16.3 C
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

What happens when you hold in a fart?



If you don't release the gas that builds up in your body, you can experience bloating, pain, indigestion and heartburn. “If you don’t release the gas that builds up in your body, you can experience bloating, pain, indigestion and heartburn. kaspiic/ThinkStock

It was a difficult time for one Social Security Administration employee — and for the office where he worked. After a steady stream of co-worker complaints against the 38-year-old man, in December 2011 his supervisors issued a formal reprimand charging him with "conduct unbecoming a federal officer." The offense? Farting. In 2012, a five-page reprimand letter chronicled 60 times that the employee released "awful and unpleasant odor" to create a "hostile" work environment. After months of grievances that dogged the man’s performance reviews, the formal action was designed to curtail his farting [source: The Smoking Gun].

Although the letter was withdrawn after the employee secured representation by the American Federation of Government Employees union, a lingering question remained: What happens when you hold in a fart? If the man had complied by holding in his flatulence, would it have had a negative effect on his health?

There’s an argument to be made for not passing gas — it can assault the senses of those around you. However, holding it in can be uncomfortable, or even dangerous. At its most extreme, refusing to fart can cause diverticula, pouches in the wall of the colon, to form. These pockets can become infected, leading to a condition called diverticulitis.

Some researchers have drawn a cause-and-effect conclusion between holding in farts and developing diverticulitis. Without a release of the gas that builds up in the body, flatulent folks can experience bloating, pain, indigestion and heartburn. Symptoms can become particularly acute in pressurized airplane cabins, for example. At cruising altitude, your intestines are experiencing a significant increase in volume caused by a decrease in air pressure. It’s the same reason why the contents of a bottle in your luggage may seem to explode when you open it after you land. To keep your intestines from undue expansion, the best medicine is to fart at will [source: Popken].

An estimated 30 million Americans may be affected by diverticulitis, and it’s particularly onerous for older people. Forty percent of people age 65 or older, and 60 percent of people age 80 or older, have experienced the condition. It seems to affect people who live in populated areas, as well as the wealthy, at a greater rate [source: Singer].

To mitigate the noxious effects, take frequent bathroom breaks to relieve built-up gas pressure. A diet that avoids gas-producing foods like beans may help, as could taking probiotics to help balance the fart-causing bacteria in your intestines. And, if you’re really concerned about offending the people with whom you live and work, you might consider odor-trapping underpants armed with carbon to neutralize odors [source: Singer].

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • 6 Home Remedies for Diverticular Disease
  • What causes flatulence?
  • How the Digestive System Works
  • Do probiotics really do anything?
  • How much poop is in your drinking water?


  • Pommergaard, Hans C., Jakob Burcharth, Anders Fischer, William E G Thomas, Jacob Rosenberg. "Flatulence on airplanes: just let it go." The New Zealand Medical Journal. Feb 15, 2013 (Oct. 14, 2014) http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2013/vol-126-no-1369/view-pommergaard
  • Popken, Ben. "Let Your Flatulence Fly, Scientists Urge Passengers." NBC News. Feb. 20, 2013. (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.nbcnews.com/business/travel/let-your-flatulence-fly-scientists-urge-passengers-f1C8431651
  • Singer, Sydney Ross. "Holding in Flatulence Can Make You Sick." Natural Health 365. Jan. 3, 2013. (Sept. 14, 2014) http://www.naturalhealth365.com/natural_healing/flatulence.html
  • The Smoking Gun. "Formal Reprimand Issued to Flatulent Federal Worker." Dec. 21, 2011. (Sept. 12, 2014) http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/coworkers-attacked-by-gas-645132

Subscribe to our magazine

[tds_leads input_placeholder="Email address" btn_horiz_align="content-horiz-center" pp_msg="SSd2ZSUyMHJlYWQlMjBhbmQlMjBhY2NlcHQlMjB0aGUlMjAlM0NhJTIwaHJlZiUzRCUyMiUyMyUyMiUzRVByaXZhY3klMjBQb2xpY3klM0MlMkZhJTNFLg==" msg_composer="" msg_succ_radius="0" display="column" gap="12" input_padd="12px" input_border="0" btn_text="Subscribe Now" pp_check_size="15" pp_check_radius="50" tdc_css="eyJhbGwiOnsibWFyZ2luLWJvdHRvbSI6IjAiLCJkaXNwbGF5IjoiIn19" msg_succ_bg="#12b591" f_msg_font_family="702" f_msg_font_size="13" f_msg_font_spacing="0.5" f_msg_font_weight="400" input_color="#000000" input_place_color="#666666" f_input_font_family="702" f_input_font_size="13" f_input_font_weight="400" f_btn_font_family="702" f_btn_font_transform="uppercase" f_btn_font_size="12" f_btn_font_spacing="0.5" btn_bg="#3894ff" btn_bg_h="#2b78ff" pp_check_border_color="#ffffff" pp_check_border_color_c="#ffffff" pp_check_bg_c="#ffffff" pp_check_square="#2b78ff" pp_check_color="rgba(255,255,255,0.8)" pp_check_color_a="#3894ff" pp_check_color_a_h="#2b78ff" msg_err_radius="0"]

━ more like this

Be a Hero this Halloween

Be a Hero this HalloweenBeing a hero goes beyond dressing up in a costume this Halloween season. Children, families and schools across the country can channel their own superpowers to help deliver lif

Get Away Without Going Away

Get Away Without Going Away5 family staycation ideas that won’t break your budgetFamily vacations are a great way to bond and take a step back from the hectic schedules that accompany everyday life, b

5 Common Questions for Memorializing a Loved One

5 Common Questions for Memorializing a Loved OneOne of the most difficult conversations in a person’s life typically takes place near the end of that life. Planning for a funeral can put an emotional

Top Tips to Transition Back to Work After Baby

Top Tips to Transition Back to Work After BabyMany new parents spend hours preparing for the arrival of a new baby – reading books, seeking professional advice and consulting friends and family. Howev

Making the Back-to-School Transition Easy from Kindergarten to College

Making the Back-to-School Transition Easy from Kindergarten to CollegeIt’s time to get your household organized for another school year and all that comes with it. Whether your child is headed off to


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here