Embarrassing Noises with IBD
I think a lot of people who suffer from a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can attest to the fact that sometimes our stomachs make very odd noises. It is natural and I know even “healthy” people’s stomachs rumble or make embarrassing noises too but… do you ever feel like it has been more frequent since your diagnosis?
I sure do.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t impact me and my ability to enjoy food (or drinks in some ways) around other people. It definitely does. If I am out somewhere, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure I get the most out of it, can focus, and enjoy the company I am with. For me personally, that usually means not eating or drinking anything but water.
It causes me a lot of mental anguish because on one hand, I want to nourish my body but on the other, I don’t want to lose focus or deal with anything “extra” simply from the act of ingesting food. It is such a difficult balance and I know the way I go about handling it isn’t a healthy way to be but it is my way for now, at least.
I remember when I started feeling comfortable enough to eat around my boyfriend (the only other person I have been able to really eat around other than my parents) and my stomach was just going crazy with weird noises. I also have an ostomy so it sounds like I am constantly passing gas. It happens so randomly also. Eventually, we began laughing about it (and still do) but the first few times I remember him telling me that he finally understood why I wouldn’t eat anything but maybe broth if we went out to dinner with other people. He told me he finally understood the reason why I would wait to eat until I got back into the hotel room and could order room service alone.
Even when I am with other IBDers, dining out is usually always on the schedule. Of course, everyone there (including those who did not suffer from Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis) was very understanding and I rationally know wouldn’t care if my stomach started making weird noises.
I do, though, and it makes eating with others so unenjoyable! I both hate it but also know it comes with the territory in my life and has been something I have learned to accept. Not like at all, but accept it.
One of my best friends suffers from Crohn’s Disease and before we got close, she would mention how much noise her stomach made and how embarrassing it was. Then, I remember being around her and saw what she was referring to. It was odd because I could tell it really bothered her – even though it was just the two of us. And I don’t blame her because I felt the exact same way. It is also difficult around new people. Just because someone suffers from IBD, doesn’t mean their symptoms are the same, and it doesn’t mean they understand everything you go through with your unique disease. It also doesn’t mean they will be sensitive. They might cope with their disease with humor and think that making a joke lightens the mood. Meanwhile, that very joke, while well intentioned, could cause a lot of self esteem issues.
Eventually, my friend and I understood that both of our stomachs make strange noises and we got over it for the most part while we were together. Meaning, I was able to accept that from time to time, my stomach will make noises I can’t control and I think she realized I couldn’t care less about hers and she didn’t need to be as self conscious.
It is tough though!
The running joke with my boyfriend and I whenever my stomach makes weird noises is
“Well, I STILL don’t have a sphincter!”
Given that I have a permanent ostomy, I no longer have a rectum or anus. When you have an ileostomy, you cannot control when stool comes out and you cannot control when gas does either. The sphincter is what “normal” people have that allows them to keep stool inside of their large intestines until they are able to relieve themselves. For people like myself, and others who have had similar surgeries, this can not only cause unwanted noises but also stool to come out unexpectedly.
Those of us who suffer from Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis have a lot to contend with. The whole noise factor is just one of a zillion. I did want to talk about it because if you are someone who struggles with the noises your stomach makes (regardless of whether it is due to a surgical procedure or just the disease itself) I want you to know that you are so far from alone! I have found a way to muffle the sound my ostomy makes sometimes by pushing my hands on it but other than that, our bodies will act the way they want. Our intestines are different and, as I said in the beginning of this article, even people with perfectly normal insides have stomach noises. Sure, it may not be after ingesting anything or as frequent but it still occurs.
One important thing to remember
is that most of the time people are focused on themselves and aren’t paying much attention to your noises. Sure, they can be very noticeable. I remember the one time I decided to actually eat with my boyfriend’s family and my ostomy made such a loud “farting noise” that even his almost deaf grandfather popped his head up! That is when I knew I needed to step away from the table 🙂
Feel the situation out and share as much as you are comfortable with the people in your life. There is no pressure on you and no time frame so please never feel that (although I know it is an internal thing that often cannot be controlled). It takes a while to adjust and this is another part of accepting our new bodies and our new normal.
Just know that you are okay and your body is just doing what it needs to.