Farts are like snowflakes (I am not on drugs, I promise) — no two are the same. Some are thunderous, some are silent, some smell like nothing and some smell like grandparent foot. How each individual fart smells might seem random (especially during those nerve-racking moments after passing gas in a full boardroom), but the foods and drinks you consume play a huge part in formulating that odor, or lack thereof. In other words, you have at least some control over your personal stench, and the following advice will show you how to harness that control. What you do with such immense power is up to you.
Before diving into specifics, we must understand why farts smell in the first place. When you eat or drink, the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract begins to break the food down into nutrients. This process results in the creation of gases, and you might be surprised to learn that the gases produced by most foods are actually completely odorless. However, certain foods contribute to the formation of sulfurous gases, like hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, which smell similar to rotten eggs when released as a fart.
As for which foods result in these stinky gases, there are a whole bunch. Cruciferous vegetables — like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage — are particularly high in sulfurous compounds and raffinose, an indigestible sugar that methane-producing bacteria in the colon feed on. Other sulfurous foods and drinks include beans, onions, beer and wine. Animal proteins — like eggs, meat and cheese — are also high in sulfurous compounds, and thus, can contribute to particularly dank farts.
Some science also suggests that protein in general, especially when consumed in excessive amounts, results in smellier farts. In 2016, a research team led by Chu Yao, a gastroenterology researcher at Monash University in Australia, found that mixing poop with cysteine, a sulfurous component found in protein sources, results in a sevenfold increase in smelly hydrogen sulfide emissions. “This explains why bodybuilders who consume lots of protein powder are known to have smelly farts,” Yao said.
On the flip side, Yao and her team also found that certain carbohydrates — namely, resistant starch, which is found in potatoes, bananas, legumes and cereals, and fructans, which are found in wheat, artichokes and asparagus — reduced hydrogen sulphide production by about 75 percent. In other words, easing up on protein and eating more of these carbs can result in less stinky farts.
One thing to keep in mind is, while these foods are common culprits when it comes to affecting the smell of your gas, that scent also often depends on your individual digestive system. For instance, people with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in milk, and as that sugar lingers in the gastrointestinal tract, it produces more and more odor. People can also be intolerant to other sugars, like fructose, which is found in fresh fruit, corn syrup and some processed foods. Similarly, sugar alcohols, like sorbitol and xylitol, which are found in diet sodas, sugar-free candies and some chewing gum, also pass through the gastrointestinal tract somewhat undigested, where bacteria can feast along the away, contributing to the production of gross-smelling gas.
None of this necessarily means you should decide what to eat based on curtailing your fart smells. In fact, that would require cutting out some super healthy foods, particularly green veggies. Instead, if you begin to notice that certain foods result in extra smelly farts — and you care enough to actively reduce that stench — you could try taking an enzyme-based digestive aid, which can help make up for the lack of enzymes needed to break down and digest sugars that often result in gas, before eating them. When it comes to beans in particular, soaking them in water helps remove flatulence-promoting raffinose family oligosaccharides without compromising their nutritional value.
But all said and done, while stinky farts might be embarrassing, rather than cutting out the foods that cause them, maybe just hold it in until you get out of that boardroom. Just don’t wait too long, or else you’ll end up with fart-burps — and yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like.