Why Passing Gas as We Age Is Not Unusual
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Health

Why We Pass More Gas as We Age

And what you can do about it.

Humorous animated illustration of people farting
Rami Niemi

You're aging so gracefully until a not-so-pleasant scent sneaks up and out from behind.

Yes, we're gonna go there. This is a story all about why you may be farting more often as you age, aka why you've become an old fart — and what you can do about it.

First, we'll set the record straight. There's limited data actually showing that you toot more as you age.

The only real study looking at at this was done in 2017. It was self-reported (how often do you toot daily?) and found that older adults don't necessarily pass gas (or admit to it) more frequently than younger adults.

But some do, and there are real reasons for this. Healthy adults pass gas between 10 and 25 times per day. As you get older, however, you're more likely to take medications, gain weight, become lactose intolerant and have other issues that lead to an increase in gas.

So, it's not necessarily the age that's leading to the tooting — it's all the other stuff.

The actual age at which these changes occur is variable, in part due to the difference in our medical conditions, medications and genetic makeup, says Jesse Houghton, senior medical director of gastroenterology with SOMC Gastroenterology Associates in Portsmouth, Ohio.

If you think you're farting more often than you were when you were younger, then read on to determine the cause.


Increased weight gain

Americans tend to gain weight as we age, says Houghton says. This is due to several factors, including decreased metabolism, increased medications that cause weight gain and decreased exercise. “While this can be associated with increased flatulence, it is commonly associated with increased acid reflux and belching,” Houghton says.

Medication

Whether it's medication for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or heart disease medications, our medication lists seem to grow as we age, Houghton says. “These medications also tend to cause constipation, which often results in retention of gas, and subsequently increased bloating,” he says. Common prescription medications also tend to cause weight gain, which can worsen GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Lactose intolerance

A common cause of bloating and flatulence is dairy products, and lactose intolerance increases as we age. This is because we have less of the lactase enzyme that helps us digest the carbohydrate lactose, Houghton says.

The anal sphincter weakens

This is simply a result of aging, resulting in less ability to hold in flatulence when we need to. “This is especially true in older women who have had multiple vaginal deliveries,” Houghton says.

Stop the flatulence:

This really depends on what's causing it, Houghton says. For example, if you've developed a sensitivity to lactose, you can avoid dairy by substituting oat milk for regular milk — or you can take lactase replacement enzymes before meals that contain dairy.

If you have a weakened anal sphincter, you can do Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles (some of these supply the anal sphincter).

Avoiding foods that tend to cause gas (broccoli, dairy, beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage and onions) can also help with this, Houghton says.

Avoiding lying in a supine position for at least two hours after eating can also help, says Priyanka Chugh, assistant professor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. In conjunction with this, Chugh says, eat your food slowly, chew it carefully, avoid gulping water and skip the bubbly drinks altogether.

Lastly, over-the-counter products such as simethicone (Gas X, Phazyme) and Beano (alpha Galactosidase) can help with excess bloating and gassiness caused by our diets.

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