holding in a fart won't kill you, but it can create some unnecessary stomach discomfort. Trapped gas can stretch the stomach and intestines (ouch!) and cause other symptoms like nausea and bloating. So the next time you instinctually clench your buns to hold in a fart, let it out instead—it's good for you!

Tips for preventing gas

Gas is our body's natural way of taking care of itself, but if you're a little too gassy these days, there could be some lifestyle changes you can make to dial back the farting.

Eat more nutrient-dense foods

Foods that are rich in non-absorbable fibers, aka prebiotics, are great to "feed" the healthy bacteria in your gut. But foods like sugar, processed food, and processed wheat can feed unhealthy bacteria and yeast—which "battle" with healthy bacteria for the same terrain in your GI tract. “This battle can result in bloating and the formation of foul-smelling gas,” says Dr. Hartman.

The best foods to eat for gut health are naturally brightly colored and fiber-dense. Eating the rainbow feeds your gut and promotes better digestion with a healthy amount of farts, per Dr. Hartman. Try incorporating these foods into your diet:

  • Root vegetables
  • Artichokes
  • Yams
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower

Eat fewer processed foods

The worst foods to eat for your gut are processed foods. Period. “Processed corn turns into corn syrup, and processed wheat removes the fiber and the protein, leaving the carbs,” Dr. Hartman says. These are examples of how processing can remove the good gut health benefits from the original foods.

In general, the best way to maintain good gut health is to eat real, whole, and unprocessed food. “Organic is a starting point, but the ideal is to know where your food is coming from and to educate yourself about sourcing your food,” he says. (You can look at the Clean Fifteen, Dirty Dozen from the Environmental Working Group for a crash course.)

Put simply, choose fresh, natural foods when possible and avoid foods that are made with nitrates and other additives (like processed meat, for example.) It's a great starting point for gut health and for keeping your gas levels—and your farts' stink potential—in check.

Read nutrition labels

If you're sensitive to certain foods (hello, lactose intolerance), make sure you're reading the labels on food before eating or drinking. If dairy really is the problem, try lactose-free options for milk, coffee creamer, etc., and see if the farting subsides.

Sugar alcohols are another gassy ingredient, per the Mayo Clinic. So consider it an orange flag if a "sugar-free" food contains ingredients like sorbitol, mannitol, or xylitol.

Try an elimination diet

Our bodies can be one big neverending mystery, especially when it comes to what's making us toot. Try temporarily cutting back on foods you suspect could be causing the farting. The most common gassy foods are beans, lentils, high-fiber fruits and veggies, fatty foods, and carbonated drinks, per the Mayo Clinic. Try the trial-and-error method and remove one food at a time to see if you fart less. (Then be sure to gradually add these foods back into your diet, to avoid unnecessary restriction that could lead to nutritional deficiencies or even disordered eating. If you need help, consider reaching out to a registered dietitian for guidance.)

Take medication

If the gas just isn't letting up, consider over-the-counter meds for temporary relief (but plan on seeing your doctor). If dairy is causing the problem and you just have to have that slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream, products like Lactaid or Dairy Ease can help with your digestion, per the Mayo Clinic. Talk to your doctor to determine whether your farting should be a concern.


Is smelling your farts healthy?

Smelling your farts is a normal part of passing gas, but there's no conclusive research on whether smelling your own farts is good for you. The smell can range from being odorless to pretty pungent, usually linked to something you ate, per the Cleveland Clinic. Foul-smelling farts usually take care of themselves once they're released.

Does farting release toxins?

An October 2019 paper in Cell Chemical Biology notes that some smelly farts contain hydrogen sulfide, which is a toxic gas (it gives your toots that rotten-egg smell). However, hydrogen sulfide is only a problem at doses of more than 700 parts per million (ppm), and farts are 1 ppm sulfide max—far below the deadly threshold.

Is it okay to fart 100 times a day?

Farting 100 times a day would be considered excessive farting. The average number of farts someone should release each day is up to 25. So, 100 farts? That's four days' worth of farting in one day, which means it might be time to see a doctor who can help you get to the bottom of the issue.

Watch this video for a dietitian's guide to gut health:

—reviewed by Jennifer Gilbert, MD, MPH 

The Wellness Intel You Need—Without the BS You Don't
Sign up today to have the latest (and greatest) well-being news and expert-approved tips delivered straight to your inbox.

Loading More Posts...