Why we need a better way to measure farts

The precious little we know so far would certainly indicate that flatulence is a rich topic for investigation. Excess production of hydrogen and methane seems to suggest there may be a problem with the way your gut is absorbing carbohydrates, for instance – allowing the starches and sugars to instead ferment in the gut. Excess methane may also interrupt your bowel movements, meaning that it could be a cause of constipation for people with irritable bowel syndrome. Unfortunately, we can’t be certain exactly where that methane arises. “The dogma is that it is produced in the lower parts of the large bowel, but we don’t know,” Gibson says.

Hydrogen sulphide, meanwhile, is the chemical that gives our farts that full-bodied odour of rotten eggs. Besides the discomfort it may cause in confined spaces, chronically high levels of the gas may be the sign of a damaged gut lining, inflammatory bowel disease or even colon cancer. “It’s one example of a gas that could be incredibly instructive,” says Gibson.