Why Not Being Able To Fart Could Be A Serious Warning Sign

Most of us don't exactly want to pass gas, especially in public. While holding in our farts isn't the best idea for our health, sometimes we'll do anything to avoid the awkwardness of letting one rip. However, there's a big difference between not wanting to fart and not being able to fart. Let's see when an inability to pass gas may be cause for concern.

It may sound excessive, but the average person toots anywhere between 13 and 21 times daily, according to Houston Methodist. What's more, our farts can spread pretty quickly, wafting approximately 10 feet per second. Flatulence is most often the product of our diet, with dairy, sugar, beans, and whole grains being among some foods commonly known to produce farts. Coffee, eggs, asparagus, and onions, in particular, may prompt some especially smelly farts. If you're struggling to release a stubborn fart, however, gastroenterologist Dr. Lisa Ganjhu told Self that our stress levels may have something to do with it.

Sometimes not being able to fart isn't a big problem

Dr. Ganjhu explained that our lower gastrointestinal tract contains two sets of muscles known as the internal and external sphincters (via Self). While the internal sphincter functions autonomically, the external sphincter is a voluntary muscle, which is why we can clench up our rear end when trying to conceal a fart. When a fart is imminent, the internal sphincter communicates with the external sphincter telling it to relax and allow for the passing of gas. Yet if we're feeling stressed, our muscles tend to remain tense, including the external sphincter. If this muscle remains constricted, you might not be able to fart.

A stopped-up fart related to stress isn't generally a health concern and it will inevitably relieve itself at some point or another. To help it along, try a few relaxation techniques, getting up and moving about, or giving your abdomen a light massage. In more serious cases, however, a stuck fart may be a warning sign of a bowel obstruction in need of medical attention, says Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Other times it can be a serious warning sign

Otherwise known as an intestinal obstruction, a bowel obstruction hinders food and stool from traveling along the digestive tract as it should, and accounts for approximately 15% of all stomach pain-related hospital admissions in the U.S. (per World Journal of Emergency Surgery). An intestinal obstruction may be the result of a hernia, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, tumors, or ingestion of a foreign object, among other potential causes. Along with stomach swelling, extreme pain or cramping, vomiting, and loud noises emanating from the belly, not being able to pass gas is another potential symptom of a bowel obstruction, reports Johns Hopkins Medicine.

People with certain health conditions or individuals who have recently undergone abdominal surgery may be particularly susceptible to developing a bowel obstruction. Without treatment, a person may experience constipation, a loss of appetite, infection, fever, or be unable to retain food or liquid. In rare cases, a bowel obstruction can be fatal. Seek immediate medical attention if you're feeling gassy but unable to fart, as well as if you experience any additional gastrointestinal symptoms.