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Mayo Clinic researcher Purna Kashyap estimates that it is quite normal to have about 18 healthy flatulences per day. In fact, not having gas might be a sign that something is actually wrong with 90% of you – your microbiology.
Intestinal microbes basically feed on what our human cells (the 10%) won’t eat. Primarily, these microbes that support just about every aspect of our health feed on fat, fiber and certain types of carbohydrates called resistant starches that go undigested until they reach the large intestine and feed your 90%.
Happy Bugs Make Gas
The end result of eating a fiber-rich diet is that your bugs get happy, and when they are happy, they make gas as waste products. When you are eating a diet rich in high-fiber, gas-producing foods like beans, cabbage and broccoli, you are feeding your bugs who then make many molecules in the gut that boost immunity, gut, brain, blood sugar, heart and bone health, and even support a slimmer waistline, to name a few.
Perhaps the most sought-after sustenance for our bugs is the microbe-produced short-chain fatty acid, butyrate or butyric acid – found in butter and ghee fat – which is such potent nutrition for the gut and the immunity that the gut microbes actually produce it themselves!
Most gas is odorless, thank heavens, since America alone is mustering up about 2 billion flatulences per day. Most gas is just carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane, which doesn’t smell unless you introduce some sulfurous veggies from the Brassica family. While these cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower make smelly gas, they are rich in sulforaphane, which delivers many of their anti-cancer benefits.
Interestingly, there are a handful of good gut bugs that will in fact convert gas already in the gut made from other bugs into sulfur gas, helping to reduce the overall gas content. While they reduce the amount of flatulence, the gas remaining will have that distinctive smell.
Gaseous Bugs That May Have Changed Our World
Not all of the bugs in the gut are actually bacteria. Many of them hail from another kingdom: the archaea, a domain of single-celled organisms who are also quite gas-producing. A new study out of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has linked these gas-producing microbes to the extinction of about 90% of all species on planet earth. (2)
About 252 to 300 million years ago, our planet went through lethal global warming for life on earth, referred to in geology as “the Great Dying.” As the earth warmed, organic matter covered the oceans as a potential food source. Around that time, certain bugs from the archaea kingdom genetically morphed to be able to eat what were literally oceans of food.
Like bugs do when they are happy, they produced unprecedented amounts of methane gas that, according to this study, caused a chemical chain reaction that may have been a major contributor to the Great Dying that wiped out most of the life on planet earth.
While research points to the possibility that these bugs may have wiped out most of the life on planet earth, they also ushered in the Ice Age that forced apes to seek new sources of food and, as a result, evolved into us! This seems to be the modus operandi of all microbes. Good bugs can be good or bad, and so-called “bad bugs” can be good in some cases. It all depends on the diet and environment they are exposed to. A certain species in our guts could be beneficial, but with a little encouragement in the wrong direction, they can become lethal.
- NPR.org. Got Gas? It Could Mean You Have Healthy Microbes
- Nature. DOI:doi:10.1038/nature.2014.14958