I fell in love with Sweetie McFartsalot
June 11, 2008 1:38 PM   Subscribe

The SO and I are shacking up. We have a very good relationship and we love each other. However, there is a problem in the bedroom. No, not that kind of problem. See, my girlfriend has really bad, eye-watering, stomach-turning gas.

Yes, she's seen a doctor. Not because of the gas, but because she has stomach problems in general. She's been diagnosed with IBS which, as I understand it, means they don't really know what the problem is or how to treat it. Meanwhile, the gas continues. There are times at night when it wakes me up. Seriously, it's really bad, and it's beginning to affect my quality of sleep.

My question is in two parts:

1) How do I bring this up in a sensitive way? I'd like to explain that yes, I notice, and yes, it's kind of gross. My hope is that we can come up with some sort of work-around. (Like, if she's having a bad night with her stomach, make more trips to the bathroom instead of farting into the sheets? Or, maybe she can pay attention to trigger foods, and we can go from there? I don't know. Something like that.) Tips, please, on how to approach and initiate the conversation.

2) Does anyone have any experience with remedies for gas that I could suggest to her? Suggestions for over-the-counter or natural remedies are welcome, as are prescription drugs. She has an internist, and currently takes something for abdominal cramping, so if there's an Rx that's effective, maybe it's one we could check out.

Answers I am NOT looking for:

a) Suck it up.
b) Deal with it.
c) Love is...

I know relationships are full of compromise, and I've lived with partners before. I also know that farting is a natural function of the human body. I'm not judging her for smelly farts any more than I'd judge her for having bowlegs. I sincerely feel bad for any sort of discomfort she feels, and I'd like to help her. I'd also like to fall asleep without worrying if I'm going to wake up feeling like I'm being gassed by a cruel, cruel dictator.

In summary, this isn't a "Should I" question, it's a "How do I" question. Many thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If it's something she's already sought medical treatment for, and you bring it up in a "how do we fix this" sort of way, you're going to come off as a dick.
posted by Oktober at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2008 [4 favorites]

I have two suggestions for you, get a nice air purifier for the bedroom and clean it often, and get a dog and blame the farts on it.
posted by BobbyDigital at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I strongly recommend activated charcoal.

NOT the absurd "homeopathic" kind, but the "has a large surface area and adsorbs noxious molecules in stomach/bowel effluvia the same way it's used in industrial gas scrubbers" kind.
posted by lalochezia at 1:55 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Would it help to keep a few lit candles on the nightstand?

Maybe once or twice you can wake her up and ask her if she's having stomach problems. If she asks why you're asking, bring up the smell and that you're concerned. This could open the door to a conversation about what, if anything, can be done. Step 3: Profit.
posted by ignignokt at 2:01 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

ignignokt has it.

In the meantime, put a fan on your nightstand. Keep it on all night.

This subject will be uncomfortable for both of you no matter how you approach it. Keep that in mind when broaching the subject.
posted by alpha_betty at 2:06 PM on June 11, 2008

She's been diagnosed with IBS which, as I understand it, means they don't really know what the problem is or how to treat it.

You'd rather complain about your girlfriend's gas rather than spend five minutes and try to figure out what IBS is? Holly crap. If you want to be able to discuss this with your girlfriend, lose the Im-the-victim or I'm-a-martyr routine and edcuation yourself. IBS can be treated through a change in diet. One smart thing would be to get your girlfriend to a nutrionist to discuss how diet affects IBS and how changing what you eat can help with the stomach pains/gas/other symptons that are associated with IBS.

Now, maybe she doesn't want to do that. Maybe she's scared of doctors. Anyways, you can be proactive about the situation and start learning about diet and take charge when it comes to dinners. Start cooking meals that only consist of certain foods that help alleviate some of the symptons of IBS. Start experimenting and have fun in the kitchen. You want her to pay attention to trigger foods? Why don't you pay attention to them too? And that is how you approach the situation. You come to the table with a plan to work with her, to help her, and to support her through this difficult time. And, believe me, she knows she farts, she knows it smells, she just probably thinks that, by now, you don't mind it or are williing to accept it. Since it sounds like your tune has changed, be proactive about it, understanding, supportative, and honest about it.

