When your body builds up excess gas inside your digestive system, there are only two places it can come out and one of those happens to be your bottom. This process of passing gas is better known as farting.

The gas that causes farting (and also burping) builds up normally during digestion and also when you swallow air along with your food while eating or drinking. This gas can build up faster if you smoke, use a straw , or eat foods that are hard to digest. You might also be gassier if you are stressed, constipated, or have a medical condition affecting the digestive system. Gas can cause bloating and discomfort. Farting is a healthy way of releasing gas from your body.

Farting is totally natural and everyone’s body does it. Most people fart five to 23 times per day.

Some may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable if they fart more often, have uncomfortable or smelly farts, or have to fart in public. Some people try to hold in farts until either they feel safe enough to let them out or the gas uncontrollably escapes.

While research on farting is limited, some studies suggest holding it in might not be good for us and that it’s much healthier to just let them out.

There is limited scientific evidence that holding in farts could cause several health issues.

In the short term, holding in a fart can cause immediate:

  • pain
  • discomfort
  • bloating
  • indigestion
  • heartburn

What’s more, as the pressure builds, so may your stress levels, making it even more uncomfortable and less likely you’ll be able to hold in a fart.

In the 1970s, experts found that a habit of holding in farts could be associated with the development of diverticulitis. This is the inflammation or swelling of pouches that form along the digestive tract. Diverticulitis can be severe and can cause infection if left untreated. However, without more and more recent research, a clear link between holding in farts and diverticulitis cannot be made.

Can you die from holding in a fart?

There is no evidence that holding in a fart could kill you, though the pain and discomfort doing so causes can be severe.

When you fart, gas moves from your intestines into your rectum, and then leaves through your anus. But if you tighten your anal sphincter muscles (the muscles you might also tighten if you’re holding in a bowel movement) by clenching your buttocks, you can usually hold in a fart for a period of time.

After tightening your sphincter muscles, the pressure will start to build on the gas in your digestive system. You may experience some of the short-term symptoms of holding in a fart, including pain, bloating, and discomfort. You may feel some bubbling or gurgling as the gas moves around your digestive system.

Research shows that some of this gas is reabsorbed by your body’s blood system and may eventually be let out when you exhale. However, the majority of the gas will remain under pressure inside of you until you’re finally able to release it through a fart or burp, or both.

You won’t need to hold in gas if you can get rid of the need to fart in the first place.

Since intestinal gas is usually caused by digestion, it can help to take a look at your diet.

Elimination diet

Take one of these common gas-causing foods out of your diet at a time and see if you fart less:

  • dairy
  • beans and legumes
  • Brussels sprouts
  • lettuce
  • cauliflower
  • sugar-free foods (which contain sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol)
  • cabbage
  • onions
  • broccoli
  • mushrooms
  • beer
  • carbonated drinks

Balanced diet

Reduce the amount of fatty and high-protein foods in your diet, which take more time to digest and may cause more gas.

Reduce the fiber in your diet. While high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads, bran and nuts are healthy, they can also cause a lot of gas. If you feel less gassy after cutting back, slowly introduce more fiber back into your diet.

Avoid hard candy and chewing gum.

OTC medication

Take an over-the-counter gas medication before eating foods with lactose.

Lifestyle changes

  • Eat and drink slower so you swallow less air.
  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals to reduce stress on your digestive system.
  • Exercise regularly, as this can help move gas out of your digestive system
  • Don’t smoke. This can be difficult but a doctor can help build a cessation plan that works for you.
  • If you wear dentures, make sure they fit properly.
  • Treat underlying medical conditions like IBS and heartburn that may cause gassiness.

Sooner or later, the gas will come out. Doctors don’t have medical advice for holding in farts, which requires you to hold your sphincter muscles the same way you’d hold in a bowel movement.

However, it seems that if you can hold in a fart without feeling too much discomfort, you might be able to let it seep out quietly by applying light pressure to your sphincter muscles. Or by holding your fart, you might buy yourself enough time to make it to a bathroom or other private place.

Rarely is farting a sign of a serious medical condition. However, excessive farting (more than 25 times a day) or extremely foul-smelling farts may be a sign of an underlying cause.

If you’ve tried to prevent your farts without success and notice any of the following symptoms, you should speak to a doctor.

The most common conditions associated with farting are digestive and eating disorders, food intolerances and cancer. Most of these conditions respond well to treatment.

When it comes to farts, the healthiest thing to do is let them out. However, it is possible to hold them in if you need to, and it probably won’t hurt you. Just be prepared for some discomfort.

If you notice you are farting excessively and have other symptoms of digestive distress, you should see a doctor. Most health issues associated with farting can improve with proper treatment.