Me: (walks into exam room) Good morning
Patient: (embarrassed) Oh!!! Um oh no!
Me: Are you ok? What’s wrong?
Patient: I did not expect you to come in so soon. I just farted really bad. Could you…
Me: (walking out room) Say no more.
Smell it, for your health?
A few years ago (2013-2014ish) several articles went viral with the claim a British study had found smelling flatulence (farts) could be good for your health. The articles went further to assert that sniffing flatulence could prevent such serious illnesses like strokes, dementia, heart attacks and cancers. If they were true, my patient would have been hindering me from smelling gas that was good for my health (how rude!).
One problem, the study never was about farts. The real study, which can be found here found that hydrogen sulfide, the gas that give flatulence the “rotten egg smell” can be fatal if exposed to large amounts but humans create enzymes to produce small doses for cellular “signaling”. Researchers at the University of Exeter created a molecule called AP39 which delivers hydrogen sulfide to mitochondria in epithelial cells to preserve the function of the cells, and possibly aid in fighting disease. The hydrogen sulfide was studied, not farts.
However, the amount of gas and odor can tell us about our health. Passing gas can reduce bloating. Sometimes gas can be a predictor of certain ailments, such as digestive issues (lactose intolerance) or even gastrointestinal viruses or bacterial infections. So let the farts fly….but try to be mindful of others. No one wants to smell that.