The Very Real Issue Behind The Rise Of Sore Tummy Jokes

It's my body and I'll joke if I want to.

In the year 2023, those of us with chronic abdominal issues have decided to stop hiding our issues and instead, we’ve wrapped them up in jokes as something of a coping mechanism with lines such as “my tummy hurts but I’m being really brave about it” becoming so popular that they’re printed onto t-shirts and sweaters.

However, recently there’s been a little pushback with people suggesting this language is somewhat “infantilising” or downplaying the difficulty that chronic stomach issues can cause which, to be honest, I don’t agree with.

For myself, I have several chronic conditions which cause abdominal pain and if I didn’t joke about them from time to time (okay, literally every day), I’d struggle to cope.

So, why are these jokes being made?

It’s worthwhile considering that jokes really are a coping mechanism and while these jokes are made by all genders, women seem to be the targets of backlash which is interesting when you consider that sore and swollen stomachs are common symptoms of woefully under-researched and undertreated female health conditions.

Take for example, endometriosis...

On average, it takes around eight years to be diagnosed with endometriosis, according to Endometriosis UK. Endometriosis symptoms include but are definitely not limited to pain in the lower stomach, pain when going to the toilet, pain in the abdomen during sex and debilitating period pain.

Then there’s Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)...

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70% of affected people remain undiagnosed with PCOS worldwide.

People with PCOS often report similar symptoms to those with IBS including bloated feelings, constipation and/or diarrhoea and stomach and pelvic pains. As with endometriosis, there is no cure for PCOS, only condition management and even that can obviously only be done once the condition has been diagnosed.

Even IBS is worse for women...

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) causes a collection of symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, stomach and pelvic pains. While IBS can impact anybody, studies have found that women tend to report more severe, more frequent, and longer lasting IBS pain than men.

It’s my body and I’ll joke if I want to

Not everybody will want to joke about their own difficulties and that’s more than understandable but in a time when chronic health issues aren’t being treated, the NHS is over-stretched and under-funded, joking about our pain might be exactly what some of us need.

Plus, scientists have found that even patients in palliative care find that humour plays a vital role in their treatment.