Spit & Gas: What You Didn’t Know You Should Know

The body makes things every day. Some you might find both gross and interesting. Here’s a little about the stuff you drool and the gas you pass, just for the heck of it.

 

Spit Is Messy and Kissing Can Be, Too

 
The salivary glands around the inside of your mouth make a quart or two of saliva every day.
 
It sounds kind of sloppy. But it’s great news for your tongue, mouth and teeth. Without saliva, you couldn’t talk very well or taste your food. You’d have trouble swallowing. And because it’s always rinsing your teeth, they’d decay faster without it.
 
It’s not so great to use spit as a ready source of cleaning fluid, though. One milliliter of saliva has about one million bacteria. Don’t use it to clean your contact lenses. You can get an infection that way.
 
Saliva is also full of hormones. We don’t understand a lot about that, but saliva is sometimes tested to try to understand what’s going on with people’s health.
 
Hormones in spit might be what make saliva an important factor in kissing. Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher says that men like sloppier open-mouth kisses more than women do. Some researchers theorize a male can subconsciously tell from a woman’s spit if she is fertile or if the two are genetically compatible. 
 
Or maybe those wet kisses are all about the testosterone. Transferring testosterone-rich spit might heighten the partner’s attraction. 
 
As for kissing and germs, it looks like the more you kiss the more likely you develop the same “microbial profile,” so you won’t make each other sick. You’ll be compatible, germ-wise!
 

The Gas You Pass and Why It Smells The Way It Does

 
The biggest worry about gas that smell really bad is embarrassment. It doesn’t mean something bad is going on with your body. It’s usually just a sign your digestive system is working the way it should and that your gut has those healthy microbes it needs to do the job of digestion.
 
Now for some fun facts, including ways you might cut down on gas and odors.
 
1. Where does the gas come from?
Everything you eat gets broken down by bacteria or microbes in the gut so your body can absorb the nutrients and get rid of the stuff it doesn’t need or want. In the process, gas is released and stored until you let it go — oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen sulfide. The worst smelling is the hydrogen sulfide. 
 
2. How much gas do people pass?
Most people pass gas about 15 times a day, releasing almost half a gallon of gas total. Each time it lasts about 2 seconds.
 
3. Do men or women have more trouble with gas?
Men make more gas than women. But women’s gas smells worse because they have more of that nasty smelling hydrogen sulfide than men do. No one knows why, but it might have to do with women eating a better diet!
 
4. Will it hurt to hold them?
Holding your gas won’t kill you, but it can make you awfully uncomfortable and even cause constipation if you do it too much.
 
5. Can you really set them on fire?
Yes, you can set them on fire. But don’t. It’s pretty dangerous. You can get burned, even inside your body, and your clothes can ignite.
 
6. Why does it make a tooting noise?
It’s all about the volume of gas, how hard it’s forced out and how tight the anus muscle is.
 
7. How can I cut down on the gas and the smell?
Everyone needs to pass gas so don’t aim for a gas-free existence. But some things to help with excessive amounts or especially bad smell include:
 
Eat slowly: Some gas comes from swallowed air. Make sure you eat lots of fiber and drink lots of water to stay regular. The longer food hangs around in the colon, the more gas it makes.
 
Quit smoking: Smokers have worse smelling gas (no one knows why).
 
Eat less red meat, pork, eggs, milk and cheese, and drink less beer and wine. These are sulfur-rich foods.
 
If you must, eat fewer beans, veggies in the cabbage family, almonds and dried fruits that also have sulfur — but remember you’re trading off a lot of nutritional value.
 
Eat rice: It’s the only food that doesn’t cause gas. 
 
Try an anti-gas product like Beano (take it while you are eating beans, not after, for best results), Lactaid or Pepto-Bismol.  Don’t take more than recommended.
 
And if you (or the people around you) really can’t stand the smell, there’s hope. An over-the-counter drug, Devrom, makes gas odorless. It might also make your tongue turn dark, though.
 

Meet the Author

Natalya Puckett, MD is a family medicine physician at Lakeshore Medical Clinic in St. Francis, WI.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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