ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — There may be social situations where it might be considered impolite or embarrassing to break wind and release a build-up of intestinal gasses.

While holding those gasses inside the intestinal tract may cause great discomfort, you may be wondering: is it harmful to hold in a fart too long?

As the body breaks down food in the colon, intestinal bacteria break down the contents through fermentation, which produces the byproduct of methane gas.

Gases build up normally through digestion but also in swallowing air along with food, and can build up faster if someone smokes, uses a straw, or eats foods that are hard to digest.

Most of that gas is passed through the rectum and escapes via the anus as flatus, or a fart.

According to the National Library of Medicine, holding in intestinal gas can cause abdominal distension, but it is not deadly, as eventually the gas will be reabsorbed by the blood and directed to the lungs where it will be exhaled in your breath.

So, while holding in gas can’t kill you, it could result in some other serious problems, such as diverticulitis, which is caused by small, bulging pouches in the digestive tract. Diverticulitis can cause severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and a change in bowel habits.

Holding in feces is another matter, however. In 2013, a 16-year-old autistic girl in Cornwall, England died from not having a bowel movement for eight weeks. According to an autopsy, Emily Titterington died from a heart attack as a result of an enlarged bowel, which shifted and compressed some of her organs.