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The ABCs Of IBS (And Other Tummy Issues)

In the choose your characterification of modern girlhood, somewhere in between the Clean Girls and the Tomato Girls and the Pickle Girls is the humble IBS Girl.

She might be burpy or gassy, but she’s still sexy as hell. She’s probably had a traumatic experience in a Pottery Barn bathroom. She’s impossible to share apps with. And she’d prioritize her Lactaid over her birth control pills every day of the week. 

If you’re friends with an IBS girl or plan to date one, this glossary of terms pertaining to the stomach region will help you better understand her plight and engage her in topics for which she is more than eager to overshare. 

Acid Reflux (ailment) 

The harsh, burning sensation of stomach acid re-entering your throat, courtesy of the morning’s sriracha-laden shakshuka, or a direct result of a colleague you hate Slacking you on Friday at 4:54. 

Bloating (traumatic event) 

Always reaching its peak 43 minutes before you have to leave for a formal event, bloating will instantly erode your confidence and make you believe, once again, that you have nothing to wear. Your bedroom floor will be left a battle ground strewn with rejected Zara hopefuls, various cuts of shapewear, and one strapless bra you haven’t worn since 2017. 

Butterflies (ailment)

A nervous energy concentrated in your stomach, typically elicited by a text from a dude who told you you were a “solid 7” asking you “wyd?” 

Cow’s Milk (the devil himself) 

A childhood friend that turned against you in the dead of night, the destructive power of cow’s milk is not to be taken lightly. They should call it snake’s milk. 

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Cramps (ailment) 

A monthly occurrence of discomfort, created by God to sell Midol. You don’t get to sign off work, because that would be crazy and irrational, but you will probably leave your cubicle and lie down with your laptop on one of those oh so comfy vinyl office “couches.”   

Crunches (hell on Earth)

Crunches are a demonic ritual we subject ourselves to a daily basis, even though we’ve googled “will crunches make me skinny” on 12 separate occasions during 1am doom scrolls, only to read from 12 separate experts that the answer is NO — they will simply help us build invisible muscles under our kangaroo pooch that shall never see the sun. 

“For Lunch” (media) 

The iconic episode of The Magic School Bus, where the titular Magic School Bus and all its students enter nerdy Arnold’s digestive system without his consent to learn how the stomach works. They all make fun of how gross his body is, but because of inherent and unearned male confidence, Arnold is only vaguely disturbed by this information when they return. 

Ginger Ale (elixir) 

The only good thing that comes along with stomach issues is an excuse to drink Ginger Ale, which may or may not be helpful. The only other time we’re allowed to drink it is on planes, which has been universally and silently agreed upon. 

Hangxiety (ailment) 

All you did was have two innocent Moscow Mules, and you wake up the next morning convinced that you overshared at drinks with your coworkers, and now they’re all Slacking each other about how embarrassing you are. 

IBS (ailment) 

A chronic condition that may cause you to almost shit yourself on the Garden State Turnpike at 9:57PM, GTA your car into the parking lot of a Sears that’s three minutes from closing, and scream “WHERE’S THE BATHROOM??!!” at the frightened 17-year-old employee restocking rhinestoned Skechers. 

Morning Sickness (ailment)

One of the many joys of pregnancy, morning sickness will have you taking Zoom calls leaning over your toilet, while your passive aggressive manager shades you for being off camera. 

Pepto Bismol (elixir) 

Not only does Pepto Bismol treat an abundance of stomach issues, it also served as the inspiration for your future sister-in-law’s bridesmaid dresses. Lucky you!  

Spanx (flesh prison) 

Designed to help those of us who don’t work out three times a day achieve the EmRata stomach in a tight dress, Spanx makes you feel like your organs are collapsing into each other, all in the name of a decent Instagram photo or a “coincidental” run-in with your ex (just don’t go home with them, or you’ll find yourself in a Bridget Jones conundrum). 

Sunday Scaries (ailment) 

A malevolent iteration of butterflies, Sunday Scaries is a weekly reminder that PLAYTIME IS OVER, and you must return to your destiny of Excel jail and flaccid Just Salad bowls. 

Tummy Hurts / Bellyache (media) 

Bops sung by blonde heartthrobs Reneé Rapp and Billie Eilish (respectively) where they somehow harness their queer power to make canonically embarrassing words “tummy” and “belly” sound hot. 

TUMS (acts of service) 

Created in 1930 by a dude who was trying to treat his hot wife’s stomach problems, it seems like TUMS’ formula hasn’t since. You’d think nearly 100 years and 100 million chalk comparisons later, they could make “Assorted Tropical” flavors taste more like a pineapple daiquiri and less like school. 

Emma Sharpe
Emma Sharpe
Emma Sharpe is a New York based writer and marketer. She's a Kardashian apologist and finds a Survivor metaphor for every life situation. You can find more of her pop culture ramblings at unculturednews.substack.com.