Digestion, Gut Health, and Me: Healing (Part IV)

After the laryngopharyngeal reflux diagnosis, the doctor recommended a pill called Omeprazole, which lists lupus as one of its “rare” side effects. Rare or not, I refused to take it or the next prescription he provided. That’s how I ended up with a naturopath, Dr. Megan. Seeing a naturopath is one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Dr. Megan took a more integrative approach, meaning prescription drugs was not her first suggestion. She wanted me to heal on a metaphysical and physical level.

METAPHYSICAL

Third Chakra

The first thing that resonated with me was the importance of healing my third chakra, which is associated with personal power. I reflected on places where I felt stuck, such as my occupation. I thought about ways I currently give my power away, such as in conversations with family. Next, I did a guided meditation focused solely on the third chakra, and I used a mudra Dwight suggested. Immediately, I found myself speaking up in private, public, and professional settings.

The Artist’s Way

Dr. Megan also recommended a book called, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Initially, I didn’t think I needed this book. I thought it was for wayward creatives. Even though I didn’t consider myself lost, I did have a tendency to downplay what I did create. So, I sat myself down, read a chapter each week, committed to writing Morning Pages, and took myself on Artist’s Dates. I kid you not, by chapter three, I felt lighter, more playful, and more creative than usual, which in some way helped to heal my body.

PHYSICAL*

Elimination Diet

Another thing Dr. Megan wanted me to do, against my will, was an elimination diet. She wanted to make sure I didn’t have a food sensitivity or food allergy. As much as I like to eat, this part stressed me out for a little while. But eventually, I saw the benefit of eliminating dairy, most meats, wheat, shellfish, soy, and specific spices. As much as I like to eat, the elimination diet gave my gut a much-needed rest. Think of it like a detox. It really made it easier for me to see how wheat and some dairy are problematic.

De-Stress

Even with all of these changes, my cough hasn’t gone completely away. However, it has subsided. During those times of little-to-no coughing, I’ve noticed something. When my stress increases, so does my cough. For example, if I have an editing client whose manuscript needs more work than I originally thought or students are pissing me off during finals week, the coughing begins and continues through the night. When life is easy going, there is almost no coughing.

This reaction is similar to when I was in Costa Rica. In that country, we had little access to “bad” foods, life was simple and free, and I didn’t have a care in the world. Panamá was the opposite. It was more like being in the States, especially with access to all the food I shouldn’t have been devouring.

So, in addition to yoga, meditation, a probiotic (with ashwagandha), and journaling, I have also begun taken longer breaks in between activities. For example, I used to go from grading college students’ work to editing a nurse’s dissertation with no visible break. Now, I sometimes sit and stare out of the window for five minutes. This has been one way to signal to my brain and body to calm down before we begin a new task.


When the ENT doctor first handed me the Omeprazole script, he said, “Don’t expect immediate changes. It took how long for you to develop this? It’s going to take time for it to go away, too.”

Although I opted not to take medicine, he’s still right. Healing is not linear, whether we’re talking about mental or physical health. I’m not at 100%, but I don’t feel bad about it. I feel better simply because I understand how I ignored how stress and anxiety affected my body over the years and now know what I can do to repair the damage. That’s what I continue to focus on each day.  

Thanks to you if you’ve read one or all of these. It’s appreciated!

*My physical health maintenance already included working out four times a week and decreased intake of sugar and carbs. What’s described here is in addition to that regimen.


Digestion: First Day of Senior Year (Part I)

Digestion: Undergrad (Part II)

Digestion: Adulthood (Part III)

Digestion, Gut Health, and Me: Adulthood (Part III)

It was 2015, and my friend and I had just finished dinner at Chili’s, complete with one of those big, iridescent blue fishbowl-looking drinks. My belly was tight. My pants were tight. I looked like I would deliver a baby at any moment. It wasn’t the first time I had this feeling. It had been surfacing more and more, but only when I ate at restaurants like Chili’s.

Unlike previous years, I didn’t ignore this sign. I scheduled an appointment with Borland Groover to see what was going on. The gastroenterologist talked to me for a few minutes.

