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"Hot girls have stomach problems": How social media has made gut health less taboo

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From bloating to bowel movements, people are becoming more outspoken and unapologetic about their gut health and stomach issues online.

The hashtag #GutTok has more than 983 million views on TikTok, with related hashtags like #HotGirlsHaveStomachProblems and #HotGirlStomachIssues hitting 2.3 million and 2.9 million views, respectively.

Experts say the openness about gut health is a positive shift in normalizing these conversations, raising awareness about solutions and breaking down stigma around gastrointestinal problems in the process.

"I love this trend, because for so long talking about gut health and digestive health, especially for women has been so taboo and embarrassing, and there's a lot of a lot of women with digestive issues," says Kristie Leigh, a registered dietician and director of health and scientific affairs at Danone North America. "To have women talking about gas and bloating and abdominal discomfort, constipation, diarrhea with such comfort and openness really helps everybody come along on this gut health journey, even if they don't have digestive issues. Just democratizing it really opens the dialogue for everyone to start sharing with each other and helping find solutions, hopefully, if they're suffering from their own digestive issues."

Leigh says she's seen this shift not only on TikTok but in more traditional media too. She recalls TV shows like "Sex and the City" having plot lines revolve around the embarrassment of passing gas in front of a partner, whereas now, she sees her daughter's shows talking openly about digestive symptoms like farting and bloating. 

"It's just the progression of culture — we're more body-positive, we are more authentic, and if you have digestive issues, it really can affect your everyday, so being able to authentically talk about things that are really affecting you is an important part of connecting."

Sunny Jain, founder and chief executive officer of gut health supplement company Sun Genomics, says we may be seeing this shift now because of the recent acceleration of scientific literature that points to gut health as more than just a wellness buzzword.

When his company first launched in 2016, he admits their products fell into the "unmentionable" category of people's shopping lists — but now, they've become "quite routine, in the same way we all have to pick up toilet paper," he says. 

Though women tend to dominate the social media hashtags surrounding gut health, Jain says his consumer base showing interest in gut health is across the board, not specific to one demographic. 

"It's not about gender. It's about the right microbiota, the organisms that are living inside of the intestinal tract — they don't have a preference," he says.

And while heightened awareness is a great step forward, Jain hopes interest and newfound understanding of the importance of gut health will inspire even more research into the connection our gut has to the rest of our body and health.

"We wholeheartedly believe that we need to drive more awareness of the importance of the microbiome for understanding your overall health and wellness," he says.

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