To Be Old in America in 2012
ELDER PROSE: The Old Grandfather and the Grandson

Old Farts - Literally

category_bug_journal2.gif Last week at The Elder Storytelling Place, Nancy Leitz told us about Uncle Arthur:

“It was a beautiful day and even Uncle Arthur had come to spend the afternoon. He was about 83 then and was not only hard of hearing but he had a flatulence problem that only got worse as he got older.

“I suppose it got worse because he not only could not smell his problem, he couldn't hear it either which, to him, meant there was NO problem.”

It appears that like Uncle Arthur, I am gassier than when I was younger. Or maybe not. Maybe I just let fly because I can, because I'm no longer surrounded by coworkers, fellow subway riders and others most of the time.

Nowadays, living alone with no one but the cat to offend, I allow myself to putt, putt around the house while reminding myself not to let it become a habit so that I remember to control myself when I am with people.

Still, I was not certain that the affliction has increased and I wondered if old farts really do fart more.

As it turns out, the answer is yes, we do get gassier in our old age. Before I explain why, let's get an – ahem, refresher – course in the reasons anyone farts.

The National Institutes of Health tell us that the “average person passes intestinal gas 14 times a day and produces about 1 to 4 pints of the stuff.” It is a normal occurrence and comes mostly from two sources: air we swallow and as a byproduct of digestion.

Culprits in the air category include smoking, chewing gum, drinking through a straw, hard candies, carbonated drinks, eating or drinking too quickly and wearing loose dentures.

As to digestion, the volume of intestinal gas is directly related to the amount of undigested food making its way through the intestines. When the small intestine can't absorb certain foods, the large intestine tries to help out by creating more gas.

The gases involved are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and, according to WebMD, “in about one-third of people, methane.”

That, methane, is the stinky one.

You probably know most of these but for the sake of thoroughness, here is a list of some foods most likely to cause excess gas: Beans, of course, and

Brussels sprouts


Whole grains
Carbonated drinks
Fruit drinks
Foods with sorbitol (an artificial sweetener)

In regard to whole grains, here's a little anecdote I like from WebMD: “The word pumpernickel is believed to stem from Middle German and mean, roughly, 'goblin that breaks wind.'”

I have no idea if that's true but I intend to repeat it whenever an occasion arises because it's such a good story that if it's not true, it ought to be.

What definitely is true is that flatulence increases with age. The general reason is that like so much else about our bodies as we get older, digestion slows down and food moves through the gut more slowly creating more gas.

Some conditions and diseases that are more prevalent in old people contribute to excessive gas: diverticular disease, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, colitis, some cancers and complications from diabetes can slow the movement of food through the intestines. Inadequate salivation may contribute to improper digestion.

Also, elders use more prescription drugs than young people and gas is a side effect of some antibiotics and blood-pressure medications, for example, and of course, flatulence often accompanies constipation.

So you see, there are reasons we're sometimes called old farts.

Is there any way to reduce the amount of gas we produce? Only sort of. It doesn't seem fair that the healthiest foods – certain vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. - are the worst offenders but we shouldn't stop eating them although cutting down a little could help.

We can also spend more time chewing. That allows enzymes in saliva to further break down food, making digestion easier.

Another suggestion is to try probiotics – that stuff Jamie Curtis advertises on TV. What it is, is gut-friendly bacteria you can find at the market in such products as yogurt, kefir and tempeh.

Try to stop doing the things that cause air to be swallowed – see the list above – and take your time eating meals. Slow down, relax while eating and take a short walk after each meal.

Not convinced that any of this will help much? Me neither. Some experts suggest antacids but then warn that they have limited effectiveness and results from such anti-flatulence products as Lactaid and Beano vary from person to person.