And get that air purifier. And the dog. And read this.
posted by Stynxno at 2:07 PM on June 11, 2008 [6 favorites]

Does anyone have any experience with remedies for gas that I could suggest to her? Suggestions for over-the-counter or natural remedies are welcome, as are prescription drugs. She has an internist, and currently takes something for abdominal cramping, so if there's an Rx that's effective, maybe it's one we could check out.

I have IBS. I also have been symptom free for two years by taking three tablespoons of psyllium fiber daily. I was more concerned about the more tangible issues, but a side effect is that I went from being a prolific farter to almost nothing.

Everyone has different chemistry, obviously. But I think this is well worth a try because the results I saw in my IBS are dramatic.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:09 PM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

"Honey, on the days we are having bad gas can we both agree that we'll make an effort to go to bathroom to pass the gas?" "I don't want you to think that you can't fart in front of me, and sometimes I'll slip up too, but can we try to head to the bathroom on especially bad days?"

I would come out and tell her in the nicest, and perhaps jokey, way possible that her gas is nauseatingly putrid. How can she be offended? I guess she could, but come on. A lot of couples joke and talk about this and I think it doesn't have to be taken so seriously.

If she is passing gas in her sleep and making an effort to find some privacy for other gas passing you really can't say anything.
posted by LoriFLA at 2:10 PM on June 11, 2008

For this kind of thing, you really have to take your medical treatment into your own hands, and not just wait for a doctor to tell you what to do.
First off, try adjusting the diet. Could it be dairy? Or wheat? Try to locate a dietary cause/factor.
Second, maybe there's a specialist she could see. Not sure what kind of doctor she saw, but i recommend doing research to see if there's a doctor that specialized in her particular problems. (probably not farts in particular, but you know what i mean).
Third, the internet is your friend. Research, research research. Maybe there's a yahoo group abotu this, or a site that is just for people that have this problem. Read what other people did and how it worked for them.
Finally, this may be the kind of thing where eastern medicine could help. Western mediciine may not be so good at targeting symptoms like this, but of course people have been dealing with this kind of thing for thousands of years, and possible eastern medicine, be it accupuncture or an herbalist, or whatever, may have some ideas.
posted by alkupe at 2:29 PM on June 11, 2008

This is a job for Beano! (Surprisingly, it really does work for legume-induced flatulence.)
posted by Class Goat at 2:36 PM on June 11, 2008

I'm with LoriFLA as far as asking her to contain her "activity" during waking hours. I think it's reasonable to ask her for some accommodation and understanding of the unpleasantness you're experiencing. (Some might call us prudish, but Mr. D and I leave our digestive issues to ourselves. No sharing the bathroom while the other person is peeing, no discussion of bowel movements, and outside or the bathroom for breaking wind.)

During sleeping hours, one of you needs to leave the room on the bad nights. That's your chance to be the nice, understanding partner. Sofa city, sweetheart.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:37 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing Mayor Curley and Stynxno. I'm the stinky one in my relationship, and getting 100% of my dietary fiber on a regular basis has definitely made things a lot better. FWIW, I don't have IBS.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:58 PM on June 11, 2008

"Honey, on the days we are having bad gas can we both agree that we'll make an effort to go to bathroom to pass the gas?" "I don't want you to think that you can't fart in front of me, and sometimes I'll slip up too, but can we try to head to the bathroom on especially bad days?"

I'm really inclined to disagree with this approach, simply because it's a bit condescending. Come on, your girlfriend's not a five year old. She knows she farts a lot, and since you haven't mentioned your own severe flatulence problems, I have to assume you don't have such a problem, in which case using the ol' majestic plural is weird and off-putting. You don't need to talk to her like you're her daddy in order to make your point.

You said it's waking you up out of a sound sleep, so let's assume your girlfriend is also asleep. It's a little unreasonable to expect that she's going to wake up before she releases anal napalm -- how often do you yourself blow ass in your sleep? Probably fairly often, I'd guess. Other people upthread have suggested fans or air purifiers for the bedroom, I'll nth those suggestions. Smelly candles, not so much. There's only one thing worse than the smell of rank farts, and that's rank farts mixed with a cloying coconut-rain scent.

