Not all farts are created equal. Some go thankfully undetected... then there are others that make you want to die from the shameful odor you brought into this world. Fortunately, there are ways to pinpoint what exactly you’re eating that caused such an offensive smell, and hopefully save you from a world of embarrassment.
What is a fart?
According to Dr. Shawn Khodadadian, the Director of Clinical Nutrition in the Gastroenterology Division at Lenox Hill Hospital, "The production of intestinal gas is a normal part of digestion and commonly, intestinal gas is odorless, as it is usually composed of methane, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Certain foods however, have a high sulfur composition and these tend be the ones that produce the odor. Foods with sulfur get broken down by large intestinal bacteria to hydrogen sulfide which is the culprit for the bad odor that we usually associate with rotten eggs," Some of the worst offenders, the Mayo Clinic claims, are healthy, high-fiber foods. Not that you should stop eating that stuff, but maybe take it to the patio.
Sure, eating broccoli is great if you’re into things like “antioxidants” and “nutrition,” but broccoli is also high in sulfur compounds, which is where gas problems can start. Broccoli is also high in fiber and raffinose (that’s a real thing!), which also contribute to its stinky reputation.
Like broccoli, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “Despite their healthy profile, some high-fiber cruciferous vegetables have bad reputations as gas producers due to their content of an indigestible sugar called raffinose. Methane-producing bacteria in the colon feed on raffinose and release gas in the process.”
Cow dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
Chances are if these things make your farts smell, it’s because you’re lactose intolerant. "Dairy products can also be high in sulfur and can cause smelly flatulence particularly if you don't digest them well, as in patients with lactose intolerance. This is a very common condition," adds Dr. Khadadadian. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in milk. This leads to diarrhea, bloating and… dank-ass farts.
This surprisingly trendy vegetable was the bane of your existence as a child, as was everything “good” for you. But now you’re into yoga and tea and… Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, Brussels sprouts are one of the worst offenders when it comes to smelly farts. They have both raffinose and high sulfur content, but they continue to be some of the best vegetables you can eat. So maybe you need to start practicing your poker face during dinner.
NPR says that if you’re gassy, it means you’ve got healthy gut microbes, and NPR would know. That’s awesome, good for you! Not good, however, for your neighbors. Especially if you like bok choy, which is popular with the gut bacteria,
Beef and pork
Sure, that steak looked good at the time, and probably tasted even better. But now no one wants to talk to you because you’ve crop dusted the entire backyard bbq. Meats like beef and pork contain methionine, a sulfur-containing amino acid that produces “essence of rotting egg” as a fart byproduct. The Mayo Clinic adds that fat slows digestion, giving food more time to do its dirty work in your gut. Next time opt for the fish or the chicken.
Onions have high levels of fructans, which is science talk for things that can cause gastrointestinal issues like bloating, gas and IBS. Other culprits include asparagus, artichokes, leeks and garlic.
Beer (and other yeasty things)
Drinking beer releases carbon dioxide gas, which builds up in your gut and subsequently… is not great for farts. Additionally, fermented foods, pickled foods, and alcohol in general can cause bloating, cramps and excess gas because of yeast overgrowth. Our bodies have yeast in our intestinal tracts, but too much yeast can be unhealthy and rather pungent.
So the next time you get offered a nice steak with a side of onions and a glass of milk to wash it all down, think of the ramifications -- for yourself and others.
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Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer for Thrillist and once audibly farted in middle school and blamed it on a kid named Mike. She’s sorry, Mike. Follow her on Thrillist, Twitter and Instagram at @drillinjourneys.