The most common discussion topics for new vegans are (in no particular order) animal rights, mushroom risotto, vegan wine… and flatulence. Actually we just made this up, based on a straw poll around the office. So guess which one we’re going to discuss here?
Last week, my five year old brought home a book from the school library called The Gas We Pass, The Story of Farts by Shinta Cho. Together, and at a pace bordering on excruciating, we discovered that animals that eat a meat-based diet (such as lions) produce dreadful smelling farts. Whereas animals that exist on plants (elephants, hippos, rhinos) fart much more often, but the odour is not so offensive.
Anyway, this got me to thinking… and Googling. Farting is caused by two things, air intake and diet. A vegan diet – based on fruits, nuts, vegetables and legumes – is rich in fibre, which is something your body can’t digest. Unlike most other components of food, fibre travels all the way to the large intestine intact. Here it meets bacteria, which gobble up the fibre to make energy (are you envisaging Pac-Man?), and the by-product of this metabolism is, you guessed it, gas.
While the good news is that vegetables produce fewer smelly by-products (hydrogen sulphide) during digestion than meat, not eating meat doesn’t mean you’ll never have smelly farts. Plenty of veggies are high in sulphites, such as cabbage, broccoli, onions, Brussels sprouts, peas, leeks and garlic.
What makes things even trickier is that in some cases specific foods might have little effect on some people but play havoc with others. This is one where keeping a food journal can be a help so you can start tracking things and looking for patterns.
So what else can you do? Well, you can either move to the US and enter the World Farting Competition (over 21s only) where you’ll be judged on a range of attributes including control, duration, multiplicity of tone, artistic presentation and stench.
Or, if you want to complete that yoga class without a malfunction, you can follow these tips to reduce output.
1. Eat fewer raw veggies. Cooking them (even a light steam) makes them easier for the body to break down.
2. Avoid fizzy drinks and chewing gum. Less air in, less air out.
3. Fresh (not dried) pineapple and papaya contain powerful digestive enzymes, so adding these into your diet should help.
4. Eat more fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, miso and kimchi. These are packed full of probiotics that bring balance to your gut.
6. Herbal teas like peppermint, fennel, and chamomile will help with digestion. So will ginger – simmer it in boiling water or add it raw to your juices.