I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat,” but that really isn’t the case. You actually are what you digest. I saw this firsthand recently when an acquaintance of mine (I’ll call her Debra) who is in her early 50’s, suffered from nausea, a burning sensation in the stomach whenever she ate, bloating, diarrhea, brain fog, and little or no energy. She was miserable. She went with the traditional western medical approach and attempted to alleviate the symptoms; medication to decrease stomach acid, probiotics, enzymes, and a fiber supplement. These interventions temporarily soothed her symptoms but they didn’t go away. She was afraid to plan anything away from home because she never knew when she needed to be near a toilet. Debra knew that I’d had my own gut problems in the past, so she sought my help. I gave her two tasks. Start a food journal, writing down everything she put in her mouth each day and at what time, and to look at her bowel movements (BM). I know that looking in the toilet after a BM seems strange, but it can give you a lot of information about your health. For instance, a normal stool should be brown with no foul smell, and with the consistency of toothpaste-it should also be well-formed, not broken up. Loose stools or diarrhea could mean malabsorption, inflammation, or an infection in the gut. Gas, cramping, and a foul odor usually accompany loose stools. If mucus or blood show up, it means that the inflammation is so bad that the lining of the gut is actually shedding itself. In the latter case, Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease is suspect.
After a week, I looked at Debra’s food journal. It looked like a typical western diet journal, heavy on acidic foods like dairy, meats, wine, and fried foods. Way low on vegetables, but she was eating fruit. I suggested that she begin eliminating (food, that is) dairy, and adding more veges like leafy greens. Dairy is a common irritant as we age, and greens are a proven gut healer. When Debra said she didn’t particularly like greens, I suggested she make smoothies daily. One can hide the flavor and texture of greens by adding blueberries, bananas, mango, pineapple, etc. Debra eliminated all dairy, although she said cheese would be tough. I agreed to meet with her in three weeks. Debra called me after two weeks with some good news. She was no longer feeling nauseated nor did her stomach burn after eating. Her bowels were a little better, but she had episodes of normal BMs and diarrhea. And she still had considerable fatigue. I suggested the she talk to her doctor about decreasing the use of the antacid she was taking four times a day. While antacids temporarily soothe the stomach, they block or damp down the production of stomach acid, and the acid is there for a reason. Stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCL) has a low pH of 1.5, which is needed to ‘burn’ food up into useable nutrients. Minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc. cannot be broken down or absorbed without stomach acid. Most people, as they get older, actually produce less HCL, and my hunch is that Debra will get relief from fatigue and her BMs will improve when she eliminates the antacid. I am scheduled to see her at the end of May-I’ll keep you posted on her progress.
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.