Would you believe me if I told you that farts (medically known as flatulence) can actually be an indicator of poor health? Some farts are actually more than simply an embarrassment at the dinner table or a first date. Farts can actually be an indicator that something is seriously wrong in your digestion leading to a variety of health issues.
Everyone farts, this much is true. On average, most humans fart between 10 and 20 times a day, but sometimes much more!
Intestinal gas is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. These gases are generally odorless, but can become foul smelling when other gases, such as sulfates, are added. This occurs in two ways. First, if the gas remains in the intestines for an extended period of time, bacteria start adding foul smelling sulfates to it. The second thing that makes farts smelly is consuming foods that are high in sulfur. Foods such as cauliflower (and the rest of the cabbage family), eggs, cheese, garlic, onions, and meat are notorious for producing smelly farts because of their high content of sulfur. In addition, sugars such as raffinose, stachiose, and verbascose lead to gas because when these sugars reach our intestines, the bacteria goes wild, producing gas.
Lets break down where fart gas comes from:
- Air we swallow
- Gas seeping into our intestines from the blood
- Gas produced by chemical reactions in our guts
- Gas produced by bacteria in our guts
What concerns me most in regards to health, are the last two.
Gas Produced By Chemical Reactions and Bacteria In Our Guts
If the food you are eating isn’t digested properly and is left to sit in your stomach, chances are it’s either putrefying (rotting) or fermenting, causing the release of toxic gases. Over the long term, these toxic gases (nasty smelling flatulence), cause serious disorders such as constipation, nervous disorders, a slowdown of general metabolism and digestive disorders including: gas, heartburn, cramps, bloating, constipation, foul stools, bleeding piles, colitis and more. In general, the average American male carries about five pounds of undigested, putrefying red meat in his digestive system (and no wonder most people fart over 20 times a day!).
What happens next is that the blood stream absorbs toxins produced by putrefaction, which leads to allergies, hives, headaches and nausea.
One of the most common reasons that foods remain partially digested in our digestive tracts is simply due to improper food combining. Our bodies are incredibly intelligent and every food product requires a different amount of hydrochloric acid, salivary amylase and time to digest properly. When we combine foods that don’t digest well together such as meat and potatoes, steak and eggs, or a ham and cheese sandwich, part of the meal is left to decompose (rot) in our bellies while the other part of the meal is digested. Furthermore, if we eat our meals too close together, the stomach pushes the partially digested mass out in order to make room for the new food coming down.
In addition to the fact that rotting food in your intestines is leading to foul-smelling gas and poisoning your body, smelly farts can also be an indicator of:
- Carbohydrate malabsorption: the moderate form is known as gluten-intolerance and the severe form is widely known as Celiac Disease. Usually it is present with severe abdominal pain and vitamin deficiencies. If you have celiac disease you’ll want to remove all gluten-containing products from your diet such as: wheat, rye and barley.
- Lactose Intolerance: lactose is milk sugar. When we don’t have enough of the enzyme lactase, which is necessary to break down lactose, milk (and milk products) remain in our digestive tract for bacteria to feed on, leading to odorous farts. When someone with a lactase deficiency consumes large amounts of a lactose-containing food at one time, much of the sugar passes undigested through the stomach and into the intestines, where it absorbs a lot of water and becomes food for intestinal bacteria that form gases and acids. This often results in such symptoms as abdominal bloating, flatulence, cramps, loose stools and watery diarrhea. If you are lactose intolerant (and in fact most of the population is intolerant to conventional milk), you can try taking digestive enzymes or removing dairy from your diet. (Have you tried making your own fresh nut milk?)
- Digestive Tract Infections: there are many bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause infections in the lining of the digestive tract. This can be associated with traveling to third world countries. Infections are usually accompanied by diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. If you suspect you have an infection, consult your physician to determine appropriate treatment.
- Candida albicans: A certain amount of yeast in our intestinal tract is normal and healthy. Too much yeast is unhealthy, and causes all kinds of problems. Candida is naturally present in all of our bodies and is a life-saving mechanism. However, under certain conditions. Candida can be stimulated to change its normal yeast structure and turn into the decidedly “unfriendly” fungus form which grows as tiny filaments which can root into the lining of the intestines and penetrate into the tissues of organs. Passing more gas than a normal amount is one sign of a yeast overgrowth. Experiencing bloating and/or cramps from excess gas shortly after eating may be a sign of a yeast overgrowth in the upper small intestine, especially if it occurs after eating any of the “trigger” foods such as sugars, baked goods, breads, pizza crust, beer, alcohol, vinegar, fermented foods, pickled foods, and most beans – things that the yeast feeds on.
So, what can you do if you notice smelly farts happening to you?
- Try removing common allergens from your diet such as wheat and dairy
- Remove sulfur containing foods from your diet
- Take digestive enzymes with each meal
- Add probiotics to your diet either in food form or in supplemental form
- Practice proper food combining
- Go to your primary health care provider to check for an infection or parasites
Erin Schumacher is a Certified Natural Health and Holistic Nutrition Practitioner (CNHP; CHNP) She specializes in detoxification programs, internal cleanses, and helping clients build strong immune systems. She also travels internationally to do raw food workshops, yoga retreats, and personal coaching. In addition, Erin is a Certified Power Yoga Instructor and a Certified Raw Food Chef from the SunKitchen. For more information, visit ErinSchumacher.net.