What causes a sulfur taste when burping or passing gas?

Written by lisa ellis
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What causes a sulfur taste when burping or passing gas?
Burping and flatulence often have a negative social stigma. (Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Burping and flatulence are normal occurrences. They are both the result of the release of gas from the gastrointestinal tract. Although some people may think that they may pass an abnormal amount of gas per day, most people pass gas many times per day. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, the average person produces one to four pints of gas per day.

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Gas in the digestive tract results from swallowed air and the normal digestion of food. Most people swallow air when eating and drinking. Swallowed air is the primary cause of the gas in the stomach that leads to burping or belching. The gas that is not released from burping passes into the small intestine with food. The remainder of gas in the digestive tract is a byproduct of the digestion of foods with the aid of bacteria in the intestines. This gas is released through the rectum in the form of flatulence or farting.


Eating or drinking quickly, smoking, chewing gum and loose fitting dentures increase the amount of air introduced into the oesophagus and stomach. Because stomach gas is mostly swallowed air from the environment, it is composed of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The taste and smell of the air released from belching results from the food most recently eaten. If there is a pronounced sulphur odour or taste, most likely the person has eaten something high in sulphur compounds such as eggs.

Farting or Flatulence

Certain foods can lead to the production of gas in the intestines. Sugars, starches and fibre in many foods remain partially undigested by the enzymes in the digestive tract. Resident bacteria living in the intestines break down the remaining undigested foods, releasing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen sulphide, methanethiol and dimethyl sulphide. This gas from the bacteria is mixed with the remaining swallowed air to exit the body from the rectum. The unpleasant odour from farting is usually the result of the hydrogen sulphide, methanethiol and dimethyl sulphide, along with byproducts from the digestion of meat.

Remedies or Reduction

People can reduce the amount of gas in the digestive tract in two ways: swallow less air, and avoid or limit foods that lead to the production of gas. Eating and drinking more slowly, avoiding gum chewing, not smoking, and having properly fitted dentures can lead to less air being swallowed. Avoiding or limiting the intake of foods such as beans, oat bran, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, milk and wheat can lead to the release of less gas in the intestines by bacteria.

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