Farting has been on the minds of contributors at The Elder Storytelling Place recently. Just a couple of weeks before Nancy Leitz told us about Uncle Arthur, Johna Ferguson may have provided the only practical answer to this elder affliction in Gas Emissions:

“I find that occasionally I’ll let out a fart without thinking about it happening; it just does,” wrote Johna. “I look around in sheer embarrassment in case someone else heard it or gets a whiff of it. Oh I could die on the spot when it happens.

“I know one should drink more water and also eat slowly to prevent swallowing air but those I things I often forget. So please, if it happens when I am standing by you, don’t dash out the door for you may be the next one to join the symphony.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet: Yesterday


How I love your willingness to just talk plainly about the human condition and how it affects you personally and, of course, all of us as well. You've given me something to laugh about every day--putt, putting around the house with only the cat to offend. Priceless, and I can relate.

Well stop farting around - buy some (recommendation removed). They certainly made an enormous difference to what was becoming a really difficult social situation for me.

[recommendation removed] helps (don't ask me how I know.)

Ronni here. As always on this blog, no recommendations of any supplements, vitamins, drugs, etc. - prescription or over-the-counter - are allowed.

None of you are physicians (and if you are, I don't know your expertise) and all drugs may or may not interact with diseases, conditions and physician-prescribed medications people are using.

When I was in my 20's, I was in agony all the time. Once diagnosed with IBS, adding fiber, and meeting my G, I learned how to fart to let the pain go away. Life is much better tho "excuse me's" follow me around now.

Excess farting is one of those characteristics of old age that makes young people think we are icky and socially hopeless. Of course it will happen to them, as well, but we'll all be long dead by then.

First thing in the morning, when husband and I repair to our respective bathrooms, he is the contrabassoon to my English horn. It is amazing how much gas buildup occurs overnight.

I am certainly glad you cleared that up.

Who knew that whole grains contributed to flatulence?

One addition to this post from someone much older than Ronni--you get to the age (for me late 70's) when none of your sphincters work like they used to and "holding it in" is no longer an option. I didn't know that until I got there, so now I just say "excuse me" and laugh right along with my kids and grandchildren. Then I thank Goddess that I'm no longer frequently on a microphone when it happens!

Thank you, thank you for that note on old sphincters. It was in my draft and somehow got lost in the final edit.

Good one, Ronni. We laughed all the way through this post. We have noticed that as both of us have gotten older (she is 81; I am 63) we have begun, at times, to sound like living motor boats. Like you, the only one we might offend is the cat and he doesn't complain. We have noticed a bit of a reduction over the last year. Mom got new better-fitting dentures and we shifted to a better quality of meat but eat less of it. As for the veggies, grains, and fruits? We will keep eating those and damn the consequences.

Gosh -- I've just reached 65 and some of my friends have accused me for years of being "a methane converter." Wait til I get older -- I'll be accused of contributing to global warming. :-)

Do men have more of this problem than women -- or are they just less inhibited?

Either my farts don't stink, or I can't smell them, thank dog. But oh how they sing out! I dread standing up from sitting in a chair in social situations. I never know if I'll be getting an unwelcomed boost. So, would you rather hear an "excuse me" from me or prefer we all just ignore it?

I wonder if this is why more elders don't do yoga!

I wish I still went to cocktail parties. I would never be at a loss for entertaining small talk that I get from reading TGB. I love it, Ronnie. Thanks for being brave enough to - er, face the music.

Hattie reminded me (a one time yoga instructor) that there is a yoga asana often called the "wind reliever" -- I remember a young woman who absolutely would not do the position. In those days I had no older students and I suppose that was a good thing, from the point of view of a proximity.

An interesting post.

My wife assures me we could become millionaires if we could only bottle my farts and use it as an energy source.

Larry, you rock!

It's a good way to entertain the grand kids.

I was once home alone (OK, just the dog, a rather excitable terrier) and I let go one that surprised even me with its volume. The dog went from snoozing to straight up in the air, completely unhinged and barking hysterically. I couldn't stop laughing long enough to get her calmed down.