Believe me, if she's even aware at all that she's sleep-farting, then she knows it's kind of gross. I wouldn't necessarily bring that up when you talk to her. What I would do is start by asking her if she's aware that she's farting in her sleep, and go from there. Talk with her about the kinds of things she eats, help her to figure out what things to avoid. Lactose intolerance sometimes goes along with IBS -- if she's a big-time dairy eater, look into OTC products that help with that.

One thing you could do to help is arm yourself with information. IBS is far more nuanced than "Oh, they don't know what's wrong with her." Google it up. Hit the library for a copy of "What To Eat If You Have IBS". Check out online IBS support groups, as someone else suggested. There's a wealth of info out there.
posted by palomar at 3:17 PM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Regardless of how you broach the subject, do it before you move in together. That way, there is an implicit threat that if she doesn't work with you to solve the problem, you may not actually make the move. Feel free to bury this implication under as much indirection as you like; it will still be there, and you should use it.

If she doesn't seem motivated to do anything, then you need to step that up a notch, to the effect of "This issue really concerns me, and I think we need to figure something out before we make the move." This will tie the two together in her mind a bit more clearly.

This may seem mean, etc., but it's important to recognize that if she was going to solve the problem without prompting from you, she would have done so before now. To move in with her without insisting (one way or another) that the problem be solved, is to implicitly agree that you are willing to deal with the problem even if it never gets solved. If that is not the case, and you don't act now, then that means that you are going to have to force the issue weeks, months, or years down the road. And then, she will be able to shrug it off and (implicitly) dare you to leave her if it matters that much.

And that problem will be much harder to solve than this one.
posted by bingo at 3:45 PM on June 11, 2008

I'm going to roll with you being the kind, but slightly-misguided partner on this one, although I agree with what Stynxno wrote, 100%.

Education. Education. Education.

I, too, have IBS.

While it will be something I live with for the rest of my life, I am able to control the worst bits of it, at this point, almost completely through my diet. Sometimes curve balls get thrown and I have to take a step back (stress is the worst worst worst thing and can throw me for a loop. Read: stinky farts; upset stomach; major portions of time spent in the bathroom.)

Help for IBS has a couple of fantastic resources for potential trigger foods but my favorite is the 'Patient Handout' PDF in the middle of this page.

I'm not affiliated with this site (there is lots of self-promotion there by the owner- ugh), at all, but have found SOME of the information there to be extremely helpful as I was digging myself out of trouble with this issue.

A major bone of contention with the site is that the dietary recommendations, in large part, are for people who live with IBS-D (diarrhea) and not for people who live with IBS-C (constipation).

For instance, eating only white bread, rice, no lettuce, etc for someone with D is ok. If you have IBS-C, it ain't gonna help.

To start tho - cut out all dairy... cut out soda... cut out caffeine... work on fiber!

It's not so much about 'controlling' the farts, as noxious as they can be (hair curling, eh?)... but more about controlling what's going into the body to help eliminate the farts.

memail if you must.
posted by Incognita at 3:48 PM on June 11, 2008

Is it possible she doesn't even know you've noticed her putrid gas?

It seems to me that women commonly "hold it in" when they are around other people, particularly SO's. Perhaps she thinks she's keeping it hidden from you, and unbeknownst to her it devilishly sneaks out in her sleep when her sphincter has one eye its only eye shut.

Maybe a simple "whew! something smells" would do the trick.
posted by jckll at 3:51 PM on June 11, 2008

Might a pair of UnderEase help?
posted by hjo3 at 3:55 PM on June 11, 2008

This is going to sound extremely odd, but my wife has IBS and the only thing she's found that really works, besides hypervigilant nutrition, is two macaroons a day. Her doctor has no idea why it seems to help, but it definitely does the trick for her.
posted by pdb at 4:09 PM on June 11, 2008

1- Major Curley has it- I try to eat the psillium fiber with every meal. And it helps with all manner of bowel issues. For me.

2- If you are living with your SO, then you ought to be able to delicately broach the topic. Even if you don't directly say "your farts are killing me", something about stale air and getting a purifier to freshen the room has to be acceptable.

