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)

Monday Notes: Navigating the Change

Hey good people! I took a thirty-day break from this site because I’ve been working on a new one. And, regardless of what people think of my abilities, I can only do one thing at a time 😉

The new site is called Navigating the Change, and just like it sounds, it’s about all things menopausal.

A few months ago, you may remember me revealing that I was having some menopause “issues.” I divulged that info in a post called “Control in the Midst of Too Much.” Well, that was September. Since then, my life got hella interesting. And by interesting, I mean awful. I was ill-prepared for the turn my body took without my permission.

I spoke to every woman I was close to about this issue. I was raised in a family of older women, so I silently harbored anger for not one soul mentioning these bodily changes to me. In between, I read and researched all types of things to understand what was happening and how I could learn to function.

It was a lot.

Then, I got mad all over again. Menopause is a huge shift in women’s lives that can last anywhere from five to ten years. Did you hear me? FIVE to TEN years! That’s a lot of years to be sweaty and irritable, and as I read and experienced, there’s more to it than being sweaty and irritable. In fact, some people may never experience that, while others have all of the things.

Either way, I launched a new site last week for all of the above reasons. Navigating the Change will include the following:

  • stories and poetry from women who have experienced menopause at any phase,
  • photographs of real women thirty-five and older who are fearlessly being themselves (because older celebrities are not the only ones who can look fantabulous),
  • information from doctors,
  • information from wellness experts,
  • workout videos specifically for women over forty-five and specifically for Navigating the Change,
  • low-sugar, low-salt, and low-carb recipes from food bloggers and chefs,
  • product reviews so we know what works and how well, and
  • a monthly feature from yours truly called Diary of a Menopausal Woman.

If this is something that sounds interesting to you, then subscribe so you can receive updates that will post 2-3 times per week. Read what you want and discard the rest.

If this is something you think would interest someone else, then please pass the information along.

If you have something to offer or you want to partner because you have a business that supports one of the goals I’ve mentioned (e.g., a story, poem, photo, doc/well expert info, recipe, or product review), then Submit to Navigating the Change so we can collaborate.

If none of this sounds good, then that’s cool, too lol That’s one of many reasons I thought a separate blog might be beneficial.

Just to be clear, I’ll still be blogging here. The new site is more nuanced, themed, and collaborative.

Follow Navigating the Change across all platforms (except you know where because of you know what):

Mental Health Matters: Acceptance (Part I)

Around 2005, I found my biological mother’s side of the family, and with that came a narrative about my family’s mental health. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services sent me a thick packet of information sealed in a manila envelope.

My mother had been diagnosed as having acute schizophrenia, undifferentiated type. According to the report she would oftentimes “walk around with an empty stroller” and could be found “lying on the couch, laughing hysterically.” Although she was an avid swimmer, in 1978, she drowned in Lake Michigan.

These images are not only vivid, but also profound. I immediately related to my mother’s psychosis. Finally, I understood part of myself.

I’d felt slightly off growing up. For example, in elementary school, it was difficult for me to walk in front of a class or across the cafeteria. Oftentimes, I thought everyone stared and talked about me. I had little reason to believe these imaginings, but in my mind they were true. However, I learned to cope. I’d pretend I was a horse with blinders on. I’d walk directly to my destination, ignoring anything in my peripheral vision, internally praising myself when I made it back to my seat without ridicule.

I never told anyone.

Learning about my biological mother introduced me to one of her sisters, Aunt Catherine. She outlined the remainder of our family’s mental health history. She suffered from depression. Her father, my grandfather had, too. Her mother, my grandmother had a nervous breakdown. Her two brothers were in prison; one murdered someone.

When I shared my relief that I’d finally found solace in understanding my off-centeredness, she rebuked it.

“Don’t try to be like us,” she said, “you’re not like us. You don’t have to be like us. Depression feels like you’re in a deep hole that you can’t get out of. You want to get out, but you can’t.”

I’d never experienced depression. In fact, my set point is joyful. So, I dismissed my newfound knowledge. Plus, who wants to identify as “crazy” anyway? I focused on other family similarities, like the tremors she, my daughters and I shared; all of our hands shake uncontrollably.

Still I knew something about me wasn’t normal.

