NCBI ROFL: High Altitude Flatus Expulsion (HAFE).

By ncbi rofl | February 23, 2010 7:00 pm

mountaincrop“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 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. The eructations (known to veteran back-packers as “Rocky Mountain barking spiders”) do not appear to vary with exercise, but may well be closely linked to diet. The fact that the syndrome invariably abated on descent leads us to postulate a mechanism whereby the victim is afflicted by the expansion of colonic gas at the decreased atmospheric pressure of high altitude. This is somewhat analogous to the rapid intravascular expansion of nitrogen which afflicts deep-sea divers and triggers decompression illness. While not as catastrophic as barotrauma nor as debilitating as HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema), HAFE nonetheless represents a significant inconvenience to those who prefer to hike in company.”

HAFE

Thanks to John for today’s ROFL!

Photo: flickr/.hln.

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  • http://scienceblogs.com/terrasig Abel

    When I lived in Colorado we often joked about HAFE, completely unaware that there was a precedent in the literature. I mentioned it awhile back as a postscript in the context of the “exploding bra” myth that made it to StoryCorps:

    By the way, I was always fond of invoking the ideal gas law when hiking or running at progressively higher altitudes during my years in the Rockies. When pressure decreases, volume increases (assuming all other variables remain constant) resulting in HAFE, high-altitude flatulent emission (not to be confused with the very serious high-altitude medical condition, HAPE).

    The usual response from my hiking or running partner was, “That is not an ideal gas.”

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About ncbi rofl

NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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