The Verge's Elizabeth Lopatto has made a habit of surfing PubMed.gov for bizarre, and often times hilarious medical anecdotes. Her most recent discovery delivers on both fronts — or should we say, it delivers on the backside. Farts are an undeniably funny reality of human existence; this is a fact. However, all chuckles aside, in 1975, medical professionals didn't believe there was proof that "excessive flatulence" was caused by "excessive intestinal gas." These are the words of MD Michael D. Levitt, as pointed out by Lopatto, and as shocking as our lack of wind-breaking knowledge was, it's not nearly as incredible as the pump-argon-into-people's-butts experiment he conducted that same year.
Sure, enough, also in 1975, Levitt published another paper, this time in The New England Journal of Medicine, where he pumped people full of argon. See, these 18 patients had a lot of GI symptoms — gas, bloating, and flatulence. But they had a normal volume of gas in their guts, which had normal composition. Perhaps, though, the scientists reasoned, they reacted badly to any excess gas! And that is how 18 people wound up getting argon pumped into their butts. (Argon was chosen because it wouldn't react to their own intestinal gasses, I guess??????) The gas that they then ejected was "quantitatively collected in a series of 100-ml syringes and analyzed by gas chromatography." Can you even imagine. Haha, like:
"Within 15 to 20 minutes of the start of the infusion, control subjects passed gas per rectum at a rate approximating the infusion rate, and they usually experienced very little associated discomfort. In contrast 13 of the 18 patients experienced severe discomfort during the infusion of the gas, and in six subjects the pain was of such intensity that the infusion had to be discontinued. This enhanced pain response was associated with abnormalities in the transport of gas through the gut, with a tendency to pass gas less rapidly per rectum and for increased quantities of the infusate to reflux from the intestine back into the stomach."
Head over to the Verge to read more, but be careful...its contents might cause a fart attack.
Feature image via University of Salford Press Office