How Embarrassing Do Your IBS Symptoms Get?
IBS is not only painful, but can also be very embarrassing.
I am sure that most of you have experienced your gut making really loud embarrassing noises at the wrong time and in the wrong places.
It happened many times to me too, but I vividly recall a specific episode, during a work meeting, in a room full of people. I should have been able to avoid the humiliation by excusing myself and leave the room, as soon as my stomach started bloating quite drastically. Instead, I decided to stay and hope for the best.
When waiting is not the best strategy.
Unfortunately, the best didn’t happen and within a few minutes I endured the first round of bowel noises, which sounded like a loud gurgle, and eventually after a couple of minutes a high-pitched noise similar to a deflating balloon. At this point, I could feel my face becoming very red and hot flushes rushing thorough my body. Wishing that the people in the room had not heard them as loud as I did, I looked down pretending to be very absorbed with my meeting notes.
I hoped that maybe they thought those weird sounds were due to my stomach making hunger noises, but within me I knew very well that a rumbling stomach sounds rather different than a hyperactive bowel, which is growling because it is full of gas, moving around the intestines.
Gas that wanted to be released and that was trying to push its way out, and me not knowing what to do next, wishing to be swallowed by a giant black hole or sucked up in space by aliens. Anything that could have removed me from that room, would have been fine. In that occasion I was so lucky that the meeting finished soon afterwards and I was able to make my way to the toilets before anyone else.
Work toilets, public toilets, yes that’s another worry for us.
I’m thinking about all the times that I had to rush to the toilets at work or in other public places, only to find them occupied and having to wait in the queue for my turn and knowing that even when my time comes to use the cubicle, others can still hear and…smell what’s going on.
Although my close family and friends understand my digestive condition, I am a fairly reserved person and initially I was trying to keep that aspect of my life private (that, of course, was well before I started announcing it to the world in my blog, podcast and these articles, nowadays I don’t worry as much).
As I was embarrassed to let colleagues know about my bowel issues, I learned a few tricks, to minimize the embarrassment of having to use work toilets, when having an IBS attack.
Toilet Training For IBS Sufferers
My main strategy is flushing the toilet, while having a bowel movement; this serves two purposes, first to mitigate the smell and second, but equally important, to cover up the bowel noises.
I try to carry with me a small fragrance atomizer that I can spray in the air, inside the toilet, to further disguise the smell. I spray it while the toilet bowl is filling up, so that the spray noise is also masked.
If I can, I’ll try to wait a couple of minutes longer inside the toilet, until everybody has left.
Thankfully, these days things between me and my IBS are not as bad as they used to be, as I was able to prevent a lot of my symptoms by changing my lifestyle and modifying my diet, but I can’t deny that suffering from IBS has surely impacted my life, especially my work life in the office.
Being able to work from home on and off, for the past few years, has really helped, but if I had to go back to an office full time, I think I would make sure to eat safe food that doesn’t make me bloat and go for a walk after eating, at least before attending a meeting.
What was your most embarrassing IBS moment? Feel free to share in the comment section.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?