Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest Post: No Carb Digestion, or Why My Farts Don't Stink

Tracey and I like to think that we're leading our friends toward the low-carb light every day, but it turns out that some of them find their own way. One such friend is Ryan Cordle, who's lost an incredible amount of weight eating Paleo-style. I invited him to guest post for us whenever he liked, and I'm so pleased that he chose a topic Tracey and I often talk about but have not-surprisingly never gone public with. Thanks, Ryan!

Marriage is a very romantic, intimate, and beautiful thing. Part of that intimacy is deciding, consciously or not, how to deal with situations in private that may be slightly taboo in public. For example: farting. All couples decide whether or not they will freely fart in front of one another. My parents do not fart in front of one another. Perhaps they are a bit Victorian, but in my house growing up, farting was not something you did in the presence of a lady (later I learned that ladies fart, too). Therefore, if you must fart, you excuse yourself to the bathroom and let it rip.

Other families are much more free with their farting habits. The parents encourage their children with games like Pull My Finger. I always saw this family on TV and realized that for others, farting is not a shame to hide but an event at which the whole family laughs. I imagined mothers, fathers, and their 2-3 children sitting around the table after dinner, pulling one another's fingers and having a merry time.

My wife and I are somewhere in the middle. We will fart in each other's presence if it hits us. It's not something we brag about, and I never had the confidence to ask her to pull my digit. However, we do have a rule to regulate our has habits: on long car trips, the guilty farter is responsible for rolling down the windows. But my wife could tell you that the window rule no longer applies to me.

I have been eating a very low-carb "paleo diet" for 75 days and have lost 47 lbs. Obviously, there are a lot of benefits to eating low-carb, like losing weight, looking like gold, and forgetting what it feels like to be hungry. Yet, I submit to you there is an even more glorious product to this way of eating: my farts don't stink.

From a scientific perspective, it makes perfect sense. The innumerable bacteria that call our intestines home love starch and sugar. Those substances allow the bacteria to thrive and make baby bacteria at a significant rate. All of that bacteria eating and reproducing leads to an excess of gas in our digestive tract that must come out. This is why the bean is the magical fruit that makes us toot. Bacteria seem to love beans and other carbohydrate-rich foods.

So when I cut out nearly all starch and sugar from my diet, the bacteria went hungry. And when those bacteria go hungry, they don't produce much gas. Which makes road trips much more pleasant for my wife.

I still fart occasionally. I usually have to let one go in the morning when I go the gym, or sometimes after work, but that is it. Why don't they stink? I have no clue, but clearly it has something to do with what my gut flora is eating, and to me, it is a sign of good health that I do not have a stench leaving my butt on a regular basis.