Today I wanted to share a personal experience I had and something I am going through. I’m sharing it because the experience gave me some insights. I hope that through my sharing, you’ll be able to look at your own health or other personal challenges and find your own insights as well.
I had to go to the ER the other day because I’ve had some GI issues I was unable to manage at home. My intestines just weren’t working properly and I was in a lot of pain. My abdomen was extremely bloated, intestines were spasming and I couldn’t eat more than a few crackers or some sips of liquids at a time for a whole week. In addition to that, I had nausea with retching and an extreme feeling of weakness and fatigue. I just couldn’t figure it out because I’d been watching my calories and eating healthy. I had headaches and back pain and really just felt miserable.
I called my doctor to get in but upon hearing my symptoms they sent me to the ER for symptoms of a possible partial bowel obstruction. I was really worried.
After a CT scan and some labs the doctor came back to tell me that my bowels were not obstructed and the symptoms I was having sounded like a gluten intolerance. Thinking I was doing something right, I was having saltine crackers, toast, etc. Despite not eating much, I was exacerbating the problem by eating the wrong foods.
I’ve always had sluggish bowels since I was a kid. I have tended to get a lot of bloating and nausea too. For a while I tried cutting back on sugar and gluten but never completely eliminated either of them so never really saw any favorable results. I was a vegetarian for over ten years but my health didn’t seem to improve by eating a lot of fruits and vegetables either. My gut has never been right. It’s been extremely difficult to lose weight too which I chalked up to getting older.
I had previously looked into gluten sensitivity and suspected I probably had some sensitivity to gluten but never took it seriously because I also read that “gluten sensitivity” became a health trend that seemed to have swept the nation. It almost seemed like a trend and I didn’t want to just jump on the bandwagon. So, I just tried to eat a balanced diet and dealt with any adverse reactions I had as they came…until I couldn’t anymore.
As a side note, it is very tricky to know what one is sensitive to because symptoms may come many hours later. You may think it’s the last thing you ate but could be something you ate that morning or even the day before.
I have never been tested for gluten sensitivity or intolerance (a gluten sensitivity can lead to complete gluten intolerance by the way) or even been to a GI doctor. I honestly just thought I had a “sensitive stomach” or finicky GI system. How wrong I was.
Once I got home from the ER I delved into reading about Celiac Disease. My symptoms do point to gluten intolerance. What I didn’t know is that permanent damage can be done to one’s intestines as the physical characteristics actually change. The villi in our intestines, which are a bunch of tiny moving finger-like projections that help our bodies absorb nutrients and move food along, become flattened so don’t work properly. That leads to trouble with proper absorption of essential nutrients. Long term affects of celiac disease are trouble sleeping and constant fatigue, constipation and/or diarrhea, painful bloating, nausea and even depression among other things (read this for more symptoms). I have all of those.
I thought they were all independent findings. I have been treating each separately. I’ve been to sleep doctors and taken meds to help me sleep and to stay awake. I’ve taken meds for constipation. I’m on meds for depression. I’ve dealt with the nausea and frequent retching for many years as well as bloating and abdominal spasms and pain. Why haven’t I put it all together til now?
Well, sometimes it takes not being able to handle symptoms any longer to get an answer. That’s what happened with me.
When I thought I could possibly have a partial bowel obstruction I was really scared for a hot minute. I know how serious that can be. If the bowel ruptures a person can possibly die within hours. Plus, I worried about what could be causing a blockage. Could it be a tumor? One in nineteen people get colon cancer. I just turned 50 this past year so haven’t had a colonoscopy yet. So many things went through my mind. Will I need surgery? Will I get a colostomy? What if it is cancer that has spread?
I think I experienced every emotion possible. If you’ve ever had to undergo any testing for something serious you know the feeling. The waiting and not knowing is terrible. Being faced with a potentially worse diagnosis, I actually settled down and realized I lived a good and fulfilling life so far and honestly couldn’t have asked for more. I’m really proud of myself for that. It was actually comforting and reassuring to realize when faced with something potentially serious, I feel I am living the life I want to live. A lot of people tend to feel like life robs people sometimes. I understand that when it comes to children. I really do. It seems incredibly unfair and is difficult to understand.
But I don’t really believe life robs anyone. Even children (that pass on) have something beautiful to offer the world and their own lessons to learn. Maybe they just learn their lessons sooner. I don’t really know. But as adults, we are free to live the life we choose to live. If we haven’t experienced what we wanted to experience by my age (50) that’s surely not life’s fault.
My journey forward includes seeing a GI doctor and getting whatever tests he or she recommends as well as changing my entire diet. I already know I have leaky gut so will eventually try again to go sugar free. For now I’m already going gluten free. My physical symptoms haven’t improved yet so I’m still feeling quite miserable. However, I’m not blaming myself or anyone else that this wasn’t caught sooner. Time is only wasted with regret. I could have gone to a GI doc but felt I had things controlled the best I could at the time. What happens, happens. I’m just glad I know now.
I’m extremely optimistic that my physical health and life will improve even if there is permanent damage to my intestines. I’m looking forward to seeing the positive changes. I know that I will stick to this diet no matter how difficult it is. I’m content with the life I’ve lived so far but still love life and have something to offer and more to experience.
We can feel sorry for ourselves because of poor health or can do something about it. I will not be the lung cancer patient who still smokes. I will not be the diabetic who eats excess carbs and sugar. I value this gift of life and my body. I want to be with my family here on Earth for as long as possible as long as I’m not suffering.
I invite you to take a moment to contemplate your own health. Are there any areas you can improve upon? If so, please don’t beat yourself up. I suggest instead that you are patient with yourself and offer yourself loving kindness. Treat yourself as if you were treating your inner child. Give yourself fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and good food. Let food be your medicine. Surround yourself with people who support and uplift you and be willing to let go of people and situations that don’t. Get your recommended checkups and testing. Have compassion for yourself and be grateful for what you have.
Have you been taking your good health for granted?
How do you face challenges such as these?
Are you proud of the life you’ve lived so far?
Are you content with your decisions thus far? If not, what do you want to change?
What goals have you been putting off working towards (if any)?
If there’s anything in life you want to accomplish, do it now. We are not guaranteed good health. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We either die of old age symptoms or have accidents or incurable diseases and die younger. The ending is always the same. Don’t wait until it’s too late to live the life you always imagined.
I recommend checking out this beautiful talk from Thich Nhat Hanh here. He just has a way of making me appreciate all the little things in life that I would otherwise overlook. His calming voice and simple ways are so inspiring to me.
In closing, if something doesn’t feel right in your body, don’t chalk it up to your age or bad luck in health like I did. Seek answers. Doctors are only as good as the information we give them. Do your own research and bring criteria to the table that they can work with. If something doesn’t feel right then it’s not. There is an answer out there. Don’t ever give up on your health.
I hope this gave you some food for thought today. Thank you so much for reading along.
May you be happy and well. May you live your life with ease!
Take a test to see if you are gluten intolerant here.