“Those chain restaurants use a lot of sugar and salt,” she said. “What you’re experiencing is common. I want to draw some blood just to be sure.”

The bloodwork came back normal. I stopped eating (and drinking) at chain restaurants. Crisis diverted.

Fast forward to 2021. Panamá City wasn’t as exciting as Costa Rica, and there was nothing left for Dwight and me to do, but eat, which was fine because I love food. I. ate. everything: pour-over coffee, ice cream, pizza, ropa vieja, fresh bass, ceviche and more ceviche. Y’all. The store up the street gave me their WhatsApp so I would know when the empanadas would be ready. I was out of control. But I didn’t know it until I was damn-near immobile on the couch with a seven-month-pregnant-looking belly.

A friend of mine had to tell me what I had was called “indigestion.” I’m not joking. I had no idea this was a symptom. I thought I’d never had it before, because even though I’d gone to the gastroenterologist in 2015, she never said that word.

(Again) I stopped eating out and drinking as much and I spent the last two weeks in Panamá walking three miles a day and biking. Crisis diverted, again.

Well, almost.

Ever since 2017, I had a cough that would come and go. My primary doc did a chest scan. Even though it came back clear, she couldn’t tell me what was wrong, and kind of like the poop thing, it was intermittent, so I ignored it. I figured it was no big deal. But in 2021, after indulging in Panamá’s cuisine and having indigestion, my cough returned. This time, with mucus.

By August, I saw an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor, who diagnosed me with having laryngopharyngeal reflux. I wrote about it here.

I guess the point of this elaborate series is to encourage those of you who are like me, those of you who see and feel what’s going on with your body but ignore it because it’s not that bad or because it doesn’t happen that often. Kind of like intuition, you always know what’s going on, especially if it’s physical because there’s literally a sign. You probably don’t need a doctor to tell you something’s wrong, but you do need a professional to provide a diagnosis and possible treatment.

Also, I know each of these events may seem unrelated, but in my gut (pun intended), I know they are interconnected. For example, after spending months listening to my body, I’ve learned that stress explicitly affects me. It begins in my belly like a message, and when I ignore it, it worsens.

Tomorrow, I’ll share what’s worked to mitigate these reactions.


Digestion: First Day of Senior Year (Part I)

Digestion: Undergrad (Part II)

Digestion: Healing (Part IV)

Digestion, Gut Health, and Me: Undergrad (Part II)

In undergrad, my friend, Los and I spent many a day (and night) drinking all manner of liquors. We were in undergrad, so it was allowed, excused, and even possibly expected. Drinking was our pastime.

One night, he invited me to happy hour at Waldo’s. We walked to the campus bar, excited to eat twenty-five cent wings and two-dollar well drinks. We sat there for at least an hour talking and devouring food as if we’d never eat again.

On our walk back to the dorms, I had the sudden urge to poop. Luckily, we’d walked through the Student Union.

“I’ll be right back,” I told Los, while concealing how serious the situation was.

“You can’t wait til we get back?” he asked.

“No!” I almost shouted.

When I got to the stall, feces exploded everywhere—my underwear, pants, toilet seat. I was mortified. How was I going to clean all this up? How was I going to get home?

I guess the Fates were on my side. When I peeked out the bathroom door, I didn’t see Los or anyone else, so I found the nearest exit and bolted back to my room.

At the time, I thought it was an odd incident. But that’s all it was…an oddity. I chalked it up to Waldo’s cheap wings and jungle juice. Nothing like that had happened before, and nothing like that happened again…until my thirties.


I’ll spare the details, primarily because they’re repetitive and gross. The same exact thing happened a few more times, minus the wings and rum. There was even a time when I didn’t make it to the bathroom. That was a long ride home.

I know what you’re thinking. By the time I was over thirty, certainly I must have known that not being able to hold my bowels was not normal. Yes. Yes, I did. But I didn’t seek treatment because these occurrences didn’t happen frequently enough for me to personally deem them an issue. Over the course of ten years, I’d say this happened five times.

