Everyone’s Gassy, International Survey Finds


A big bowl of turkey chili.
Photo: Matthew Mead (AP)

New research released this weekend might comfort or unnerve you, depending on your perspective. An international survey of thousands suggests that just about everyone often feels gassy, with farting being the most common symptom experienced daily. The findings also indicate that these symptoms can affect people’s quality of life the more frequently they happen.

The survey was conducted by researchers from the Rome Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit research organization focused on gastrointestinal health, as well as France’s Danone Nutricia Research, an offshoot of the Danone food company (in the U.S., they sell yogurt and other dairy products under the Dannon brand).

Nearly 6,000 adults in the U.S., UK, and Mexico were recruited online to answer various questions about their health, including whether they had experienced up to seven gas-related symptoms recently. These symptoms included bloating, abdominal distention (a swollen belly), flatulence, and bad breath. Those surveyed were meant to be representative of the general population.

Eighty-one percent said they had experienced flatulence in the past 24 hours, while 60% said they had a rumbling stomach, and 58% had belched. The least common symptom—bloating—was still reported by 38% of participants. Ultimately, only 11% reported not experiencing any gas-related symptoms the day before. The findings were presented Saturday at the annual conference of the United European Gastroenterology.

“I think the most remarkable and surprising finding in our study is that almost all adults in the general population experience some daily gas-related symptoms. This is important given the data also clearly reveals that these symptoms affect people’s general wellbeing,” said lead author Olafur Palsson, a clinical psychologist and health researcher from the University of North Carolina Department of Medicine, in a release from the UEG.

Those who reported a higher score on the questionnaire used to measure gas-related symptoms also tended to have worse scores on questionnaires asking about their mental health or overall quality of life. And while these are only correlations, it does suggest that having more of these symptoms at once can negatively affect people, the authors say.

Interestingly enough, those under the age of 50 reported higher amounts of gas-related symptoms than did older people. Those in Mexico similarly had higher gas scores than those in the UK and U.S. But there was no significant difference in how gassy people felt when it came to their body mass index or weight. Meanwhile, those who reported exercising regularly were slightly less likely to experience gassiness.

Whether any of these patterns show something about people’s vulnerability to gas is still unclear and has to be studied further, the authors say, especially the differences seen across different countries. But Palsson does note that “cultural, linguistic, diet or public health factors might affect population levels of gas-related symptoms.”

The results have not been peer-reviewed, an important step for validating any research’s conclusions. But other studies have found that having an uneasy tummy is a common price of being alive. A 2018 survey of 71,000 people, for instance, suggested that at least 61% of Americans had recently experienced one gastrointestinal symptom. Notably though, flatulence was not one of the symptoms asked about in that survey, and the most commonly reported compliant (31%) was instead heartburn.



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