“Hot Girls” are busy. They’re having the summer of a lifetime, dancing alone in their bedroom, eating ice cream out of the tub, and inspecting their pubic hair. They’re going on long, contemplative walks and taking pride in eating a smorgasbord of snacks for dinner. Now, they’re struggling with stomach issues, too.
Over the past year, women on TikTok have begun embracing their gut problems: farts, aches, and number twos (or lack thereof). The hashtag #hotgirlswithIBS has accumulated over 110 million views, #IBStok 690 million, and #guttok a whopping 1 billion. You’ll find influencers populating each of these hashtags with content raising awareness of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and its sister disorders to normalize the fact that women (gasp) poop, too. Your parents and grandparents probably talked about tummy troubles in hushed tones behind closed doors. Now, young people on TikTok are being loud and proud about their gut woes, giving them a shiny new rebrand — but is the app’s influx of gassy content leading impressionable onlookers down a rabbit hole of misinformation?
Before unpacking the #hotgirlswithIBS movement, we must break down what a “Hot Girl” even is. No, it doesn’t denote a woman’s appearance — instead, the phrase refers to a young woman doing something traditionally seen as taboo or “unladylike.” The concept of a Hot Girl originated in 2020 when rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s track “Girls in the Hood” — and one particular line from the song, “I’m a hot girl, I do hot shit” — inspired a viral TikTok trend. Creators began posting videos of themselves answering a mock phone call, telling the other person on the line: “Can’t talk right now, I’m doing hot girl shit.” The clip would then cut to them doing something that one might consider totally un-hot, like shaving or eating sweets to curb period-induced cravings. For some, these videos serve as reminders that these acts needn’t be shrouded in a veil of secrecy — instead, they should be embraced as normal and relatable.
IBS affects 5 to 10 percent of adults, with the majority of those being female. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal cramps, and excessive gas. Diarrhea or constipation — or alternation between both — are also common symptoms. “IBS is a functional gut disorder,” says Niamh Walsh, a gut health coach and pharmacist. “It’s referred to as a syndrome as it’s diagnosed based on the presence of a collection of symptoms as opposed to being a result of an underlying disease like inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis. It can have a huge impact on the quality of life of sufferers.”
For reasons still unknown, women are more likely than men to have IBS. They’re also more likely to experience gender discrimination during healthcare visits, often manifesting as doctors ignoring or questioning their reports of pain and other symptoms. #HotgirlswithIBS empowers women to take matters into their own hands and gives them the space to commiserate with others. “My friends all love the ‘hot Jewish girl with stomach issues’ memes, and we send them back and forth,” says Brooke LaMantia, a 24-year-old writer. “It’s a way to find community in suffering, as dark as that sounds.” Through TikTok, LaMantia has also found helpful advice on what probiotics to take, what foods won’t upset her stomach, and more.
Lizbeth Diaz, a 32-year-old esthetician from New York, has had gut troubles since she was a kid. She was diagnosed with IBS about three years ago, and the process of receiving a diagnosis wasn’t straightforward. She was prescribed a cocktail of mood-stabilizing medications for her anxiety before finally getting a diagnosis of IBS-C, irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. “It’s the hardest type of IBS to deal with because you constantly fluctuate between diarrhea or severe constipation,” she says. “But it was a relief to finally be able to put a label on it.”
TikTok has helped Diaz accept her condition as normal. “I’m sure there are a lot of bad bitches out there with stomach problems, myself included. I just hope they get the help they need,” Diaz says. “It took me forever to actually find a doctor and get diagnosed. Whatever this trend is, I’m happy it’s here and happening now.”
The rise of #hotgirlswithIBS also encourages us to face the facts: Women poop and fart. Of course, they’ve long been conditioned to hide their fully functioning digestive systems, a phenomenon that shows like Sex and the City have poked fun at. To Walsh, “anything that helps remove the ‘poo taboo’ and get people talking about their IBS is a positive thing.”
But the internet’s newfound quest to break free from the poo taboo can have downsides. Bloating is normal, and while it can be a symptom of IBS, “beat the bloat” content seems to stem from fatphobic beauty ideals — namely, the idea that a woman’s midsection must be totally flat to be “normal” or “healthy.” We aren’t here to argue with the fact that, yes, you can be “hot” and have stomach problems. But it’s mainly thin, conventionally attractive women showing off their “bloated” tummies and promoting products that purport to help flatten them out. Are they actually chasing body ideals instead of getting to the root of their gut issues?
There’s also the fact that many TikTokers peddling gut health advice aren’t healthcare professionals. And in some cases, they’re being paid to promote products — like probiotics, vitamins, and other dietary supplements, none of which are regulated by the FDA — that purportedly alleviate symptoms of IBS. It’s not entirely surprising that TikTok’s community of young, health-conscious users are falling for misinformation and misguided product recommendations. Why spend hundreds of dollars seeing a specialist (if you even have health insurance in the first place) when you can alleviate your discomfort with fizzy fermented drinks that cost a fraction of the price?
Lulu Ge, the founder and CEO of Elix, notes that women’s healthcare is systemically underfunded and overlooked, thus the reason many are seeking over-the-counter options. While they’re often more accessible than prescriptions and other treatments, they often only provide temporary relief from symptoms — very few attend to the root cause. “They are more of a band-aid approach where once stopped, symptoms come back,” Ge says. She adds that the internet is full of quick, one-size-fits-all solutions for gut health when in reality, “the root cause behind each person’s gut issues is unique, and our health journeys should mirror that.” If a person’s symptoms are persistent, Ge thinks it’s worth visiting a doctor to identify the culprit.
As is the case with everything on the Internet, it’s best to approach health advice from social media with skepticism. “I can’t overemphasize getting your information from the right source. Knowledge is power, after all,” Walsh says. “Managing IBS needs a holistic approach, addressing not just dietary triggers but also lifestyle factors like stress management, sleep, and exercise. My advice would be buyer beware — any supplement or product making huge health claims should be approached with caution.”
At the end of the day, Diaz believes the upsides of the #hotgirlswithIBS trend outweigh its drawbacks. “The girls are letting the world know that you can be a baddie and have some sort of disability or disorder,” she says. “We all have flaws; no one is perfect. But that’s what makes us and the world beautiful.”