1/18/12

What Makes My Gas Smell So Bad and What Can I Do?

“Silent but deadly” has been used to describe the really bad smell of human gas.
“Flatus is made of nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen (H2), and methane (CH4), which account for more that 99 percent of expelled intestinal gas,” says Edward Cruz Paredez, MD, section chief of gastroenterology at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.


“Flatus” refers to flatulence or farts. What about farting or gas makes it smell so bad? “The hydrogen sulfide and other compounds (mercaptan, butyric acid and carbonyl sulfide) make the released gases smell bad,” says Dr. Paredez. “Humans actually expel little methane compared to ruminants such as cows and sheep.”

What else makes flatulence smell so bad? “Humans hold their gas in much of the day and allow longer periods of fermentation compared to most animals who pass gas every hour! This is especially true with the modern workforce who work indoors in close proximity to other people (i.e., cubicle workers).”


Isn’t it strange that people usually don’t think their own farts stink, but the odor from the flatulence of others is unbearable.

“A change in diet or a medication can often trigger a period of particularly bad smelling gas,” adds Dr. Paredez.


Is there a solution? Some say that cutting back on foods with a lot of carbohydrates can result in less flatulence, especially if the food is highly processed—cut back on this and see what happens.

Irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory bowel disease can cause bad smelling gas. But these GI conditions have other symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal cramps that will get your attention.

If you have no other symptoms, and a healthier diet does not help resolve the issue of foul smelling gas, then consult with a gastroenterologist who might be able to offer some treatment options. He may order a stool sample test as well, and also don’t be surprised if he wants to perform a colonoscopy, even if you’re young. This procedure can detect inflammatory bowel disease.

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