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Fart Facts: the science behind the smell

Posted by: Patrick Catanzariti on January 13, 2016

fart facts

Farting. We all do it, whether we admit it or not.

The good news is while they might be embarrassing, farts are a sign of good gut health! So let’s get to the bottom of this pongy phenomenon.

What causes a fart?
Farting is completely normal. Good bacteria live in our gut and feed on sugars, fibre and starches – all the things our bodies find tricky to break down. As they digest these, they produce gases. These gases have to go somewhere…and go they certainly do!

Fibre is a major trigger for flatulence. While fibre is important for our diet, unfortunately the more fibre, the more farts! Excess sugars including fructose and lactose, as well as artificial sweeteners also cause us to fart more.

What’s in the mix?
99% of the gases in a fart are completely odourless! That sneaky, smelly 1% is hydrogen sulphide. The rest of the gases are mostly nitrogen and hydrogen.

Your stench is special! Because everyone has a different makeup of bacteria in their gut, farts can vary from person to person. This is why some people don’t produce smelly farts at all, and others consistently clear the room.

As for the sound – this has nothing to do with what we eat! It’s all dependent on the way the gases, ahem, exit the body.

Up to 15-20 farts daily is considered normal, although this also varies from person to person. Research suggests that women might actually fart less than men, but this research involved people self-reporting each time they let one rip – so it is possible that women just don’t admit how often they do fart!

Should I be worried?
If you’re suffering from super smelly farts (or suffering from a loved one’s), don’t stress too much. When we eat food high in sulphites like broccoli, cabbage, onions and red meat and dairy, we produce smellier farts. It might be unpleasant, but they’re normal! If what you’re experiencing is unusual, excessive or painful, consult your doctor.

If you do want to try to reduce your stench, try cutting out fart-producing foods. It’s an individual process, so might take a bit of trial and error to work out what’s producing the pong.

Even though some farts might seem deadly, especially for those unfortunate enough to be trapped in a room with one, they’re actually a sign that our gut is happy and functioning normally!

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