We usually think of gassiness and bloating as symptoms of digestive issues – who hasn’t had that bout of crazy intestinal pain, only to realize it was just a little air bubble as soon as it passes through? But the exploding study of the microbiome has given us new details on just how healthy a little gas can be.
While gas can be caused by any number of things, including just swallowing air while eating, it turns out that a lot of the gas you might deal with is just a sign that your gut is in good health. (Although, that shouldn’t discourage any open-mouth eaters from curbing their offensive habits.)
Here’s the deal: the millions of bacteria and archaea living in your gut are doing more than just swimming around; they’re eating, too, which means that they’re also producing waste. Mostly, these gas goons produce odorless output like carbon dioxide and hydrogen, but every now and then, a bit of stinky sulfur slips out with the rest.
These little microbes love fiber and undigested carbs, which often means that a fiber-rich diet can make things a little, well, smelly. But that’s all part of a healthy diet, according to Purna Kashyap, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic who told NPR, “Undigested carbohydrates allow the whole ecosystem to thrive and flourish.”
Some of the best veggies for you also contain sulfuric compounds, which means they’re creating a bit of a stink just by being around. The broccoli, mustard, and cabbage families are some of the funkiest offenders, but the same compound that could be at the root of the less-than-pleasant smell is also closely associated with a reduced risk of cancer.
Needless to say, if ever there was a time to learn to take the good with the bad, this would be that time.