Toots at High Altitude…It’s Real!

From Outside
By Erin Beresini

Is High Altitude Gas a Thing?

Not to be vulgar, but I get gassy whenever I go somewhere above 7,000 feet. Please say it’s not just me.

Just about everyone gets the ‘tude toots. Lucky for you, intrepid physician Paul Auerbach decided in 1981 to research the phenomenon so mountain lovers would no longer have to suffer in silence, or decimate imaginary frog populations. In a letter to the editor of The Western Journal of Medicine, Auerbach and his colleague Dr. York E. Miller wrote:

We would like to report our observations upon a new gastrointestinal syndrome, which we shall refer to by the acronym HAFE (high altitude flatus expulsion). This phenomenon was most recently witnessed by us during an expedition to in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, with similar experiences during excursions past. The syndrome is strictly associated with ascent, and is characterized by an increase in both the volume and the frequency of the passage of flatus, which spontaneously occurs while climbing to altitudes of 11,000 feet or greater.

Until recently, researchers believed HAFE was a simple case of Boyle’s Law: the volume of gas increases as the pressure decreases. In this case, lower air pressure allows the gas in your intestines to expand until it can’t expand any longer and must escape.

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