Love Your Gas! Flatulence May Mean A Healthy Microbiome

You've probably heard a thing or two in recent months about the microbiome, that vast network of living organisms inside your gut that plays a key — though still somewhat uncertain — role in your physical health and mental well-being. With all this concern about the gut, it's only natural to start asking questions about the results of all that important digestive activity. Namely, flatulence.

Well, NPR did just that, daring to explore the difficult questions about the methane-and-carbon-dioxide-packed byproduct of digestion. One of their big questions: Does feeling gassy (often as a result of eating fiber-rich foods like cabbage or broccoli) mean your microbiome is in good shape? Our nouveaux flatologists (that's a real term) break new ground on breaking wind:

[The] microbiome includes hundreds of different bacteria. But there are also organisms from another kingdom shacking up with them: the archaea. All these microbes are gas-making fools. They eat up unused food in your large intestine, like fiber and other carbohydrates we don't digest, and churn out a bunch of gases as waste. But that's not all they make. They also produce a slew of molecules (called short chain fatty acids) that may promote the growth of other beneficial bacteria and archaea. And the more fiber you feed these friendly inhabitants, the more types of species appear, studies have found. This bump in microbial diversity has been linked to a slimmer waistline.

In short, while these healthy and fiber-rich foods boost your gut's biodiversity, they also give you gas. What's more, the good stuff in plants like kale and other members of the Brassica family produce sulfur-containing compounds. Perhaps you know where this is going: sulfur is the very ingredient that gives your flatulence its uniquely potent stench.

So the next time you clear a room with one of those silent-but-deadly jobs, politely point out that it's simply a function of your healthy microbiome doing its job. All will be forgiven! And good for you: passing some gas now and then, especially after a big bowl of kale, is probably a sign that your "good" germs are doing their job!

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