Sulfur Smelling Farts: 6 Causes & Prevention

05/19/2021 | 7 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Anyone who has a flatulence problem most likely wants to solve it. If we add a particularly bad smell to those farts, the problem gets even worse.

It might also be that you live with someone with this problem, and that’s enough to send you looking for ways to help. Let’s start with what causes this problem and then we’ll look at a few ways to help fix it!

What Causes Flatulence?

Having gas can be embarrassing, it might even keep you home, causing alterations to a normally active lifestyle. No one wants that. Gas itself is a normal outcome of human digestion—meaning, everyone will have gas at some time. In fact, most people pass gas several times a day. But excessive gas, or particularly foul-smelling gas, is something we’ll want to take care of.

In normal digestion, food begins to break down when we chew it. It’s then passed into the stomach for further breakdown, and from there it goes to the intestines. The intestines have two major parts: the small intestine is located immediately after the stomach and the large intestine after that.

The small intestine provides some further breakdown of foods, but mostly the intestines are responsible for food absorption. This is where our gas problems can begin!

You may have already heard of your “gut biome” and you may have heard the importance of maintaining a healthy one. Your “gut biome” refers to trillions of bacteria who live in your intestines. Don’t worry! They are supposed to be there and they are helpful.

In fact, humans would not be able to do all the things we do if we weren’t able to digest such a wide range of foods, and we couldn’t digest all those foods without our bacterial helpers. But if you imagine your gut biome like a garden, then you know things can go wrong and your plants can get out of whack.

Our bacteria naturally produce gas as a side effect of their work helping us digest our food. But, when that gas is excessive, they can be an indicator of a small or big problem.

Causes of Smelly Gas

While there are many things that can cause excessive gas and bloating, here are the first ones to look at:

Diet

Let’s talk about diet first, as this one is the easiest to test and solve. High fiber diets almost always cause gas! And the gas produced by this diet is almost always particularly smelly.

While different foods have different effects on everyone, the most common culprits here are broccoli, asparagus and cabbage. A surprise entry may be garlic! Many of us love garlic and use it liberally. Because these foods contain more sulfur, they can easily cause sulfur smelling farts. Ugh.

The good news is, this one is easy to test and get rid of. Try removing these foods from your diet for a week.

Food Intolerance

This is different from just eating foods that contain excess sulfur and cause gas. This is when a person can’t properly digest a food that most people can. Because most humans can eat dairy or gluten, these are listed as “intolerances” in those who can’t properly digest them. It’s thought that food intolerances may affect up to twenty percent of the population!

If food intolerance is what is causing gas, it’s usually accompanied by other symptoms. It may be accompanied by weight gain or loss, bloating, and even discomfort after eating certain foods. You might notice a consistent pattern after eating a particular food. Also, testing for food intolerances is available if you think this might be an issue.

Bacterial Changes

Bacterial changes in our gut biome can cause gas in just about anyone! Using the garden metaphor again, things can come along and wipe out one kind of bacteria. You may have noticed that, if one kind of plant dies off in your garden, weeds can take over that area.

The same is true in our gut. If something comes along that kills off or reduces one of our good gut bacteria, then that leaves room for another kind of bacteria to take its place. Whether the new bacteria is good or bad for us isn’t something we get to consciously determine.

Changing our gut biome to good bacteria that produce less gas is a goal. And then maintaining it so that life’s little issues don’t alter it too much is next on our to-do list!

IBS – or Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is a term many of us have become more familiar with as medicine has learned more about it. It can be brought on by infection, stress, or any other host of issues. Fortunately, it’s often very treatable.

For sufferers of IBS, gluten, cow’s milk, wheat, and soy can be highly problematic, though other foods can certainly be at issue, too. IBS can cause discomfort and bloating as well as gas and may have a large overlap with food intolerance.

If IBS is the issue, then maintaining a healthy gut biome is a priority!

Medications

Many medications can wipe out healthy bacteria in our guts. Antibiotics are known for doing this, but they aren’t the only culprits. The upside of antibiotics is that, in most cases, they are taken for a short period of time. But for many people daily medications are a requirement.

Medications that help maintain blood sugar or balance mental health or help with thyroid function can also interfere with proper gut function, though they aren’t the only ones.

Health Conditions

It’s probably not surprising that one thing that would alter gut function is disease. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of gas, bloating, or discomfort and it doesn’t clear up quickly, please see your physician to rule out disease.

How Can We Help End Stinky Farts?

Help Maintain Proper Gut Function

One option is to keep a well-functioning system. A mix of proper vitamins can help us break down our food correctly. It can help keep our thyroid functioning – the thyroid and gut work hand in hand – and it can help support a healthy gut biome. But what vitamins should you be taking?

Thiamine deficiency can lead to reduced gut, liver, kidney and heart function, so we definitely want to be sure to maintain proper levels of thiamine. Vitamins B6 and B12 are important cofactors in several metabolic pathways, and Vitamin B deficiency can lead to a host of problems. Make sure B is in your mix!

Magnesium is important for muscle function. Did you know that your gut has muscle that moves food along to help it digest properly? Make sure you’ve got magnesium on your list. And Panthenoic acid helps turn the food you eat into energy. Making sure you have a mix like this will help your digestive system work at its best!

Soothe an Irritated Gut

If you have an already irritated gut, you might be looking for something to reduce the discomfort, bloating, and – of course – bad gas. Glutamine provides support for your gut mucosa. No one wants to think about mucus, but if yours is out of whack, glutamine can help return it to normal function.

It also helps your good bacteria stay in place and provides fuel for your cells.

Licorice extract is known for its soothing properties. Ginger is often known for soothing an upset stomach. The two of these together will help keep the digestive system on track and feeling good. When the gut functions well, so can the rest of our body.

Provide the Right Bacterial Mix

If you’re looking to reduce symptoms of an irritated digestive system or simply get ahead of the game and keep your gut biome healthy, then a probiotic is what you’re looking for. Probiotics that contain a tested mix of the right bacteria can help set your gut to functioning well.

A mix of soil based, lactic acid based, and yeast-based bacteria will help your digestive system be at its best. While “soil based” may not sound like the kind of bacteria you would find in a human, keep in mind that many of our foods come from soil, and so we do find a lot of these bacteria in our guts.

As many people suffer from digestive discomfort from dairy, helping that along with lactic acid based bacteria is a must in a good probiotic mix. And lastly, yeast based bacteria help with maintaining proper function and may help keep bad bacteria from gaining a foothold in our guts.

Summary

If you, or someone you live with, is suffering from foul smelling flatulence, then it’s wise to take several courses of action.

Be sure to try a diet that eliminates high-fiber foods for a while and see if this clears up the problem. If symptoms persist, be sure to get yourself checked by a professional to rule out anything concerning. And, lastly, make sure you’re doing everything you can to maintain a proper diet and boost your gut function!

Healthy Directions Staff Editor