I received this question from a FemFusion friend:
I have one of those questions for you that no one wants to ask… My aunt — who is in her 60s — can’t seem to prevent herself from noisily passing gas in public. I know that this must be mortifying to her. I remember that my grandmother used to do the same thing. Am I doomed to the same fate? Is there anything that can be done to prevent this? Do sphincter muscles also need to be exercised? Is there a “kegel” for that? Thank you, Anonymous
I am so grateful to Anonymous for her candid question… I know it’s embarrassing to ask these things, but I’m no stranger to intimate/embarrassing questions and so this one didn’t phase me at all! Unintentionally passing gas in public is a common concern, especially as people get older. It’s also something that women of all ages experience during exercise and yoga classes, as it can readily occur during movement and transitions between movements (i.e. sit to stand, or moving between yoga poses).
However, passing gas in public shouldn’t be happening on a regular basis, and if it is, there might be more to the story and/or ways to prevent it from occurring so frequently. As for the question from Anonymous… No! You are NOT doomed to the same fate. Of course the occasional “slip” might occur, as it does to MOST of us at one time or another, but you can decrease the likelihood of noisily passing gas in public by eating appropriately for your needs and by keeping your pelvic floor and core muscles healthy, supple, and responsive.
We can’t talk about gas without addressing food.
Now, this topic is HUGE and not something that we have the time or space to get into today, in this blog post! But keep in mind that your gut is what’s producing the gas, and if you feel that your gut is OVER-producing gas (to the point where you can’t control the flatulence), then you might be eating something that your body just can’t handle. Perhaps you’re sensitive to dairy and don’t know it… Or sensitive to soy (another common food sensitivity)… Or maybe you’re eating more beans and grains than your body can handle. Fiber is great, but perhaps you need to get it from different sources such as increasing fresh vegetable intake rather than loading up on oatmeal, dried fruit, and wheat bread.
Another common gas culprit is fructose and artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol. Carbonated beverages can also contribute, partially due to the sweeteners used and partially due to the bubbly gases that are in them. Carbonated drinks can cause you to swallow more air and have more gas inside your body… Hence the public “slips.”
Take note of what you’re eating and how your food choices affect your flatulence, because the more gas you have, the harder it will be to control!
We can’t talk about CONTROLLING gas without addressing the pelvic floor.
- the anal sphincters (internal and external)
- the pelvic floor muscles that SURROUND the anus (in particular, the puborectalis muscle that slings around the rectum)
The more you focus on strengthening and toning the core and pelvic region of your body via regular walking, kegels (if appropriate for you), hip circles, glute/butt strengthening, and other total core strengtheners, the more circulation you bring to that area.
As I like to say, “where the movement goes, the blood flows.”
The better the circulation, the healthier your sphincters, muscles, and NERVES will be… And the healthier your sphincters, muscles, and nerves are, the more sensation/feeling you’ll have in order to SENSE when gas is about to pass.
When you can SENSE it, you can do something to prevent it!
Furthermore, the stronger your pelvic floor muscles are, the better you’ll be able to “hold it in.” You can effectively use your pelvic floor muscles to “hold it in” by doing a kegel type of movement — by squeezing and lifting your pelvic floor muscles to assist the anal sphincters “seal off” the rectum (through which the gas WANTS to escape).
Take a moment to practice now! Pretend like you feel a fart coming, and then squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles, focusing particularly on the area around the anus. Squeeze and lift, hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds (to prevent the passing gas), and then FULLY RELEASE.
So… Let’s sum it up!
To prevent unintentionally passing gas in public:
First, take stock of your diet and notice if any particular food (or beverage) is contributing to an over-production of gas.
Second, keep MOVING MORE and doing hip circles, glute exercises, and kegels to promote general pelvic health and the ability to quickly respond when you need to control your gas.
Caveat: when exercising the core and pelvic floor, remember to RELAX as often as you contract. The goal is SUPPLE, responsive pelvic muscles and lots of circulation… Not crazy “hulk style” muscles that are tight, tense, and — ultimately — ineffective. (Did you catch my reference to “hulk vagina” in this video?)