Flatulence is a fact of life. Americans collectively break wind to the smelly tune of up to 6.3 billion times each day. That’s a lot of hot air. For such a ubiquitous activity, it’s amazing how taboo it is. Face palms and pinched noses mark the passing of gas in most social settings. Science, however, has no ingrained distaste for flatulence. Here are six facts we’ve learned about farting.
By Ross Pomeroy
1. There are three main fart smells. Hydrogen sulfide produces the signature “rotten eggs” note, methanethiol produces hints of “decomposing vegetables,” and dimethyl sulfide adds a hint of “sweetness.”
2. The average fart is roughly 100 milliliters in volume and lasts approximately two seconds. More interesting than the statistic itself is how it was calculated. Basically, it involved subjects farting into specially designed, airtight, gas-collecting underwear.
3. There’s a way to make your farts (mostly) odorless. Marketed as the only “internal deodorant,” the over-the-counter drug Devrom, with its active ingredient bismuth subgallate, reduces almost 100% of the odor caused by sulfur gasses, the primary contributors to smelly farts. Bismuth is an interesting metal — it’s extremely dense yet surprisingly nontoxic. The only known side effects of taking bismuth subgallate is a harmless darkening of stools or the tongue, which the user’s friends and family undoubtedly describe as “well worth it.”
4. Women’s farts smell worse. In studies conducted by eminent flatulence researcher Michael Levitt, women’s farts consistently sported significantly greater concentrations of hydrogen sulfide. Odor judges have confirmed that — at similar volumes — this translates to a noticeably worse odor compared to men’s farts.
5. Red meat kicks up a stink. Sulfur compounds contribute the most to flatus malodor, but compounds called thiols also royally reek. Methanethiol is one of the worst. Naturally found in blood, and, in turn, red meat, it can be released via the digestive process and eventually off-gassed via the anus.
6. Holding in your farts won’t kill you, but it won’t be comfortable either. As Tara from D-News explained, “When we hold farts in, the gas retreats back into our body and gets absorbed into the intestinal walls where it eventually mixes in with our blood. At best, that can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation but if you do it repeatedly it can lead to a distended bowel.”