The Doctor Game: Fart study could merit Nobel Prize

Could hydrogen sulfide (H2S), the gas that causes the odour of farts, ever be the reason behind a Nobel Prize in Medicine? Dr. Rui Wang, an internationally known Canadian researcher, reports that one day we might have a “fart pill” that fights one of our great killers, hypertension.

Passing flatus affects Kings, Queens and the rest of us. Who hasn’t been at a dinner party when we’d prefer to be in the Sahara Desert so we could fart? It’s also hard to research how much flatus is normal. After all, no doctor wants to say: “I’m a specialist in farts.” But research reveals that most people fart 15 to 25 times a day.

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Dr. Wang has been studying hydrogen sulfide for years since his daughter’s rotten egg emitted it. We know bacteria in the bowel produce the smell of hydrogen sulfide. Now, Dr. Wang has discovered an enzyme that produces H2S in the human body. Since it also dilates arteries thereby decreasing blood pressure, the idea for the fart pill was born.

So, with such an offensive background, how could hydrogen sulfide land someone a Nobel Prize? In 1998, three U.S. researchers discovered another magic molecule, nitric oxide. And, like hydrogen sulfide, it also relaxes arteries, decreasing blood pressure and fighting hypertension. They won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Dr. Nathan S. Bryan, at Baylor College of Medicine at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, is a world authority on nitric oxide. He says that early in life we produce sufficient amounts of nitric oxide in the inner lining of arteries. This keeps arteries expanded to allow a good supply of oxygen to all organs.

But, as we age, our production of nitric oxide decreases, arteries constrict causing hypertension, and this increased pressure injures the inner wall of coronary arteries. This results in an inflammatory reaction that kills a North American every 37 seconds, making heart attack the continent’s number one killer.

Bryan adds this interesting fact. Nitric oxide first attained star status as treatment for erectile dysfunction. This is because erectile dysfunction is cured by drugs that help prolong nitric oxide based signalling, sending increased amounts of blood to the penis.

This discovery has resulted in a natural remedy called Neo40, which produces nitric oxide. Since I have had coronary problems, Neo40 is now a daily part of my routine as I need relaxed coronary arteries. And it may help some patients suffering from angina.

Dr. Bryan suggests one tablet twice a day for two weeks, to be slowly dissolved in the mouth. Then one daily after there’s a good blood level of nitric oxide.

I found it interesting that Dr. Wang has H2S detectors in his lab that he calls “fart detectors”, as hydrogen sulfide can be deadly in large doses. This means that rectal gas is potentially explosive.

One patient ignored advice to take an enema before a sigmoidoscopic examination to remove a colon polyp. When the polyp was cauterized to control bleeding the H2S gas caused an explosion. This created a six-inch tear in the patient’s large bowel.

I do not know of any remedy that eradicates farting. It’s a part of living and, in fact, not passing flatus may be harmful. For instance, Dr. Wynne-Jones, a New Zealand physician, reported years ago that being polite results in herniations of the large bowel (diverticulosis) due to constant pressure of gas.

Fortunately, most flatus is odourless. However, hydrogen sulfide can be detected as low as one part in a million. Remember this fact at the next dinner party.

Finally, although farts can be embarrassing, hypertension and heart attacks can kill. I have no idea when Dr. Wang’s fart pill will become a reality. But if it does become available, it will be another natural remedy like Neo40, to treat erectile dysfunction and the major killer, hypertension.

And Dr. Wang may also receive a Nobel Prize.

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