I also never sought a doctor’s opinion because shortly after I finished my doctoral program, everything stopped. I want to say, “like magic,” but I know that’s not the truth. It was probably akin to my senior-year tummy—stress. Once my stress levels significantly decreased, then loose, uncontrollable bowels disappeared.

And so, I continued living life as if everything was all good.


Digestion: First Day of Senior Year (Part I)

Digestion: Adulthood (Part III)

Digestion: Healing (Part IV)

Digestion, Gut Health, and Me: Senior Year (Part I)

“The bus will be here soon,” my grandmother announced.

I hadn’t been on a school bus since the eighth grade, but it was different here. Here was a podunk town too small for a transit system. Everyone rode the school bus. Kindergartners and twelfth graders, alike, all on the bus headed to the same building to learn the required curriculum.

“Okay,” I replied, then excused myself to the bathroom for the second time that morning. I hadn’t even eaten breakfast, so I wasn’t sure why my stomach was gurgling and what my body was eliminating.

“Are you nervous?” My grandmother asked.

I was.

The first day of senior year was nothing like I’d envisioned. My friends in Chicago, the ones I’d gone to school with since first or seventh grade knew me. They knew I was part goofy, part serious. They knew if I looked at you funny, then I was probably judging your hair, clothes, or speech. But they also didn’t care. Would these new people understand, or would they do like most new people did with me and assume I was stuck up or bougie?

“No,” I replied. It was easier than admitting the truth and then having her turn my fear into a speech about the uselessness of fear or into some inspirational moment on apprehension.

I went to the bathroom one more time.

“The bus should’ve been here by now. School’s starting soon,” my grandmother said. “Bernie, you’ll have to take her.”

Divine intervention. My stomach was relieved. I wasn’t supposed to be on the school bus after all, not at seventeen, not my senior year, not today. Maybe God would also perform some act that reversed everything that had happened up until this point. Maybe I would be transported back to Chicago, where I would meet my friends on the L, where we’d revel in our senior status, mimic house music songs while waiting on the train, and fantasize about post-graduation plans.


My grandfather dropped me off in front of the one-story brick building.

“Have a good day,” he said.

“Okay, I replied,” and I knew I would because I planned on keeping quiet and shrinking into the building and its smallness, hoping no one would notice me or my sudden urge to use the bathroom every ten minutes. I hoped I’d disappear into this nothingness of a town.


Digestion: Undergrad (Part II)

Digestion: Adulthood (Part III)

Digestion: Healing (Part IV)

*Monday Notes: Third Chakra

*woo-woo warning: this is a metaphysical conversation, and it’s a little longer than normal.


“…and do it with joy!” my mother used to add whenever I’d crumple up my face and slink off to do whatever she’d asked that interrupted my reading or daydreaming—wash the dishes, polish the wooden coffee table. Whatever the task, ‘do it with joy’ meant don’t pout, look angry, or be upset about it.

It wasn’t a request. It was a demand. And it became a running demand. Later, when she shared it with my grandmother, it became a running joke.

I never thought much of it, until a few weeks ago, when I was talking to Megan, the naturopath.

I’d divulged that I am tired of my job, and I have a nagging suspicion it is time to go. But as of now, I don’t know where to go, so I just do my job.

“Sounds like you may be having issues with your third and fifth chakras,” she suggested.

The fifth chakra is associated with your throat: communication, speaking, etc. I immediately shot that down. “I’ve been speaking my truth. I write. I blog. I’m an author. I freelance,” I told her, while the phlegm that accompanies my cough began building up in my throat.

“Hmmm,” she said. “What about the third? Were you raised in a house where you were made to do things you didn’t want to?” she asked.

“I was,” I said. And then I told her about the ‘do it with joy’ story.

“Sounds a lot like going to a job you don’t like but smiling about it anyway.”

She sent me away with a lot of information, and some of it included affirmations for strengthening my third chakra, which is focused on the stomach area, and subsequently, self-esteem, personal power, and courage.


I’ve reflected on this for a month or so. What does it mean? Is her assessment valid? Is this something I should consider? I decided what Megan said is very useful, and here’s how.

