Stomach noises and IBS
October 18, 2018 9:59 AM   Subscribe

I have IBS and my stomach often makes embarrassing noises. I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions for how to stop/hide the embarrassing noises?

I went back to school as a mature student, but have found I am missing a lot of classes lately due to embarrassing stomach noises. It sounds almost like I am passing gas, but it is gas in my intestines with digestion. Unlike passing gas, I can't control the sounds by holding it in and they are unpredictable. So, I have resorted to skipping class a lot, which is effecting my grades and has caused me to drop one class, because I couldn't catch up. I'm just too embarrassed to be in a silent classroom squished in close with over 50 people who may hear.

I am trying the low-FODMAP diet, but am still finding that the stress and anxiety is still causing bloating/loud stomach issues. Stress reduction isn't really possible, as I am a mother of a toddler and a full-time student in a difficult program. Gas-X is also not effective.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to stop/hide the embarrassing noises?
posted by NoneOfTheAbove to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
I don't have a solution for your noises, but when I was a student, there were commonly mature students.

Some smelled bad, some asked too many questions, some shared too many anecdotes. Some farted non stop, some burped weird. Some had weird hair, or were too friendly, or were grumpy. Sometimes they are sick, sometimes they cough loudly or have weird breathing apparatuses.

But never once did I think "Wow - they should have stayed home."

College is a time where you are learning to work with others. If you smell bad, they will sit away from you if t bothers them.

If you want, you could be very forfront about it. Tell your professor ahead of time. Announce to the students if you want. "Hello! My name is NoneOfTheAbove! My Stomach Gurgles all the time and it freaks me out. I want to apologize in advance for the gurgling."

Honestly. As far as Mature Students goes, a bit of non-smelly gurgling is COMPLETELY unimportant. I wouldn't even be embarrassed. Own it! Come up with funny things to say when it happens. "Bombs Away!" "And... There's the Moscow Mule from last night".

Last, you notice yourself WAY MORE than anyone else does. It's possible, even if you do nothing, that nobody else will even think twice about it. This is true with everything, like clothing choices, etc. If you wear the same clothes every day, you would be hyper aware, but nobody else will probably notice.

posted by bbqturtle at 10:07 AM on October 18, 2018 [15 favorites]

I find that drinking a lot of water is useful for calming/postponing stomach noises, but that's without IBS in the mix, so YMMV.
posted by Beardman at 10:15 AM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I also have IBS, and while I don't *often* make weird noises, I will sometimes, and I am gassy as hell pretty much all the time. Not just flatulence, but also belching. I sometimes feel as though I talk like Rick from Rick & Morty. Low-FODMAP does very little to help me, but no two people's IBS are identical. I was self-conscious for a really long time, and now if I get called on the weird noises I literally just look the person who called me on it in the eye and say: "I have a disease."

I don't apologize, I don't act embarrassed or ashamed (even if I am), I just let them sit with how they feel about that. If they still have a problem with it, I say: "I have a disease. It's just going to happen sometimes. I can't doing anything about it." If they have a problem even after that, I say: "Fuck you, I have a disease." Never aggressively, just like it's the most matter-of-fact thing in the world.

Stuff happens, it's just noise, people can learn to deal. If I'm having real problems w/ the gassiness I will sometimes take Imodium Complete, which helps w/ general gassiness, not just IBS episodes, and I find my likelihood of noises going on will be less as well. But it has a price... anytime I take a pill or two to quell symptoms, when the pills wear off a day or two later the symptoms return with a vengeance. So it's very much a "pick your battles" approach.
posted by Fish Sauce at 10:17 AM on October 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

When I went back to school full time I was so stressed out and my insides were so angry at me that I couldn't eat solid food until late afternoons and I dropped 15 lbs in about a month. So I empathize.

I don't have any useful advice about how to stop your tummy rumblings, but I will say that I would take you and your rumbly tummy any day over some of my classmates who just weren't very nice people. You deserve to be in that classroom.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:37 AM on October 18, 2018 [8 favorites]

Go to class. Maybe look into some student resources for anxiety, because dropping classes and hurting your grades because of an involuntary noise is no way to live.

You could try a sort of elimination strategy to see if there's anything you can eat/do that will reduce the gurgling. Maybe a plain low-fodmap starch just before class, or 30 minutes. If you can sit in a front corner, so most people who are going to hear are behind you, and just drop your instructors a note. And from there, just keep a straight face and power on.

It may seem shocking to some, but non-"mature" students have all kinds of issues too, it's just what happens when you have a roomful of human beings. There are many small noises that happen in classrooms that can't be entirely prevented and that's not a reason for someone to be kept out of the room.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:45 AM on October 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

Peppermint leaf in capsules helped calm my roiling stomach and the noises associated with it. Some people with IBS find it helpful, some don't. I personally found peppermint oil a little too potent but leaf was okay.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:12 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have this issue as well. It's my main IBS symptom, and I've had it for 10+ years at this point, and it when it's been bad, it's kept me from social events, looking for a better job, etc. So I understand how debilitating this can be.

Diets never worked for me. They only led to disordered eating and weight loss. I avoid super fatty foods and too much fiber (the only triggers I could pinpoint), and I still have symptoms. That's not to say trying a FODMAP diet wouldn't be beneficial. They help a lot of people. What sorta worked for me? Peppermint capsules before meals, a few cups of peppermint tea a day and gas prevention pills (alpha-galactosidase enzyme -- I get mine at Target) before meals help me manage symptoms, but they aren't a cure. I still have bad days. Charcoal capsules are also supposed to help absorb intestinal gas (they didn't help me), but they can affect medication absorption.