Well Ronni, I think that unfortunately gas get worse with age - but my son when he was very young produced some terrible specimens too... What's bothering me is that I have regularly some very small and short gas, without odor,but of a specy I can't control because I don't feel them arrive. Perhaps I eat too quickly, too much fruit (melon, apricot and yes apple are terrible). I don't ever never eat leek now! But you are right, it sort of goes with getting older. (hello from Paris, France by the way)

Glad to read you're actually touching on some very important "swallowing" issues for elders, even if it is 'round-about through the fart topic.

Not only Hilarious, but actually very helpful! Thanks!

Thanks for the input regarding our putt-putts. Very entertaining and informative as well...

Very well and humorous written. Thank you!

This is a great blog. Just found it and now know a lot more about why...
Not happy about this age thing!

I don't feel so alone reading these posts. I am 75, each year the gas gets worse. I am slender, have a great appetite, I do work out etc..but am now wondering what is happening to my digestive system. I have BM's every day, never constipated so i think I am not sluggish. I do eat many veggies, fruits, oatmeal ( not an issue with oatmeal) I think maybe give up wheat, make portions smaller, chew more, don't stand up when people are around or leave the windows open in the summer.

Love the comments on farting! I am 61 and boy, I can relate. Going to get a check up at the docs soon and hoping that I make it through the exam without letting one go...;) My dad used charcoal tablets to help control the gas. Any one try that?

Brilliantly written funny blog followed by some truly priceless posts. I have tears flowing down my face with laughter. I came here looking for reasons why I fart so I'm laughing too much. Thank you all, I got all the answers I need :)

Thank you, I came here for the same reason others did, and left with a smile on my face. You're all adorable, and funny as hell. Side note, my dog doesn't mind at all.


Thank goodness there are others! I feel much better having read the postings. I am 70 and this putt putting (and I'm not talking golf on the back nine) has really developed in the last year. I know it is a natural bodily function however it is embarrassing.

I read this article and laughed the whole time. It is true.

I was nearly 9 months pregnant with my first child, when on a late summer afternnoon, I lay on my sofa for a rest. I was home alone, got real relaxed, and subsequently let out a tremendously loud boomer. My poor baby "jumped" so wildly I thought he might escape the womb right then and there! Through my tears of laughter, I apologized over and over. To this day (all grown up now), he's a rather "jumpy" individual who loves to laugh!

My husband plays extra notes out of his bottom when trying to play his clarinet. And we hear three blind mice regularly every morning as he putt putts his way to the bathroom.

Did you hear about the "elder" who went to their Doc with the complaint: farts which don't stink and can't be heard, in fact several while here in this room! Doctor mildly responded, "take this medication and come back in three weeks" handing out a prescription. Three weeks later patient returned saying problem continued, but now they stink something awful! To which the Doctor replied, "Oh, great!" We have your sinuses clearing up, now we will go to work on your hearing!"

Ok, well I'm 50 AND lactose intolerant so I think I'm doomed! This was an awesome article! Thanks for sharing!

Holy cow! I am only 65 years old, but I sound like a repeater rifle! It gives me so much anxiety that I am afraid to leave the house. I need a real solution. I know that part of the reason older people have stomach problems is because they do not chew their food enough. I think I have IBS, so my diet consists of brown rice, quinoa, kale. That is jsut about all I can tolerate

I had a lovely meal at my friend's today,shortly after, getting up from the chair passing wind I felt embarrassed as her sister were there and started laughing but were very amused. I said I was rejoicing in the lovely food .

I have the same farting problem. I wouldn't be surprised when this happens by the time I am 50 but I am only 48. Did it come too early for me?

I laughed so hard I farted! I'm 54, have colitis and am lactose intolerant. One night I farted so loudly and it smelled horribly, my poor cat bolted from under the blanket and spent the rest of the night under the bed.