3- DO NOT LEAVE CANDLES LIT WHEN YOU ARE SLEEPING! Every lit candle is a tragedy waiting to happen. Huge fire hazard.
posted by gjc at 4:49 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

My wife's snoring was really, really bad. I-sleep-curled-up-in-a-hardwood-chair-sometimes bad. And it was scary sometimes, too. I'd even mention it to her on occasion, but she never took it seriously, and when I tried to play her a video I'd made of it, she got annoyed and said I was trying to embarrass her.

Then I mentioned all this in response to another AskMe, and two folks on MeFi mailed me to suggest that it might be sleep apnea. I confronted her with these emails and reiterated how bad it was and how scary it was (as it often sounded like she stopped breathing) and so she agreed to get tested.

Keep in mind she'd seen a doctor about her snoring in years past, but they'd never been able to do anything about it.

End result: this time they diagnosed really bad sleep apnea, she has been on a CPAP machine with one mask type (with limited success) for a few weeks, and now after a few days with a new mask type, is completely snore-free and (her words) "am getting the best night's sleep in my entire life."

So be honest with her, but be sensitive in the way a person should be sensitive when an illness may be involved, and be supportive and helpful. Good luck.
posted by davejay at 5:52 PM on June 11, 2008

I have the exact same problem, without the IBS. Just horrible, wake from a dead sleep, enough to make me sleep on the couch farts from my boyfriend. The only thing that has worked for us is having an oscillating fan blowing over the bed as it quickly blows the smell away. Other than that...it does suck, believe me, I know, but you will survive. And I thank you for introducing "Sweetie McFartsalot" to my vocab, I was just going with Stinks.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 10:17 PM on June 11, 2008

I realized I was lactose intolerant. Dairy, esp., cheese, produces nasty farts. I now avoid dairy, and when I do have any, I take lactaid, an enzyme pill. It's an easy thing to try, no side effects. Otherwise, smoke-eating air scrubber & fan.
posted by theora55 at 5:59 AM on June 12, 2008

I had this problem and I found that it was inulin, which is a chicory root fiber in an increasing amount of products. It's a fiber that is sweet and supposed to help with beneficial intestinal bacteria. However, for me it gives me horrible, horrible gas. I was eating a Luna bar every day, and that is what was doing it. It's also in bread, yogurt and a lot of baked goods. In addition to the bad gas it was giving me cramps and other symptoms. So if she's been eating stuff with inulin in it, cutting that out may help.
posted by Melsky at 6:01 AM on June 12, 2008

Wheat grass juice. Start with very diluted juice. Dilute with water.

Work up to an ounce or two a day of pure juice.

Look into it on the net.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:57 AM on June 12, 2008

IANYGF - I had a girlfriend who couldn't deal with my snoring and had no problem waking me up. It opened a dialog.
posted by plinth at 7:06 AM on June 12, 2008

these are like hjo3's suggestion of underease, but without the awful plastic underwear. Now you just have to figure out how to tactfully present them to her.
posted by buka at 9:31 AM on June 12, 2008

My partner ground his teeth. I ignored it until it woke me up. Then I woke him up and said, matter-of-factly, "You're grinding your teeth. I can't sleep." He then decided what to do about it (move, ignore me, etc.). I did what I needed to do to go back to sleep (usually grump around for a while and then come back to bed). He was then aware that it bothered me, and exactly how often it bothered me. After a while, he went to the dentist and got a bite guard, because he didn't want to bother me OR be awakened in the middle of the night.

There's always sleeping in different beds. We're currently doing that because I have an awful cough. He tucks me in, we talk, he says goodnight, then we go our separate ways.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:45 AM on June 12, 2008

I'd start doing your research and find out who is the foremost IBS expert in your area, or if you are remotely located anywhere and try to find some way to get her an appointment with them. This sort of thing is a bitch, but it also can be life altering for someone with a serious (or extremely bothersome) health problem. There is undoubtedly a cure or a near cure for your gf's IBS. It doesn't sound like she's exhausted all her medical avenues at all, get on it, you are now her IBS ombudsman.
posted by whoaali at 3:24 PM on June 13, 2008

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