Let ‘Er Rip! Experts Reveal What Happens When You Hold In Gas

Experts have advised people to “let ‘er rip” — in other words, stop holding in their gas. Failing to relieve yourself could — at best — lead to painful bloating and soreness. At worst, it could even tear the tissue in the colon. Gastroenterologist Dr. Rosario Ligresti at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey is warning that in rare cases part of the bowel can burst, leading to potentially life-threatening complications. She says women are often the worst affected by gut problems, partly because they feel it’s “unladylike” to let it out. Dr. Ligresti is now warning of a little-known condition called “parcopresis” — the technical term for “shy bowel syndrome” — highlighting the fact that the majority of sufferers are women. So what happens when you hold it in, and why can it be harmful? Gas builds up in our digestive tract when we swallow air or eat fiber, which interacts with bacteria in our gut to produce gases. When it accumulates, it must be released through burping or passing gas. When you hold in a gas, you're tightening your anal sphincter muscles. Because the gas has nowhere else to move to, it remains stuck in the GI tract, at least temporarily. The gut is one long tube, so one part affects another, meaning unreleased gas may lead to uncomfortable symptoms in other areas of the GI tract, causing bloating and leaving you with a painful rock-hard stomach. Trapped gas can also travel to the lungs and can be absorbed by the blood. Worst case scenario, you wind up with a bowel obstruction. So, the age-old advice  “better out than in” is good advice, especially for women.