Though it goes contrary to everything your mother and Emily Post tried to instill in you, there are bodily functions some might deem “offensive” that are in fact normal, healthy, and in some instances, essential to feeling good.
Take flatulence. It comes from the Latin flatus, a blowing or breaking wind. “Most of the gases are produced in the colon by the fermentation of carbohydrates, in particular, but of other food substances that are poorly digested and are then available for bugs to digest, and in their digestive process, they release gases,” Dr. Eamonn Quigley, world-renowned gastroenterologist from The Methodist Hospital in Houston explained to KTRH. “It’s absolutely normal to produce gas,” he said. “It’s absolutely normal to have some degree of flatulence.” You’ll feel so much better if that gas finds an outlet for escape. While letting a big one fly on a crowded elevator at the Galleria may be embarrassing, holding back triggers pain, bloating and considerable discomfort. It’s normal to pass gas 6 to 20 times a day.
Burping, gastroenterologist Dr. Eamonn Quigley says, is a very interesting natural physical phenomenon. “Every time we eat or drink, particularly when it’s a fizzy drink, we take in a lot of air, which goes to our stomach, and it has to go somewhere or our stomach gets distended. So when the upper part of the stomach is distended, it sends a message to the brain, which in turn sends a message down to the stomach, and tells the upper part of the stomach to relax, and tells the valve between the stomach and the esophagus to relax so the air is released. That’s what a burp is.” It’s not something you want to do publicly or loudly as a general rule, but it’s a natural defensive move by your body. The alternative to that occasional reflexive release of stomach air is pain.
The cracking of knuckles has become the subject of scientific and medical study. Between 25 and 54% of people do it. The argument most commonly given against it, maybe the reason it is criticized at all, is the possible cause/effect relationship with arthritis. Dr. Donald Unger of California cracked the knuckles on his left hand for sixty years, and for the sake of comparison, did not crack knuckles on his right. He concluded, after six decades of this research, that there was no arthritis in either hand, and no visual difference between the two. Serious scientific research has since corroborated his finding. The noise is simply caused by air released in the fluid in the joints.
Even beyond natural body functions, some habits regarded as undesirable might have health benefits. Biting your fingernails, some argue, can stimulate your immune system by introducing generally harmless bacteria into your body. Others might point out nail-biting is a medical disorder called onychophagia, which is very common in individuals of all ages. The condition has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder and can be a sign of emotional or psychological problems. So maybe that’s one you’ll want to temper.
The moral of the story – your body does what it does because it’s the way your body was intended to work, regardless of social propriety. In the words of Voltaire: “Use, do not abuse; neither abstinence nor excess renders men happy.”