What does the smell of intestinal gas indicate?

Why are some flatulence so foul? This is what the bad smell of gases reveals about the health of our body.

Gas, flatulence, or commonly known as farts; all of us expel air from the digestive tract, and with more frequency than we are aware of. On average, people produce from half a liter to two liters of gas each day, and we expel it in the form of belching or flatulence about 14 times a day, according to the National Institute of Digestive Health and Diabetes of the United States.

Despite being so common, expelling gases is something that is secluded in the privacy of each bathroom , especially when they are smelly. Most of the gases that we expel every day are not foul; but then why are some flatulence so foul? What does the bad smell of gases reveal about the health of our body?

The gases produced in the digestive system are the result of fermentation in the colon of substances in our diet, especially carbohydrates that have not been digested in the small intestine. Interestingly, not all gas is eliminated through belching, stool, and flatulence. “The rest of the gases pass into the blood , reach the lung and are eliminated with the exhaled air ,  as Dr. Brett Bernstein, a doctor specializing in Digestive Diseases, explains to VERY INTERESTING.

The process of eliminating gases that our body performs can give a lot of information about how we assimilate nutrients . For example, as Dr. Bernstein explains, the studies of carbohydrate malabsorption are based on this process . There is even research dedicated to identifying pathologies based on what the gases emitted by our digestive system reveal: “For example, after the administration of Urea C13 and exhaled air dosing of C13O2, Helicobacter pylori infection can be diagnosed .”

And as for stenches, are there characteristic odors of digestive diseases? “When the ingested proteins are partially catalyzed (the process by which the speed of a chemical reaction is increased) and in this process hydrogen sulfide is formed , which is eliminated by belching, with a characteristic smell of rotten eggs ”, reveals the doctor .

Another example: when carbohydrates reach the colon undigested, excess hydrogen or methane can be produced , among other gases, depending on the type of bacteriology in the colon.

If the methane or hydrogen in the gas are at very high levels, this means that the individual has ingested an excess of fiber , or that it has difficulties absorbing sugars . Sometimes some abdominal discomfort or pain can reveal abnormal levels of these elements. Therefore, if an individual presents discomfort of this type, Dr. Bernstein recommends going to the doctor to reconsider the diet in regard to lactose , sucrose, starch, fructose, sorbitol, stachyose, raffinose and cellulose, among others.

It is not necessary to go to a medical unit to evaluate the levels of hydrogen or methane that we expel. Sometimes it is enough to be observers with our own stools to detect these subtle changes. “Excess methane causes the stool to weigh less and therefore float.”

This observation is as eschatological as it is interesting, given that, until relatively recently, it was believed that fat was responsible for buoyancy . “Today we know that this is not the case, and also that it has no pathological significance .”

What foods cause excess gas?

Gas is a normal result of digestion, and something unavoidable. But of course, some foods produce more gas than others . “The products most often produce gases are stachyose and raffinose, found inside the legumes as well as cellulose, hemicellulose, pectins and lignins, found in the walls of the plant ” reveals Dr. Butcher.

Putrescine, cadaverine, indole and skatole, present in both legumes and vegetables, tend to be foul gases . However, the bad smell does not have to indicate poor health or poor digestion , but a mere sign of an excess of these foods in the diet. For their part, “ hydrogen and methane, which are 80% eliminated by the anus, are not smelly” recalls the doctor.

So what kinds of gases should we be concerned about? How to know if we are facing poor digestion, intolerance , or a major digestive problem?

Generally, as Dr. Bernstein explains, gases should not worry us, with the exception of hydrogen sulfide and its characteristic smell of rotten eggs : “This gas shows the existence of gastritis with a long delay in gastric emptying. The other gases such as hydrogen, methane and CO2 do not present any bad smell ”, he recalls.

This article has been prepared with the collaboration of Dr. Bernstein, a specialist in Digestive Diseases in The United States and a member of Top Doctors.

Leave a Reply