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The Journal Gazette

Monday, November 13, 2017 1:00 am

Take time to discuss how body functions

Howard J. Bennett | Washington Post

Children love potty humor. Although no one wants their kids to shout pee or poop in the middle of a restaurant, if your child is fixated on boogers, belching and bad breath, you can use this as an opportunity to discuss how the body works.

Always here to help, here are some gross facts and ways to explain the body's inner workings from my new book, “The Fantastic Body.”.

The super sneeze. Sneezing is a reflex that propels mucus and foreign objects out of the nose. When you sneeze, air and thousands of tiny mucus droplets shoot out of your nostrils really fast and can travel from 3 to 25 feet through the air. That's why you should tuck your nose into the crook of your elbow whenever you sneeze or cough.

To burp or not to burp. When you swallow, small amounts of air get into your stomach along with whatever you've been eating and drinking. Air is lighter than water, so it rises to the top as your stomach busily churns away. As the pressure increases in your stomach, the bottom end of the esophagus briefly opens, letting the air escape. When this occurs, a BURRRRP will echo through the room. Burping is an important part of digestion. If you weren't able to burp, your stomach could become bloated, which can cause gas pains.

Who cut the cheese? There are trillions of bacteria in your large intestine. These microscopic creatures are part of the human microbiome. In addition to helping digest food, these bacteria produce gases that add to the swallowed air that's already in your intestines. Farts are made up of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen sulfide. Most are odorless, but hydrogen sulfide packs a wallop.