When I graduated with a PhD in 2010, all family and friends saw was KG with a doctorate. However, during that time, I still suffered with the low self-worth and self-esteem that had affected my marriage. Now, it just shifted over to how I looked for jobs, and subsequently, how I dealt with academic rejection.

I received my first position a month before the semester started. Typically, candidates are vetted and offered jobs way before that. The applicant needs time to move, and the institution needs time to prepare for their arrival. I knew this because the process was explained in the first five campus interviews I’d had. By the time I was hired, my (career) self-esteem was waning.

Two years later, I attained my second job in academia, again, a month before the semester started, but the issue was it wasn’t tenure track; I consciously took a job I was overqualified for. At this point, my (career) self-esteem tanked. Why can’t I secure the job for which I’m qualified? Why won’t they pick me?

Three years later, a colleague DMd me and asked if I wanted a job. It was at a community college, which I already had a judgment about, but I said yes for varied reasons. However, accepting this job reinforced what I’d already been thinking: I’m not good enough for these high-level positions. I have no personal power in this area. When it comes to attaining academic jobs, I’m not in charge of shit! So, why even try? Before I developed a gratitude practice or learned to look at a situation from a different perspective, I simply gave up ya’ll!

But I also never resolved these beliefs about jobs in academia, which were tied to my self-esteem and third chakra. Today, I am still sitting in a job I’m overqualified for, as if I have no power to change my circumstances.


So, what happens to emotional energy if you don’t deal with or talk about the situation? People like Louise Hay, believe it stays with you and becomes stuck in the body, eventually creating disease associated with that energy center. Last year, my good, blogging friend, Dr. Dinardo also showed me how anxiety shows up and can stay in your body.

And I agree.

For me, emotions have always developed in my stomach area: excitement and nervousness feel like trapped butterflies; sadness feels like a rollercoaster ride, right before you take that big dive into the unknown; anger feels as if someone has gathered all my internal organs, tied them in a knot, attached them to an anchor, and left them in my belly as a tangled mess to sort out. These are probably common for others, but for me, they’re also constant.

Over the years, I’ve begun jogging before I speak at conferences or practicing yoga before doing something that may be triggering. Exercising helps move energy. Exercising helps me to become unstuck.

The problem occurs when exercise is not an option, which is more frequent, like when I talk to my grandmother.

The other day we had a conversation, where she couldn’t figure out why she was crying. For some reason, she couldn’t connect it to the fact that her last living sister has been diagnosed with dementia and is now in an uncontrollable situation.

“I never cry,” she said with pride. “I never understood why people cry, like at funerals and stuff.”

“Maybe because they’re sad,” I suggested.

“Because they’re sad?” she questioned. “Sad?” she repeated. “Well, you know what they say about that?” she asked me.

“What?”

“You’re sad? You better scratch your butt and be glad!” and then she laughed.

Not only was this phrase not funny to me, but it also sounded like ‘do it with joy’ remixed. Suddenly, my belly started flopping and sinking, and freezing at once. Normally, I wouldn’t say anything (insert lack of personal power with Grannie here). But I’ve been forcing myself to speak up, no matter what, even if it’s uncomfortable.

“Well, that’s not very nice, Grannie,” is all I could muster.

“Huh? It’s not nice?”

“No. That’s not a very nice saying.”

We eventually ended the conversation. My belly wasn’t flopping, and I felt good about expressing my opinion (which is associated with the throat chakra).


Of course, I’ll continue to take my probiotic and finish my elimination diet to re-set my gut; however, I think there is something to acknowledging how we hold energy in our bodies, which is oftentimes associated with a specific chakra. This is the first time I’ve publicly acknowledged how my self-esteem was tied to my inability to find a job aligned with my qualifications. That’s a start. I’ll continue with re-building my (career) self-esteem in small ways and also with using my voice with specific people, even when it’s wobbly or when my belly plummets. While I’m powerful behind this keyboard, it’s also important to me to have a well-rounded sense of personal power in all areas.

Looking forward to hearing what you think.