Fart on the plane. Doctor’s orders.

The TSA won’t be catching this weapon of mass destruction.  A doctor is recommending that airline passengers fart mid-flight to avoid problems with gas. (Hey, it’s the weekend.  We’ll get back to the angry, scary, political stuff on Monday :)

Clearly this doctor won’t be flying, or perhaps he has problems smelling.

The good news is that there won’t be a risk of fire, since smoking is no longer allowed on flights in the US and Europe.

Then again, a dirty ashtray may be better than the odor of a plane full of farters.

NOTE FROM JOHN: Actually, this report is something a lot of frequent flyers knew long ago.  When you fly, the air pressure change makes everything swell, in addition to some of your organs (your eyes for example), and any gas inside of you.

I had this problem when flying after my eye surgery a few years back.  The French docs didn’t want me to fly for 3 months, I cheated and left after 2 months (my American doc said it should be okay).  My eye hurt like hell right after take-off.  When you get into the air, your eyes expand somewhat.  Same goes for gas.  Which is often whey I got cramps when flying internationally, until I read up on the subject and learned about this expanding gas problem years ago.  Now I use gas-x when I fly, and it helps a lot.

And cheer up, it could have been worse than farts on a plane.

Go ahead, fart on the plane.  Doctors say it’s good for your health.

Lead author Dr. Jacob Rosenberg, professor of surgery at the University of Copenhagen, said he always wondered why he had more flatulence flying than when on the ground. Then, after a recent trip, he opened his bag and noticed a water bottle “almost smashed by the change in ambient pressure,” said Rosenberg. “And then I thought of the mechanisms of increased bowel air volume when flying.”

Bad smell via Shutterstock

Bad smell via Shutterstock

It’s simple. When altitude increases, pressure decreases. According to the thermodynamic principal known as the “ideal gas law,” as pressure drops, volume increases. While cabins are pressurized to compensate, the mechanisms can only do so much. When the plane is at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet, inside it’s still the equivalent of 8,000 feet above sea level. That’s a lot of physics bearing down on your intestines.

There’s a clear medical rationale for releasing the gas. Holding back flatulence can lead to “discomfort and even pain, bloating, dyspepsia and pyrosis,” according to the article, titled “Flatulence on Airplanes: Just Let it Go,” which surveyed previously published research and studies. It also notes that holding back flatulence has been suggested as a major risk factor for diverticular disease, a condition where pouches develop in the wall of the colon.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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  • gigi

    I drink water only when I fly and do not eat anything. I do not fart on the plane. You can do it too and not impose your nastiness on everyone around you!

  • gigi

    Disgusting, smelly farts emitted continuously throughout a flight are FAR WORSE than any screaming child!!! Every other flight I am on I am subjected to some nasty farter in the vicinity. If you think this isn’t so bad then you are either out of your bloody mind or would not be averse to eating a steaming bowl of poo. Give me the screamer any time over the sulpherous, egg-farter!!!

  • Sweetie

    The choice of food a person eats can make a tremendous difference. Avoiding sugar alcohols, beans, oats, inulin, and certain other things can help with the frequency of gas quite a lot. Or, if you want to ruin air quality, eat the above things in quantity.

  • Naja pallida

    Or it could simply be that Chris ripped one in the seat next to the child, and they can’t stand it. :)

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    If you’re on a plane during ascent or descent and a small child or infant is screaming, there’s a very good chance it’s because they’re in agony from inner ear pain.

    Same deal — air pressure differences, with ear canals small enough they’re often clogged.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yeah, I knew this already too – because of the pressure change. Though it’s good advice a lot of people probably don’t realize. I used to always get cramps when flying internationally, and didn’t realize why until I did some reading. Now I try to remember to use those gas-x style pills, they help a lot.

  • Straightnotnarrow

    Guess he didn’t need to take calculus based physics for a year when he was premed. This is not news doc! At altitude your sense of smell is compromised (ever notice things don’t taste right at altitude?)

  • sunmusing

    Ahem…I don’t wait until I am in a plane…I am a “free stinker”…I can fart anywhere…the one real draw back is when your “shit/fart separator” is broken…that can be an uncom”fart”able feeling…It can lead to “skidmark” trauma.

    And, when asked by my grandson, why women say they don’t fart, I told him…”they just hold it til they are sixty years old…then they explode”…Oh my…he went running to grandma hollering “grandma, grandma…how old are you?”…I really didn’t think….grandma would get so mad…

  • http://musephotos.wordpress.com/ GarySFBCN

    Fortunately for me (and everyone else), unless I am sick, I am both silent and odorless. But if I am sick have to expel, the cloud is so noxious it will kill every living thing within a 20-foot radius.

  • Jafafa Hots

    You can still smoke on planes, if you’re the flight crew, apparently.
    On my last flight, I saw a flight attendant acting odd, sneaking into the front toilet in a strange way. Her cohort was standing outside on the ready. When she came out, her cohort knocked on the flight deck door and a pilot came out and went into the toilet.
    After he came out, one of the two flight attendants took something into the toilet and fussed around for a few moments while the other stood and barred passengers.

    When they were done, I went in to the toilet, and it reeked like cigarette smoke. Hanging on the door hook was a prepacked filter bag of coffee that they use.

    I said something to the flight attendant and she shushed me with a wink. They were thinking that the bag of coffee grounds would hide the cigarette odor.

    I finished up and went back to my seat, realizing that I could probably have gotten them all fired.

  • Phil

    My great-great Uncle Isidor always said the doctor told him not to hold it in (he was 93). He was right! Isidor never flew in a plane either.

  • bkmn

    Advise from a former frequent flyer:

    Just open the air vent above your seat before you feel the need to release.

    It’s that simple.

  • nicho

    When I fly business class on Air France, I just hold it until the cheese course. No one knows the difference.

  • http://twitter.com/Grrrowler Todd

    It’s been understood for years why people have gas when flying. How much time and money did Dr. Rosenberg spend discovering a fact that was already well known? The guy could have just checked the CNN blogs to figure out this “mystery”: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/25/what-the-yuck-i-get-gassy-on-planes/

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