If you are a frequent flier who loves beans, there is good news from the world of science. On Friday the New Zealand Medical Journal (NZMA) published the findings of a study by a team of researchers from Denmark and Britain that concluded “When in doubt, let it out” (Abstract here).
The Daily News encapsulates the research:
High altitude air pressure changes cause more gas to brew in the belly, but such close proximity to other people intimidates gassy passengers to hold in their personal vapors. The gastroenterologists cut to the chase about cutting the cheese: dismiss the social stigma and just go for it.
‘(Holding back) holds significant drawbacks for the individual, such as discomfort and even pain, bloating, dyspepsia (indigestion), pyrosis (heartburn) just to name but a few resulting abdominal symptoms,’ the researchers claim.
‘Moreover, problems resulting from the required concentration to maintain such control may even result in subsequent stress symptoms.’
The study may prove problematic for combatants in the so-called war on women, positing as it does that female flatulence smells worse than its male counterpart. (Or maybe that’s a positive, since it highlights an area in which females have the upper hand.)
The researchers noted a catch-22 facing members of the flight crew with respect to pent-up flatulence:
On the one hand, if the pilot restrains a fart, all the drawbacks previously mentioned, including impaired concentration, may affect his abilities to control the plane. On the other hand, if he lets go of the fart, his co-pilot may be affected by its odour, which again reduces safety onboard the flight.
The study offers a silver bullet that will prevent the cabin from becoming “awfully smelly,” to wit:
We humbly propose that active charcoal should be embedded in the seat cushion, since this material is able to neutralise the odour.
Passengers can do their share to counterbalance the stench by inserting active charcoal “in their trousers,” which frankly sounds pretty uncomfortable.
What, you might ask, prompted the five members of the research team to undertake the study? The answer was a “particularly foul flight from Copenhagen to Tokyo.” Necessity, it appears, is the mother of invention.
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