An Ill Wind

It was only while I was in seminary that I discovered that most human beings are well aware of when their bowels are building up gas, and can exert considerable control about when to hold it in as well as when to let it out. I, unfortunately, only become aware of the presence of gas a couple of seconds before it breaks out. At this stage I have only one choice to make – to clench or not to clench. Clenching is just as likely to force the gas out with impressive sound effects as it is to push it in deeper. Not clenching has a good chance of allowing a ‘silent but deadly’ escape. When I sense gas coming, I have only moments to try to judge whether to clench or relax for minimum embarrassment!

I’ve often wondered if there’s any connection between poor flatus control and being autistic. I couldn’t see any obvious link until I discovered recent articles on the distinction between autism and alexithymia, notably this scientific paper which proposes that alexithymia is a general lack of awareness of one’s own body – not just the signs which indicate emotions.

Why do people speak of emotions as ‘feelings’ and associate them with our heart and our guts? There’s a growing body of evidence that for a neurotypical person, awareness of one’s own emotional state is strongly linked to interoception – the human body’s ability to be aware of its own internal states. The speed of one’s heartbeat, the filling or draining of blood from one’s cheeks, the tension in one’s chest or bowels – all of these are associated with particular emotional states, and knowing what one’s body is doing is part and parcel of knowing how one is feeling. So could the inability to know one’s own emotions be due to a particular person having a body only weakly wired for the brain to know its physical state? This would provide a clear link between a lack of awareness of gas in my bowel, and a lack of awareness of other cues which should make me aware of my own emotions.

I also consider myself to be a clumsy person. Nor can I ride a bike – my sense of balance isn’t good enough. Could these be consequences of a weakness in proprioception – the body’s knowledge of exactly how its limbs are placed?

There are other ways, too, in which I seem to have non-standard body reactions. Apparently people ‘feel good’ after strenuous exercise. But they don’t eat food just before going to bed because of the way it makes them feel. But I’ve never derived pleasure from exercise, and never noticed ill effects if I should need to eat late and then go to bed… except in recent months when eating a certain brand of chocolate digestive cookies at bedtime caused me to wake up with trapped wind in the middle of the night. Since that brand of biscuit never caused trouble before I put it down to some change in gut flora.

I simply place these thoughts on the record for future researchers.

5 thoughts on “An Ill Wind”

  1. Interesting line of thought. I can ride a bike and drive a car, but I think it took me longer than most to learn. I’m still terrible at backing up a car and am thankful I now have an excellent backup camera to assist me. I have poor hand/eye coordination, too. I think my body awareness is average, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yes, I get about 30 seconds before impact. So annoying.
    I also burp without warning; I’ll be talking, and out they come.
    Sometimes, I do both : ( Luckily my family loves me : )

    There is a proven connection between autism and ibs.
    We do best on a low fodmap, no gluten/dairy diet, and keeping stress to a minimum. Boring, but happier (and quieter) bellies.
    Might be worth investigating if you’re having lots of trouble.
    God bless

    Liked by 1 person

  3. great observations! Your blog is so helpful to me and the Clergy I work with. The other idea to look at is interception – that helps many people on the spectrum get an understanding of the dynamics of their neural responses, and from there, develop capacity. Interoception also has likely ties to eye contact, mirror neuron difficulties as an infant, and ability to read peoples moods and emotions. Here is a link you might find helpful – Her book is simple to read and also very good. Bud Craig has some solid research on interception – here is a podcast on it –

    Your blog is brilliant and it is very helpful to the numerous clergy who are on the spectrum and having difficulty see how Aspergers might be applicable to them – thank you!


  4. That’s it! I never before found that mentioned in any autism source (except Tony Attwood’s Complete Guide, of course!), and was starting to think it’s one of the things experts would tell me not typical for autism. I never knew i had a body! Not, in my late fifties, I’ve acquired a set of phrases i know doctors like to hear to describe my physical condition, but more often than not, I’m completely at sea with their questions about “how I feel.” As a teenager and young adult the way i moved and dressed made me a complete outcast at school and PE teacher’s’s despair. “How do YOU even cross the road?” one of them shouted at me.
    There was no ASD diagnosis back then and experts in my country still don’t believe you can have it and NOT be interested in railway tables, but this big post is further support for me in my life as a freelancing Aspie.😊
    Oh, and i burp a lot, involuntarily. Both ends.


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