Oh, the dreaded shart. Who doesn’t fear a little poop coming out when they toot?
Funny as sharts may sound, they do happen and can happen to you, too.
Farts gone wrong are medically referred to as fecal incontinence. Read on to find out why it happens and how to deal with it if it happens to you.
Farting and pooping are totally normal bodily functions. We’ve all passed gas while pooping, but having it happen the other way around isn’t something that should be happening on the regular.
Sharting is a possibility if you’re holding in a bowel movement or don’t fully empty your bowels during a poop.
Sometimes an underlying medical issue can cause sharting.
Solid stool isn’t as likely to accidentally escape or leak its way out of your rectum as loose or watery stools.
Diarrhea is often accompanied by stomach cramps, bloating, and — yup — flatulence.
A number of things can cause diarrhea, including:
- digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease
- lactose intolerance
- gastrointestinal infections
- drinking too much alcohol
- certain medications, such as antibiotics
- food allergies
- artificial sweeteners
- sugar alcohols
Constipation can cause large, hard stools that are difficult to pass. Hard stools can stretch and eventually weaken the muscles in your rectum.
Watery stools can build up behind any hard stool in your rectum and leak around it, especially when you fart.
Not getting enough fiber in your diet is the most common cause of constipation.
Other causes include:
- not drinking enough water
- a lack of exercise
- holding in your bowel movements
- travel or other changes in your routine
- certain medications, like opioids
- hormonal changes during your period, pregnancy, or menopause
When you have hemorrhoids, the swelling in the veins of your rectum can prevent your anus from closing properly.
This makes it easier for poop to escape your anus when you pass wind.
Damage to the nerves that control your rectum, anus, and pelvic floor can make it hard for you to feel when there’s stool in there. It can also interfere with muscle control, making it hard to hold in your poop, especially when farting.
Nerve damage can develop from:
- long-term straining to pass stool
- brain or spinal cord injuries
- medical conditions that cause nerve damage, such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS)
Damage to the muscles in your rectum, anus, and pelvic floor can make it hard to keep your anus closed and your stools in.
These muscles can get damaged from:
- childbirth, especially if forceps are used or you have an episiotomy
Rectal prolapse is a condition in which your rectum falls from its normal position and begins to push through your anus.
Anything that weakens or damages your nerves or muscles back there can cause rectal prolapse. This includes straining from chronic constipation or during childbirth, surgery, and aging.
Even before you can see a bulge in your anus, you’ll feel it. It may feel like you’re sitting on a ball.
This is the medical term for the rectum pushing through the vagina. Yes, this can happen.
It’s also called a posterior vaginal prolapse. It happens when the wall separating the rectum from the vagina weakens.
Along with sharting, you might also notice a feeling of fullness or pressure in your rectum, and feel like you haven’t emptied your bowels after having a poo.
The following can raise your risk for a rectocele:
- straining from chronic constipation or coughing
- repeated heavy lifting
- having overweight
We can’t lie: Sharts can be mortifying, even though they can happen to anyone.
If more than wind escapes your hiney, here’s some advice to help you deal.
If you shart in the comfort of home without a soul in sight, it’s really no biggie. Just throw out those soiled briefs (or wash them if you have the stomach for it) and hop in the shower.
But what if you shart in public?
Forget damage control and your ego. Cleanup still needs to be the first order of business for the sake of your bottom.
Hightail it to the nearest washroom, and take any of the following with you if possible:
- a plastic bag
- a cup or bottle to fill with water
- a jacket
Once inside the washroom:
- Remove your underwear and put them in the plastic bag, or roll them up in toilet paper or paper towels to dispose of them.
- Wipe your bum with toilet paper. Be sure to wipe any other skin that may have been shot by your shart.
- Use some wet toilet paper or a paper towel to wash yourself if wiping isn’t enough, and dry off.
Next, you’ll want to deal with any mess that’s made its way to your outer clothing.
If possible, use the sink to wash the soiled area with soap and water and rinse. If you’re stuck in a stall, do the best you can with wet toilet paper or wipes, if you have them.
If you have access to the hand dryer, you can dry the area in no time and put your clothes back on. If not, use paper towels or toilet paper to soak up as much of the water as you can.
Tying a jacket or sweater around your waist can hide the wet spot till it dries or you make it back home.
Unless someone actually sees the poop shoot out of you, you can treat a shart as you would a regular ol’ toot: Say excuse me and leave the scene. Or just act like nothing happened… and leave the scene.
If they witnessed the attack, keep in mind that most people get how embarrassing it can be and would actually prefer to act like it didn’t happen. Run with it. Run fast and don’t look back.
If the witness mentions it or laughs, you can still simply excuse yourself — you don’t owe them an explanation — or you can make a joke about that burrito you had for lunch before scuffling off to the bathroom.
If you have a condition that makes you a repeat offender, the following tips may help:
- Avoid foods that cause gas or irritate your tummy.
- Don’t bear down when you feel a fart coming on to prevent a forceful explosion.
- Get more fiber to avoid constipation.
- Always carry wipes and extra underpants.
- Keep a change of clothes in the car, or a sweater or jacket handy to tie around your waist if needed.
- Always give yourself enough time on the toilet to completely empty your bowels.
Sharts happen, but shouldn’t happen often. Most people can pass gas discreetly sans leakage.
If it’s happening often, see your healthcare provider to rule out an underlying condition that could be tampering with your toots.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.