Have you noticed that your symptoms are better at certain times of the day? Can you take classes during times when you know you won't have as many issues? I'm sorry you have to deal with this. It's a major pain.
posted by purple24 at 11:20 AM on October 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh, good call on time of day. 90% of my symptoms happen between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., which makes meetings at work a constant nightmare. I haven't tried peppermint capsules, I'll look into that.

I know people who have good luck w/ probiotics, but they make me worse.
posted by Fish Sauce at 11:26 AM on October 18, 2018

A small cup of chamomile tea before class, perhaps? Chamomile "contains anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and carminative properties, all of which make it good for soothing the stomach. Chamomile can relieve upset stomach, stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and abdominal gas."

Other teas that may help relieve stomach ailments here.
posted by La Gata at 1:22 PM on October 18, 2018

FODMAP has been a lifesaver for me in this regard, but it takes time and patience to refine and figure out your triggers. For me, it was the artificial sweeteners that were a big culprit, especially honey and sorbitol. My stomach makes all kinds of racket when I eat those. But you could be different.

You might try peppermint herbal tea (without any black or green tea, since those are FODMAPS, just the peppermint leaves and water). It would have a soothing effect, both for your tummy and your anxiety. Licorice tea (Stash makes an excellent one), is also very good for this.
posted by backwards compatible at 1:23 PM on October 18, 2018

So, I have some IBS issues though mine don't manifest the way you describe yours. I began to suspect anxiety was a big culprit behind my problems - so, not so much anything I was eating or not eating, but just my "clenched nerves." If that sounds at all like it might be part of your problems, I can tell you that taking CBD/hemp extract a couple times a day has helped me a LOT. I linked to the brand I've been using. There's a lot of buzz out there these days about CBD and what it can or can't do, and I'm sure a lot of it is exaggerated. And I'm just an anecdote, not data. But calming stress and anxiety does seem to be one of the fairly well established things it can do - and our guts are majorly affected by our nervous system, so it does make some sense that aiding our nerves could aid our gut functions.
posted by dnash at 1:59 PM on October 18, 2018

Three thoughts:

1. One tiny tip that apparently works is that when your stomach gurgles- the intuitive thing to do is to clench your abs. But this makes your abdominal cavity smaller. Apparently if you push out your stomach, you increase the space the gas is travelling through, which decreases the force of the gurgle. Worth a try?

2. A person's gurgly stomach would not bother me. I bet most people honestly wouldn't even notice.

3. When my close friend became a manager at work she called me and said "I know now I'm the boss because I used to slink off to another floor to poop and now I do it in the washroom on our floor and I don't care who hears me fart because I'm the boss and bosses are too important not to fart." I thought it was a hilarious boss move. Maybe something to ponder.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:05 PM on October 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't have advice for managing the IBS other than messing around with diet stuff, which you're already on top of. What I do have advice about is what works for me about socially awkward stuff: I make a joke about it and let other people feel awkward if they want, or let them laugh with me about it because life and bodies are weird. If it's a situation where you can just ignore it, go for that, but if people are noticing or it helps you smooth things over, entertain yourself.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:16 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I had IBS (it went away after a couple years--weird I know), this was one of my main symptoms too. I think peppermint tincture (taken in a shot of water) did help, at least a bit. I was a teacher at the time, so no option to skip class. I think this is the stuff I took.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:31 PM on October 18, 2018

I have pretty severe IBS (just part of a list of health issues.) I swear by peppermint leaf capsules (I use Nature's Way.)
I wrote about it before. I honestly thought it would be total BS, but it works really well for me. I take 1 to 2 every time BEFORE I eat. And a really good thing to do is track your food. Cara is a really good app for food/symptom tracking. It's good to keep in mind that FODMAPs generally can cause stomach issues, BUT everyone is different. You only need to do a FODMAP or elimination diet to determine which of those foods are triggers. It's not something you need to stay 100% on forever.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:49 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

There are lots of good IBS suggestions above, but I'd also suggest reaching out to student counseling center or medical services for support for your anxiety around this issue. I promise you that no one else in your classes are paying as close attention to the sounds your body may be making as you are--it's likely that most of them don't even notice, since they're probably focused on what the teacher is saying and what they're writing down and whatever sounds their own bodies are making (or whatever else it is that they are self-conscious about). Even if they do notice, it's not a classroom disruption and you have every right to be there. You can even get a medical accommodation if necessary.
posted by karayel at 11:06 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I used to have the noisy stomach and it made me nervous which made my stomach worse. One thing that helped was I was tutoring students and a surprising number of them would have gurgly stomachs and they would be embarassed when we were one-on-one and I realized that SO MANY PEOPLE have noisy stomachs and it is not a huge deal. If possible can you wear a wrap or have a shawl draped around your torso? I find it cozy/comforting and it helps to muffle potential sounds.

I sip mint, fennel, ginger tea and that helps, I drink kombucha on the regular because it's yummy and supposedly good for digestive issues, I make sure I eat a little something like a granola bar if I'm worried I'll get hungry and have a rumbly stomach, but seriously at my work so many of us have gurgly stomachs when it's quiet and we might apologize to the person nearest us but no one else cares, really. I do avoid foods that might be triggers if I'm presenting or something, so I'll eat my boringest food and drink mint tea versus having a coffee and something greasy, for instance.
posted by lafemma at 8:48 AM on October 19, 2018

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