A Personal Journey In Listening To My Body
A lot of us choose to ignore our body’s little alerts, signs, and warnings, and I have a confession… I haven’t been listening for about a couple years. And now? Now, my body is protesting loud and clear to my misguided lifestyle choices.
A little backstory:
When I was 20 years old living in Cincinnati, I became quite ill. I had pains in my stomach. I had heartburn, belching, nausea, and vomiting. I couldn’t eat very much. What little I did eat took a lot of effort to keep down. This went on for a couple weeks or so while consuming Alka-Seltzer and I’m sure but can’t quite remember, various other antacids and the like. Eventually, I broke down crying from pain that my BFF and another roommate drove me to the emergency room.
I’m pretty sure my ailment reared its ugly head after a couple slight alcohol binges. One fond memory involved poor booze choices… Jägermeister, Goldschläger, and banana liqueur.
Retrospect: Who the hell thought banana liqueur was a good idea!? Oh yeah, we were young 20-something girls having the time of our lives. Banana liqueur totally makes sense.
Sage Advice: Banana liqueur is of the devil. Don’t ever consume it. Why would you even want to??
Now, this was about 19 years ago. Oh, imagine the things I could teach the children of this world.
(Yeah, if you can do math, you’ll figure out my age. I’m trying to take pride in the fact that I’m approaching 40. I’ll let you know how that goes.)
I remember the hospital being dark and unpleasant as most were back then. I’m sure it smelled like a hospital… sickness, death, and ammonia. Every room had either no windows or very small windows and god-awful fluorescent lighting. I would like to say the lights were flickering, but maybe I’ve just watched too many horror flicks. Let’s just go with that though. It makes this story more interesting.
After sitting amongst other moaning patients for a while, I had to divulge my life details and insurance information to an administrator. It was actually a bit of an embarrassing moment for me as I was on my mother’s insurance which happened to be Medicaid. I remember being thankful that my friends weren’t in the room with me as I much preferred admitting to a complete stranger my family circumstances of coming from an impoverished home life.
I was then tortured.
Oh, wait… not a horror movie.
I laid on a hospital bed with nothing on but a hospital gown in yet another dark and soulless room. Seeing as I was malnourished going on about two weeks, there wasn’t much left in me that could be expelled with ease. A catheter was put in to get a urine sample, and yep… they got right up in there to get a stool sample. And yes, it’s as pleasant as you can imagine. They may have taken blood.. I actually don’t remember. I was in pain. I didn’t care what they had to do to give me comfort. Much pressing of hands were to be had on my sensitive, pained stomach… totally not healing whatsoever. What kind of guru is this guy!?
Oh, yeah. Some medical resident, no doubt.
I was sent home with some Zantac and some dietary guidelines of bland food. Yummy.
After several weeks, I felt better and of course, my 20-something dumb girl brain didn’t give it much thought. I continued to pop antacids whenever needed for the next decade.
In my early 30s, symptoms of all sorts began to arise… digestive disturbances, hives, daggers in my throat, peripheral neuropathy, headaches, and just all over fatigue/brain fog.
I went to the doctor for the numbness/tingling in my foot/calf because yeah… that’s not normal. Nope, I’m not a diabetic. All other blood work came back normal. EMG and NCS were normal.
Take your Vitamin B complex. It’s good for healthy nerve function.
So, I did. I also got into yoga. I also got into this Internet thing. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not… it’s pretty damn informative. I began researching and found out I’m pretty good at digging around for information for a long time and deciphering medical studies.
In a nutshell, I discovered that because I was lowering my stomach acid to almost nonexistent levels for a decade, my body wasn’t able to extract a lot of vitamins and minerals from my diet.
Oh… oh yeah, that’s probably not good. I then learned so much about nutrition that my mother kept telling me to become a nutritionist. Yeah, the girl who likes to eat cupcakes and ice cream until she almost barfs… she should totally tell other people how to eat healthy!
I learned all sorts of things… the role of each vitamin and mineral in the body, the role of the pancreas and digestive enzymes, the importance of gut bacteria and balance. I eventually ditched all over the counter medicine… acid reducers, ibuprofen, all of it. I ordered plant-based digestive enzymes and probiotics online. This was before they got all mainstream. You can find this stuff in stores now!
When I felt really, really sick, I actually refrained from dairy, gluten, and sugar for about 3 weeks. After the first week of withdrawal, headaches, and cravings, those other two weeks were the best I’ve ever felt. My head was clearer. My sullen, acne-prone complexion hadn’t looked so good since before puberty. I had SO much energy.
After that, I became healthier. I experimented with foods and supplements. I had setbacks. I had enlightenment. I became aware of how my body reacted to certain foods and alcohol.
But back to a decade later, I’m feeling like shit again. I’m having random aches and pains, digestive issues, gastritis or ulcer re-occurrences, overactive bladder, UTIs, and a host of just other little annoyances.
Currently, I’m yearning for those two weeks of health and energy. My body is yearning for those two weeks because lately, I’ve been popping those digestive enzymes like candy.
My husband finally got into beer about a couple years ago. Yep, I blame him.
I blame my lack of willpower… making bad food choices, popping pain relievers again when I used to tough it out, and yes, drinking way, way more beer. Damn you, craft brewers.
But, if you’re prone to ulcers and have a family history of stomach ailments and digestive issues as I do, you can’t live like this. My grandmother has had undiagnosed digestive issues her entire life. My father and at least one of my sisters also has a history of ulcers.
So, it all goes back to you are what you eat. You are what you consume. You are what you put into your body.
And as delicious as it may be sometimes to sit down with a pizza and beer, I don’t want to be sick. Or dead at 40.
I want to be healthy. I want to live a long life not cut short because I drank too much or ate too much shitty food. I don’t want to be 40 and popping a slew of pills to combat this symptom and that symptom because I can’t change my unhealthy habits.
It’s hard though, isn’t it? And believe me, peer pressure never goes away. It’s difficult when you share with your family and friends your healthy lifestyle goals and they think you’re just a hypochondriac or that you’re jumping in on the latest health fad that they believe is the gluten-free bandwagon. Am I gluten intolerant? I don’t know. I have a feeling that I’m at least sensitive to it. I definitely feel better without wheat and other gluten grains in my diet. And there’s really so much we still don’t know about wheat proteins and the rise in celiac disease and allergies.
I think the big thing is that I’m living an unhealthy life, and I have a sensitive stomach mostly likely thanks to genetics and being born prematurely. My increase of beer consumption and occasional unhealthy food binges are not helping matters either. Also, STRESS. I hold it in my stomach.
So, what’s a food-loving’, beer guzzling, sweets-cravin’ girl to do? Well, good news… it’s not too late to reverse the damage of unhealthy habits especially when it comes to heart health. Thankfully, beer sounds awful to me right now… going back to that whole ‘listen to your body’ thing. Fruits, vegetables, and whole foods sound amazing.
Short-term goal: take a break from everything that is too harsh on my system such as excess alcohol, wheat, and sugar.
Long-term goal: drastically lessen the unhealthy food/booze choices and learn to say no in the face of opposition.
As far as I know, I only have this one life, and I need to take responsibility and ownership of what I’m doing to my body.
Thanks for letting me share my journey.
*Images taken at the West Point Light