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Why Do Farts Smell?

Why is it that farts smell? What causes the smell?

4837 day(s) ago

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Farts, more properly known as flatulence, has one of the most offensive odors that we know, second only to feces itself. Although very few people ask this question, many wonder about it secretly. It all has to do with the process of digestion. After we eat, the food is churned in the stomach and pushed into the intestines. Our intestines are not empty. They provide a home to millions of bacteria that help us digest our food. These bacteria enter our system with our first bites of food and they stay with us for the rest of our lives. We live in what is called a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria. We both provide each other with something essential for survival. We give them shelter and feed them (like little pets), and they help us to break down our food more efficiently so we get more nutrients out of it.

As the bacteria break down our food, two processes occur that create gas in our digestive system. The bacteria are producing waste of their own, and the chemical reaction of the food breaking apart creates carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane gases. Flatulence also has some oxygen and nitrogen in it from air that we accidentally swallow.

The odor that accompanies the gas also comes from bacterial action. As the bacteria digest food, they create compounds rich in sulfur. These compounds are called mercaptans, and they combine with the nitrogen content of our food. The bacteria also produce another gas high in sulfur, hydrogen sulfide, which adds to the richness of our flatulence. Many of our foods are naturally high in sulfur, such as eggs and meat, and produce more foul odors.

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