Ever since methane became a cause Celebrex of the global warming crowd I have taken it upon myself to watch the literature carefully. Word searches and databases render this just an occasional job rather than a necessary obsession. We all got so much joy from the bovine flatulence making the evening news [Dan Rather seemed to like just saying it], that flatulence has become OK for polite discussion. CED hit the topic in an earlier blog. See the tag for “flatus gas” in the CED Index. If it is good enough for Dan Rather and the evening news, it is good enough for CED.
The Washington Post sent Marta Vogel of Takoma Park, Maryland off into the ethereal aspects of the subject. She dug up hot news from the British medical journal Lancet. One Geoffrey Wynne-Jones in a 1975 Lancet article proposed the interesting hypothesis that diverticular disease and subsequent cancers are confined to modern urban areas where flatus retention is practiced. The earliest and most enduring words on harm and benefits of the subject of flatus retention come from Hippocrates in his work -- The Flatuosities:
"It is best for flatulence to pass without noise and breaking, though it is better for it to pass with noise and breaking than to be intercepted and accumulated internally."
Hippocrates collected the wisdom of 21 generations of Physicians on the Island of Cos. He made a synthesis of these reports and wrote his books. Once again we learn that what is socially best is not always best for your health. Geoffrey Wynne-Jones, the Lancet guy, also suggests that the urban centers of yore had less diverticular problem because release rather than retention were PC then. He notes that standards of personal hygiene were lower and horselaughs chuckled at, or in Geoffrey's words "behind the back expression of a mannerless horse" were OK.
Geoffrey also states that in modern urban areas "flatus retention is also practiced." He notes that in the older more bucolic urban environs, women wore voluminous, long skirts. Unfortunately, neither the diffusions physics nor acoustic niceties of this sartorial circumstance graced the pages of Lancet nor the words of explanation are left to the reader to find between the lines.
To be sure that CED readers know the moment and volume of this kind of thing I call your attention to The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. It informs us that in most normal persons, l liter of gas per hour is infused into the gut with a "minimum of symptoms."