Have ever noticed that if you eat a bunch of brussels sprouts on Christmas Day your farts smell so bad they make you feel twice as ashamed about what you did last New Year’s? You’re not alone.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a downside to Christmas Day but the skin-melting, eyeball-burning, teeth-eroding odour that comes with eating two handfuls of the things is a strong contender.
For all those who have never touched brussels sprouts, then this article’s not for you. Not only that but generally speaking you’re not worth my time if you don’t like them, regardless of how unbecoming their exit is.
Anyway, there is a way for them to not hum so bad. The answer is fairly simple.
Basically, when you eat sprouts, the bacteria in your stomach and intestine attempts to break them down, releasing a throng of gases in the doing.
These include nitrogen, methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
As GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy, Dr Helen Webberley, says sprouts are difficult to digest thanks to our bodies not being able to produce the enzymes required to break down the chemical components they hold.
She told the Huffington Post:
Sprouts contain high amounts of cellulose which is difficult for the normal human digestive system to process. As a result, a lot of the original sprout arrives in the colon where it is digested by gut bacteria.
Our bodies also struggle to break down raffinose, a sugar that is found in other brassica vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Raffinose can only broken down by an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase, but our bodies don’t make that in the gut so the raffinose moves to the large intestine.
A bit sciency, I know, but bare with us.
When we try to break down raffinose, it produces sulphide and mercaptan aka: the source of the abominable smell that comes with eating sprouts.
So what are the tips? Are there any cheat codes for eating a handful of sprouts and not reaping the consequences a few minutes later?
Yes, but it’s not exactly extraordinary.
The Vegetarian Society simply suggests we eat more vegetables throughout the year so our digestives systems become veterans in breaking them down.
Another remedy is to have a cup of peppermint tea after a meal.
If that all fails, just ride the wave and be honest. This is who you are and who you’ll always be and a roomful of your family can’t deal with that well then… probably just stop eating sprouts.