Of all the bacterial communities in and on humans, we know the most about the digestive system bacteria. These microbes are extremely important for proper digestion of plant fibers, synthesizing vitamins, short-chain fatty acids, protecting our gut lining, breaking down medicines, and many other properties we are still learning about. One of my favorite science podcasts, Brains’s On!, does a fun job talking about our gut bacterial friends from a different perspective – farts! Depending on your microbial community and what you feed it, sometimes as your microbes are doing their work breaking down the foods we eat they give off gaseous compounds.
“Fart Smarts: Understanding the Gas We Pass” talks with microbiome scientist, Dr. Dan Knights at the University of Minnesota, about the gut microbiome and farts. I was a little disappointed that they emphasized broccoli as other culprits of gas since fatty foods and dairy products can be an issue. My issue with talking about broccoli is that kids might be even less likely to eat broccoli. Then again – some kids might be more likely to try broccoli and blame any resultant toots on their bacterial pals. hmmmm – brilliant! Anyway, which microbes are present in your gut depends on what foods are regularly eaten. If you haven’t been eating much in the way of fibrous plants like beans, broccoli, and kale and you start eating a lot of plant fibers, you will have a lot of farts. If you continue on that plant rich diet, over time, your microbial community can change to those microbes that can better digest the plant fibers and you’ll fart less. This is why it’s a good idea to change your diet over a few days instead of all at once – unless you’re wanting a more musical after dinner concert. Take a listen to “Fart Smarts” either using the SoundCloud link below or download it on iTunes. There is some musical accompaniment you might enjoy.
Brains’s On! is a fun podcast designed for kids, but super informative and interesting to adults too! My post-doctoral adviser first told me about it for a family road trip. Since then, we are hooked! I love that they interview scientists for the podcast, they have kids doing a lot of the audio, there are fun “mystery sounds”, and the topics are important to everyone.
If you enjoy the podcast, consider donating to their kickstarter project: