According to a recent study that validates my entire existence as a human being, our colons methodically prioritize farting over producing energy. So go ahead and release that cheese — doing what your body does best — before we dive into some serious science.
First, a little background: One of the compounds responsible for the stench associated with a satisfying release is hydrogen sulfide, a virulent gas notorious for being a prominent hazard in numerous industrial occupations. Fortunately, while hydrogen sulfide can be deadly if inhaled at doses of more than 700 parts per million, the average bout of flatulence usually contains less than one.
Nevertheless, to prevent a buildup of dangerous hydrogen sulfide in the body, it must be detoxified in, and released from, the colon. In another competing process, however, the bacteria in our colon ferment the insoluble fiber in our diet to create a helpful chemical called butyrate, which the cells lining our colons use to create energy and reduce inflammation.
Thus, the colon is forced to make an important decision: Between these two processes that compete for the same cellular resources — hydrogen sulfide removal (i.e., farting) and butyrate usage (i.e., energy production) — which should be accomplished first? Of course, as we already learned from this recent study, the colon always chooses farting, and for good reason.
In extremely scientific terms, this study explains how exactly the colon makes that critical decision. See, mitochondria — the pilots of our cells — contain several enzymes that contribute to energy production, one of which is called SQR and performs the first step in the process of detoxifying hydrogen sulfide and releasing it from the body. It does this by removing electrons from hydrogen sulfide and dumping them into coenzyme Q10, another compound naturally present in the body. Meanwhile, our colon cells use butyrate for energy production with the help of an enzyme called ACADS, but since ACADS also uses coenzyme Q10 for dumping electrons, the colon faces a dilemma, as only so much coenzyme Q10 is available.
This is when the colon decides that farting should take precedence. There’s another molecule in colon cells called coenzyme A, which is needed when butyrate is used for energy production, and as the researchers note, ACADS has long been known to contain coenzyme A with an extra sulfur molecule melded to it, which is then called coenzyme A persulfide. What this research uncovered, though, is that when coenzyme A persulfide is bound to ACADS, it essentially blocks its function and prevents the utilization of butyrate, forcing the colon to prioritize poisonous hydrogen sulfide clearance — again, farting — over energy production.
Phew, that was a lot of science.
Now, you might be wondering why any of this is important. Well, it’s because, without prioritizing hydrogen sulfide removal on a constant basis, our bodies would become saturated with the toxic gas and we would either die, or eventually release one hell of a poisonous fart, one that would likely render any neighboring humans completely and utterly unconscious.
So take comfort: while you might be a lethargic, unenergetic fart machine, at least you’re not a lethal hydrogen sulfide bomb.