Disclaimer: This is about physical wellness and health. Words like diarrhea, dyspepsia, and bloating are frequently used. Leave now or forever hold your peace. Enjoy!
The other day I was sitting in class as my stomach erupted with a sound straight out of Alien vs. Predator. It reminded me of just how long I’ve struggled to reduce and take control of my body. The journey began years ago.
It was 8th grade when I realized that I was regularly suffering from severe gas, bloating, and indigestion. Middle school was hard enough — what with all that acne, puberty, and transition to adulthood stuff. During that hormonal time, I also concluded something was very wrong with my stomach. I felt like an internal chemistry experiment.
Where’s the nearest bathroom?
This began a 12-year adventure to figure out what was wrong with me. My peers seemed to be fine, and didn’t struggle like I did (or at least, didn’t let me know). My search for the trouble began with a routine look at possible allergies. Milk, nuts, wheat?
That investigation was easy. One day I decided to pour a full glass of milk and drink that on an empty stomach. The results were uncomfortable, and conclusive. As someone with European heritage and a Jewish background, it was a quick conclusion of lactose intolerance. My, how mildly I’ve described the effects! If I had ice cream, milk products, or something suspiciously milky, I’d pop a Lactase pill — delivering the necessary enzyme to tackle this issue. The solution was an inexpensive box for about $15 a month.
It’s only milk, right?
My indigestion had long ruled me. I would escape to the bathroom whenever I could, and big groups became difficult when I was hurting from cramps. Having this fix felt right, and I felt freed. My troubles appeared to be over, and I was ready to move on to a less dyspeptic life of bliss.
Unfortunately, the solution didn’t stick. Over time, my stomach continued to decline. That’s when I tried a new product: Beano. The popular, over-the-counter medicine targets highly fibrous vegetables and legumes. Another experiment: I ate a bunch of broccoli and then took a pill. No dice. I was a bubbling, effervescent, gas-filled container waiting to explode. I kept buying Beano for a few months, just in case it might take some time to improve my digestive abilities. Between the Beano and Lactase, I was spending about $30 per month on dietary help.
Talk to me Google, what should I do?
Despite proactive dieting and medicines, I found no panacea and continued to struggle. If you visit Google and search for “indigestion” or “diarrhea” or “upset stomach,” you’ll get billions of results. Websites will provide conclusions such as bowel cancer, gastrointestinal blockage, allergies, gluten intolerance, and many more. Medical tip: If you’ve ever been prone to paranoia, avoid searching for medical illnesses on the Internet.
Numerous articles recommended probiotics. They seemed fairly harmless, and I decided to pick up some pills. Over the period of a month, I took acidophilus pearls. The probiotics began to help and I grew confident in my ability to digest normal foods. I wasn’t worried about my timing of foods versus group work.
Like many of my previous attempts, the positives began to disappear over time and the money seemed like a waste. I decided to stop buying them after a while, but I had probably spent a couple hundred dollars over the years. Every attempt seemed to have another financial burden.
I’m like the Goodyear blimp, without the view
That’s when I took my bloated self to a doctor for the first time. I described the symptoms, and he cautiously concluded that I may have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Like a dagger to the stomach, I was well aware of what this meant.
Studies estimate IBS affects 3 to 20 percent of the adult population, with most studies ranging from 10 to 15 percent. –NIH
IBS is a fairly common health concern. It’s essentially a catchall that includes bloating, gas, pain, discomfort, and inconsistent stools (aka, poops). Unfortunately, there’s no clear etiology or solution. While there are plenty of potential management options, consistency can be hard to find. Watch out for high fiber… Watch out for high fat… Watch out for simple sugars. Many “answers,” with few clear remedies, solutions, or permanent fixes.
The final remedy was in my attitude, head
After hundreds — possibly thousands — of dollars spent on remedies and doctors’ offices, I realized a very simple fact: my stomach sucks and the indigestion is often stress-induced. Unfortunately, I only learned this after a journey that cost me plenty.
Medical complications can add up quickly. My measly tummy trouble is no different. While I continue to struggle during particularly stressful periods and/or eating gluttonously, I know that the remedy is not a pill away. Rather, the fix is in my head, working with the stress and anxiety associated with my schedule. Also, see how mindfulness can help.