It might not have been without its controversy or debate, but The Game Changers certainly inspired many to adopt a plant-based diet. Previously, meat had been seen as a staple of anyone looking to bulk up or exercise at their full potential. For so long, the idea of consuming protein upon completion of any and every workout had been practically drilled into us. But thanks to the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Jackie Chan and Novak Djokovic, we began to see the reality: that meat isn’t essential and plant-based diets serve to not only fuel our bodies, but also help them perform at their best by lowering cholesterol and helping with muscle recovery and repair.
But for anyone who has switched to a plant-based diet only to find they might be - ahem - passing wind a fair bit more frequently, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that plant-based diets do actually cause men to fart more and have larger stools. But before you bemoan this reality, know that it’s actually a good thing: it means these foods are promoting healthy gut bacteria.
As New Scientist reports, “Anecdotally, it is well-known that eating more plants - including fruit, vegetables, grains, and legumes - creates bulkier stools and flatulence. However, few studies have measured these changes or related them to changes in gut bacteria.”
Thanks to Claudia Barber at the Liver and Digestive Diseases Networking Biomedical Research centre in Barcelona, Spain, she and her colleagues were able to compare the effects of a mediterranean-style diet consisting mostly of plants, with a Western diet containing fewer fruit and vegetables on the guts of 18 healthy men aged between 18 and 38. Each participant was randomly assigned to follow one of the diets for two weeks, then after a break, switched to the other diet for two weeks.
While the men did a similar number of poos per day on each of the diets, on the plant based diet their poos were about double the size. The men collected and weighed their own stools using digital scales and found they produced about 200 grams per day on the plant diet, compared with 100 grams on the Western diet. According to Rosemary Stanton at the University of NSW, this is due to the fact that eating plants promotes bacteria in the gut that make food for themselves by fermenting plant fibre. The added weight to plant based stools is a result of these spent bodies plus water and a small amount of undigested plant fibre.
Participants also logged how many times they farted per day using a handheld counter and found they farted seven times more per day on average while on the plant based diet than when they were on the Western diet. Each fart contains about 50 per cent more gas, as revealed when the researchers gave the men a test meal of stewed beans and measured subsequent gas production using balloons fitted to the men’s rectums.
The findings suggest farting associated with plant based diets should be celebrated. As Stanton suggests, “Our Western idea that farting is a sign of something being wrong is totally false,” adding that in most cases, “farting is a sign of a healthy diet and a healthy colon.”
The key takeaway that many will be pleased to know is that on a plant based diet, you might fart more but the farts are odourless. Eating plants promotes gas because most fart gas is odourless hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide produced by gut bacteria when they ferment plant fibre. But the smell of farts comes from hydrogen sulphide gas, which is a by-product of protein digestion.