Flatulence is completely normal, but if your farts are clearing the room, you may be on the lookout for a home remedy for bad smelling gas. The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do, and many are as simple as changing the types of food you eat and how you eat them.
Although most smelly gas is nothing to worry about, if you have persistent, foul-smelling gas and bloating, along with other symptoms, like severe stomach pain or blood in your stool, check in with your doctor to rule out any underlying food sensitivities or more serious digestive issues.
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How Your Body Makes Gas
When you eat food or drink a beverage, the process of digestion starts immediately. It begins in your mouth, then food travels from the esophagus into the stomach and then into the small intestine, where most digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. Whatever is left over (usually waste coupled with fiber) travels to the large intestine where bacteria and yeast begin to feed on it.
As the bacteria and yeast feed on the sugars in the waste, gas is produced as a byproduct through a process called fermentation. This gas is actually made up of several different gases, including:
- Carbon dioxide
When this gas builds up, it can cause you to fart. Don't worry, everybody does it an average of five to 15 times per day. But even though sulfur accounts for only about 1 percent of the volume of your gas, it's the reason why gas smells (or doesn't).
Why Gas Smells
Different types of bacteria produce different gases as they feed on the sugars. If the bacteria in your digestive tract produce a lot of sulfur compounds or a combination of sulfur compounds, it can make smelly flatulence more likely.
Smelly gas is also more likely to occur the longer the food sits in your large intestine, because the longer the food is there, the more time the bacteria have to feed on it and produce sulfur.
The type of odor you smell also has to do with the sulfur. As you may already know from personal experience, not all smelly gas has the same scent:
- Hydrogen sulfide (the most common) produces a rotten egg smell.
- Methanethiol produces a rotting smell.
- Dimethyl sulfide produces a sweet-like cabbage smell.
Because sulfur compounds produce the smell in your farts, eating foods high in sulfur will result in smelly flatulence. You may also experience foul-smelling gas if you're intolerant to certain foods or if you have underlying conditions that make it harder for you to properly digest gas-forming foods.
Read more: 7 Signs Your Gut is Out of Whack
Avoid Gas-Causing Foods
There are many smelly flatulence causes, and cures may not always be possible, but there are a number of things you can do to make your farts less foul.
Perhaps the best home remedy for bad smelling gas is to change your diet. Some types of foods are more likely to cause gas than others, and you'll probably benefit from limiting these foods or removing them from your diet completely, at least until the situation is resolved and you can safely reintroduce them again. Foods that are more likely to cause gas include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Low-carbohydrate foods containing sugar alcohols like sorbitol or maltitol
Avoid Smelly-Gas-Causing Foods
In addition to these general, gas-causing foods, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders notes that some foods and drinks are more likely to cause smelly gas. If you're having foul smelling gas and bloating, try avoiding these foods for a while:
- Alcohol (especially beer)
- Dairy products and packaged foods made with milk
- Dried fruit
- Anything with a lot of seasoning
Swallow Less Air
It may seem like a strange suggestion to swallow less air, especially since you might not even realize that you're be doing it, but swallowing air can make gas worse. Although the majority of the air you swallow comes back up and exits the body as a belch, some goes through the intestines and is turned into flatulence.
You can limit the amount of air you swallow by not drinking beverages with a straw, trying not to chew gum or suck on mints or hard candies regularly and by eating your food slowly, instead of rushing through your meals. Smoking (cigarettes and cigars) also prompts you to take in more air, so if gas is a problem (and even if it isn't) try to get the help you need to quit. If you wear dentures, check in with your dentist to make sure they fit correctly. Ill-fitting dentures can also make you swallow more air.
"Air-swallowing" is often common in people with have uncontrolled anxiety or during times of anxiousness, so if you're prone to tension, incorporate stress-reduction techniques or seek help to get the condition properly managed.
Get Your Digestion Moving
Because slow digestion is associated with smellier farts, it's also a good idea to incorporate things that speed up your digestion as a home remedy for bad smelling gas. Getting regular exercise helps stimulate the muscles in your digestive tract and can increase transit time so that undigested waste isn't sitting in your large intestine for too long. Drinking enough water is also important.
Eating more fiber-rich foods (besides the gas-forming ones) and drinking more water can also help move waste through the digestive tract and help you empty your bowels so that the waste has less time to ferment. Be careful not to increase fiber intake too quickly, though. Eating too much too fast can actually make foul smelling gas and bloating worse, especially if your body isn't used to it.
Read more: 10 Everyday Ailments Soothed by Tea
Other Home Remedies
Sipping on some tea before and after meals and before bed may also help. Brigham and Women's Hospital recommends trying these natural tea remedies for gas:
You may also want to consider taking digestive enzymes, which can help your body break down the carbohydrates and sugars in your food before they get to the bacteria in your digestive tract so that they produce less gas. Digestive enzymes are especially helpful with people who have underlying conditions, like lactose intolerance, that make digesting certain foods more difficult.
- UnityPoint Health: "The Truth About Gas"
- International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: "Tips on Controlling Gas"
- NHS: "Flatulence"
- Better Health Channel: "Flatulence"
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: "How to Decrease Bloating"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Gas (Flatulence)"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Are You Passing Too Much Gas? 6 Tips for Relieving Flatulence"