Flatulence is a normal and healthy bodily function. Passing gas may make some people uncomfortable and bad smelling gas can lead to embarrassment. Fortunately, strategies are available to help reduce or eliminate unwanted foul-smelling gas.

Passing gas, farting, or flatulence refers to a buildup of gas in the digestive system that a person eliminates by passing wind through the anal passage. People fart multiple times a day, with some evidence suggesting that a person may fart from 5–15 times a day, while other evidence indicates that it may be up to 25 times.

It is not uncommon for a fart to smell, and causes can range from harmless to possibly severe. Certain foods and medications can cause bad-smelling gas, while other causes could indicate an underlying condition.

It may not always be easy to identify what is behind smelly flatulence. However, implementing some simple strategies can help prevent or reduce foul-smelling flatulence. Additionally, it may be advisable to consult a doctor. They may be able to identify possible causes and can provide recommendations to help people eliminate smelly gas.

In this article, we will explore various home remedies, techniques, and strategies that may help eliminate bad-smelling gas.

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Farting refers to the passing of rectal gas. It is a normal biological process that forms as a result of swallowing air and gas production from digesting food. A person farts to release excessive gas that builds up in the digestive tract. The gas that passes out the anus is known as the flatus.

Intestinal gas is a normal byproduct of digestion and may occur due to:

  • Swallowing air: A person may swallow air as they eat, drink, chew gum, smoke, or if they have dental problems.
  • Difficult to digest food: While gas production is normal with any food, it may be higher in foods that include fiber, lactose, or certain carbohydrates. When the enzymes in the small intestine cannot fully digest food, bacteria in the colon breaks them down, which can cause excessive gas.
  • Intestinal bacteria: The bowel contains many bacteria that aid in digestion by fermenting some foods. This process produces excess gas. Additionally, in some cases, the bacteria present in the intestines may overgrow and result in an upset stomach. This can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, flatulence, and stomach pain.

The gas byproduct may exit the body through the mouth as a belch or through the anus as flatulence. Intestinal gas may or may not have a smell. Flatulence usually only has a bad smell if it contains gases with a strong odor, such as hydrogen sulfide.

Smelly gas after eating certain foods, particularly those that are difficult to digest, is normal. However, in other cases, excessive or smelly gas may indicate underlying health problems affecting the digestive system, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

A person may be able to reduce strong-smelling flatulence by making some adjustments. Some strategies that may help prevent smelly gas include:

Adding certain foods to the diet

People may find it beneficial to include carminatives in their diet. This term refers to herbs or preparations that can prevent or reduce the formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. Some examples of carminatives include:

Ginger has a long history as an herbal medicine for digestive issues. It helps with constipation and flatulence by enhancing muscle contraction in the digestive tract. This speeds up digestion which allows gases to move more quickly and smoothly.

Peppermint is another herb that people may use for gastrointestinal (GI) ailments. A 2018 review notes that peppermint oil has a good safety profile and might help treat GI disorders.

Other studies add that many herbs and essential oils contain carminative properties that may display effective anti-flatulence characteristics.

Avoiding certain types of foods

High fiber foods are difficult to digest. As a result, these slow-digesting foods take time to break down and undergo the fermentation process, which produces odorous gas.

Additionally, many of these foods typically contain sulfur, which is a common culprit behind smelly gas. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower may cause smelly farts.

Fermentable carbohydrates or FODMAPs may also cause digestive issues such as gas and stomach pain. These foods contain carbs that are difficult to absorb in the gut, which results in fermentation and gas buildup. FODMAPs include:

  • lactose, which includes dairy products such as milk
  • fructose, a sugar found in most fruits and vegetables
  • fructans, found in many grains such as wheat and barley
  • galactans, found in legumes and beans
  • polyols, found in sugar alcohols and sweeteners

Similarly, food intolerances are a common cause of bad odor flatulence. This refers to foods that people have difficulties digesting. Foods commonly associated with food intolerance include milk, gluten, sulfites, food colorings and preservatives, and caffeine.

Hydration

Constipation can also cause smelly gas, along with bloating and abdominal discomfort. It happens when stool builds up in the colon, unable to exit, and bacteria continues creating gas.

Dehydration, diet, and certain medications can lead to constipation. Taking extra fluids can keep the stool soft and easy to pass.

Taking probiotics

A person can increase the good bacteria in their gut by consuming foods high in probiotics. This includes yogurts, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. A 2017 study notes that probiotic intervention can reduce the number of pathogens in the gut that are associated with flatulence.

Medications and supplements

Activated charcoal may help to reduce intestinal gas.

A 2020 study found that activated charcoal is a safe and cost-effective method to reduce gastrointestinal gases. Other evidence adds that charcoal may be more effective when combined with simethicone. This drug breaks gas bubbles into smaller parts, making them easier to pass.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate charcoal the same way as prescription drugs. As such, it is best to consult with a doctor or a dietician before using it.

Additionally, people with food intolerances may be able to take medications to help them digest troublesome foods. For example, individuals with a lactose intolerance can take lactase tablets. These products contain the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down lactose.

Decreasing habits that increase air swallowing

Habits such as chewing gum, sucking on hard candy, and drinking carbonated beverages can also increase the amount of air a person takes in. This causes them to expel more gas eventually.

Changing eating habits

Eating too quickly and talking while eating can also increase the amount of air a person swallows. Chewing and eating slowly can help reduce air intake while eating, reducing gas formation. Eating small portions may also help the digestive tract work better and produce less gas during digestion.

Several factors can cause smelly farts, ranging from mild to potentially serious. Common causes may include:

Foul-smelling flatulence is not usually a cause of concern. For many, some lifestyle and diet adjustments at home can help manage it. However, a person should seek medical advice if the gas is persistent or accompanies other symptoms such as:

Bad-smelling farts are typically normal and the result of a person’s diet. An individual may be able to manage and reduce foul-smelling flatulence with some diet and lifestyle changes.

If smelly gas is a regular occurrence, a person should contact their doctor. They may be able to suggest appropriate strategies or identify possible causes. If the gas results from an underlying condition, most people will experience relief once they treat the underlying cause.

Flatulence is a natural process to eliminate excess gas from digesting food. Everyone will experience bad-smelling gas at some point. Certain types of food, health conditions, and habits can lead to foul-smelling farts.

Implementing strategies such as adding certain foods, avoiding troublesome ones, and changing eating habits can help to resolve smelly gas in many cases.

Persistent bad-smelling farts can be a sign of an underlying problem, especially when other stomach issues are present. It may be advisable for a person with severe and persisting flatulence to consult their doctor for a proper diagnosis to understand potential causes and suggestions to relieve symptoms.