Just like everyone poops, everyone farts: it’s a totally natural occurrence even the most proper and well-mannered ladies can’t help but unleash on the reg. (Looking at you, Queen Elizabeth.) But if you’ve ever held one in while you’re out in public to avoid the embarrassment of, you know, everyone knowing you passed gas, prepare to be seriously grossed out about what happens when you don’t allow that air to properly exit.
First thing’s first: What exactly is a fart? According to the Cleveland Clinic, gas is simply the product the harmless bacteria in your intestines produce as your food is being digested. And if you’re considerably more gassy after eating certain things, that’s normal, too: Some foods—like beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and whole grains—cause more gas than others. Whether you even realize it or not, the typical person passes gas 14 to 23 times a day.
The gas will be reabsorbed through your gut and recirculated until it’s expelled from your lungs via your breath. Yes, that means you’re essentially exhaling a fart right out of your mouth.
As all that gas builds up, it’s gotta escape somehow: holding it in is only going to make you feel even more uncomfortable due to the buildup of additional pressure. According to Newsweek, that buildup leads to two different scenarios, neither of which are very pleasing. In one, that air will exit your body through a totally uncontrollable fart. And in the other, the gas will be reabsorbed through your gut and recirculated until it’s expelled from your lungs via your breath.
To ensure your body doesn’t unleash a fart without your consent or decide to send it up and out of the other end, just try and find a safe space to release that gas right when you feel the urge so you’re not living in fear of the consequences. And if there’s no escape and you do fart in public, just know everyone’s been there. Because whether you’re in a yoga class, at the grocery store, or on an airplane, gas waits for nobody.
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