Routinely now, as I stand at my desk at work, little "bubbles" escape. (Side note: when we were young, Mother told us that the ''F" word [fart] was a dirty word; hence, the term bubbles!) My friends think I'm silly calling these noises bubbles, but I believe, after reading 'OLD FARTS' and all of the comments, I'm going to say putt-putts instead.

Thanks for a great read and answers to our questions. I'm sharing this page with my friends now.

Thank you for sharing. Just don't know how to control those "putt putts" in social settings. They arrive without warning. What is the charcoal thing someone talked about?

Well, I came here looking for advice and solutions as I am 63 and it has become more of an issue recently. Just little toots but much more frequently. But what I have noticed is the "old people smell" or odor. And I don't like it! After reading the comments though, I believe I know the root cause of this dilemma. It appears most have cats and/or small dogs. The term "cat lady" takes on a whole new definition to me.

I am so glad to have stumbled across this blog, it's made me feel so much better about this coming of age thing. Being an inveterate hypochondriac (having learn from one of the best, my grandmother) I have "had" so many different maladies and diseases in the last two months while stressing about this gradually increasing problem. You've all helped me greatly. Growing old is definitely not for wimps, but having a good sense of humor helps.

What might help in social settings, one might go to the toilet and tries to relieve oneself from as much gas as possible, by pushing them out.
66 and living alone it doesn't bother me, but the stench gets worse with the years.
For the men who still pee standing up, try to do it sitting down, apart from that it's somewhat more hygienic, at the same time one can relieve some gasses.
Years ago after standing taking a pee with bare legs , I was surprised while aiming perfectly, the amount of spray that still got against the legs. Which ofcourse has a lot to do with those horrible plateau toilets ,where one can admire one's big heap.....💩💩🚽

I logged on to find out why I am sleeping with the Boston Orchestra around my bedside nightly and laughed so hard. I recently got married a month ago. My husband is 66 and I am 56. I have inherited a goal mine... instruments of all sorts, guns, a zoo and any other noise maker. My husband farts about every 15 minutes and snores. I am between freight trains and noises all night long. Reading this stories, it good to know that I am not alone.

OMG, all of this was fun to read again!

Thank you, Thank you all. It is easy to see where comedians get their material from. Life, us, we're all just so funny. I came here to find reasons...and I got so much more in return. My eyes are wet with tears of laughter....and I managed not to fart once while reading this blog and its posts. Look out world, I gotta get up now.

'Tis better to fart and bear the shame than to thwart the fart and bear the pain!

I am 29 years old, so I'm still pretty young. But when I play chess with my uncle, who is in his 60's, he putt-putts every now and then, sometimes audibly, sometimes silently. But I don't mind it. And I hope my family won't mind it when I get older.


When my Mother was in her 80's I called my sister who was her care giver and asked her to talk to my Mother about her putt putt's. Now I am 79 and am embarrassed when I get up and start the same noise. While visiting my daughter and her husband in their kitchen I let go and my daughter asked her husband if that was him. I was so embarrassed that I didn't say a word.

I would like to say that reading these blogs has been a breath of fresh air but that defies the issue. I have found that letting fly in the supermarket when surrounded by people, one should automatically look at everyone else in disgust and hasten away. This becomes a bit awkward if you are the only oldie in the vicinity.
David P

Exercise is the secret to a healthy body. Sphincter flexing and core muscle isometrics is the central starting point of full body mobility and overall muscle health. Flexing your sphincter gently to start and for longer and longer periods AND continuing to extend this habit throughout your entire body, keeps you strong and on a younger, higher body energy path forever. Posture breathing mobility strength all increases. In time all movement becomes an opportunity to exercise/flex as you move. I used to avoid stairs, now I love the challenge!

Has it changed my fluctuation? Not at all. But it has given me back control of when I toot as well as the enjoyment of perfecting my pitch! :) Ha Ha. Enjoy.

I knew a Scott doctor who often quoted, “wherever you be let your wind blow free”. Sound advice.

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