Ask the Poop Doctor is a new column from Dr. Sameer Islam, MD, a Texas-based gastroenterologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Here, he sheds light on many aspects of the inner workings of your gastrointestinal system. He also hosts segments such as Poop Tip Thursday and Let’s Talk About Poop on his YouTube channel. Have a question you’d like to submit? Leave it in the comments section below!
First of all, do some farts really linger in a room, or is it just anxiety that makes you think they do?
There are actual scientific reasons why some farts can linger in a room longer.
A big one is the composition of gases in your fart. Generally, if there is more hydrogen sulfide in the fart, it will linger in the air for longer. The composition of gas comes down to what you’re eating (see below). Foods that are high in hydrogen sulfide include eggs, meat, and beans (all the good stuff we like!).
How long a fart lingers also depends on the size of the room you fart in, the clothes you’re wearing (clothes act as a filter), and the sensitivity of your nostrils. If you are farting in a small closet, it’s going to seem like it is lingering.
Do certain foods or some digestive issues make some farts linger more than others?
Both make a difference. Digestive problems like lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can make it more difficult to digest foods and make it more likely that your farts will be more potent and last longer.
Here are some foods associated with causing flatulence in general:
Foods that tend to cause particularly smelly gas include:
What’s the chance that it’s just the room conditions that make a fart linger?
Room conditions definitely affect how long a fart will stay in the room. In some situations, the air currents are more active. They will reduce the concentration more quickly e..g a fan is running, the temperature is higher, or the initial speed of the gas as it exits can also play some part in the dissipation rate. (If you fart in a sauna, it will definitely linger and be more potent. Don’t do this!)
Do some clothes let farts through more than others?
Clothes do act as a filter. If you wear loose, airy clothes, gas will disperse into the air as your clothes move and ripple with your movements. If you are naked, your farts will immediately leave their home and fly free. If you are sitting stationary on a foam cushion, your farts often get ingrained into the foam, and when someone else sits on it, they may smell the fart a bit as he displaces the air within the foam. Jeans can make a room less ‘smelly’ from a fart mainly because jeans can hold on to the smell longer.
Why does it always seem that the more intimate the gathering, the more likely the moment that your fart will smell bad?
It is most likely psychological. There is nothing inherently causing your fats to be smellier the more intimate the gathering. The only possible explanation is that there could be less room for the fart to dissipate. Once again, farting in a closet may not be a great idea.
When it comes to fart etiquette, should you call attention to it and apologize or act as nothing happened?
Here is the deal—everyone farts, and I can guarantee everyone has farted in public. I think it depends on how comfortable you are with the people in the room. Are they family and friends? If so, why not tell them? Are they people you have never met? Maybe leave it alone and abide by the maxim, “whoever smelt it, dealt it.”
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