When I was younger, I cried frequently for all reasons. One time I remember swelling up with tears because my paternal cousins had visited from North Carolina. They planned to drive to Bolingbrook, a Chicago suburb to visit another cousin. I thought I wasn’t invited, so I cried, until they consoled me and assured me I’d be right there with them. I was ten.

When my parents told me my father had diabetes, I cried because I thought he was going to die. My mother came to my room and asked me to stop. “Crying for hours is excessive for a diabetes diagnosis,” she said. I was twelve.

It was the 70s and 80s, so I was deemed sensitive. Anxiety wasn’t a household term, and therapy in black homes was unheard of. Instead, I received the proverbial, “Whatchu crying for now?” question, especially from my grandmother, who seemed to want me to be tougher, something I never fully achieved.

I researched schizophrenia and clinical depression. Aunt Catherine was right. I was neither of those; but, dots were connected. However, I dismissed them because they didn’t form complete pictures. They weren’t direct links. I ignored the idea that mental health is genetic; however, like brown eyes and curly hair, traces of mental health can linger in one’s DNA. Curl patterns may be a little looser and eyes a little darker, but characteristics are there.

So, while it’s no easy feat, I’ve taken some time to accept this trait. Subsequently, because I believe the only person I can change is myself, I’ll be publicly exploring it in more detail this year on this blog as a way to de-stigmatize mental health issues and to bring truth to light. What better way to do both than to begin with me?

Oh, and those tremors? They’re more than just biological markers; They are a physical manifestation of social anxiety disorder.

*7 Days of Yoga

meditating_1
Royalty Free Pixabay

Yoga sparks my creativity. I’m sure there’s some scientific/spiritual rationale of which I’m unaware, but for me, the proof is production. With all my Unhappy Wife marketing, it became challenging to write anything new, so I decided to engage in seven days of yoga. Consequently, I attained more than creativity.

Monday, October 31st (Yoga Den, Mandarin 7:45-9:00 P.M.) It slipped my mind that today was Halloween, so I almost didn’t make it. I wanted to pass out the four bags of peanut and peanut butter M&Ms that Dwight’s eyes had signaled was too much. But I’d promised myself attendance at Sun Flow Yin. I would have to rely on my nonsocial daughters to take the lead. One little boy showed up right before I left. Turns out he was the only trick-or-treater we got this year, so I didn’t miss anything and my daughters didn’t have to interact with people.

Today’s Lesson: Follow your instinct.

Tuesday, November 1st (LA Fitness, Kernan, 9:45-10:45 A.M.) I slept like a six-month old baby snuggled in between co-sleeping parents. I’m attributing a good night’s rest to the previous night’s yoga. However, practicing back-to-back made me nervous. My anxiety floated away once I noticed a guy doing downward facing dog in his drawers. I was slightly distracted, not because anything showed, but because I kept wondering if those were indeed his skivvies. They were. The bright blue band around the top gave it away. I didn’t think my yoga crew noticed because there were no side eyes or eyebrow raises. He and I walked out together and he engaged me in conversation. Underwear guy’s name is Joe. He’d lost his wife seven years ago in a drunk driving accident. She left him with a set of twin boys and a daughter to raise. Without yoga, he believed he would’ve died too.

Lesson: You never know what someone’s gone through, so treat them with kindness.

Wednesday, November 2nd (Yoga Den, Mandarin 6:30-7:30 P.M.) I loathe Wednesdays. On this day, I drive two hours to teach one class that lasts an hour and fifteen minutes. The angst of the drive begins Tuesday night and settles into my consciousness, making for a stressful morning and grumpy day. But today felt a little different. Maybe back-to-back yoga helped me maintain peace. After class, I usually drive to main campus and participate in a meeting, work in my office until 5:00, and then leave. The chair cancelled today’s meeting, so I graded papers until 3:45 and made it back home just in time for Mind-Body yoga. To be honest, I chose this yoga because the time was appropriate. But the lesson about mind-body connection was also what I needed to hear. Hopefully, I can put it into practice this coming Wednesday.

Lesson: Everything begins in the mind.

meditation_2
Royalty Free Pixabay

Thursday, November 3rd (LA Fitness, Kernan, Jacksonville, Florida 9:45-10:45 A.M.) Welp, my yoga crew did notice that Joe and his undies. They were in a circle discussing it as I rolled out my mat. By the time I returned from the restroom, someone had approached Joe about it. I came back just in time to hear this:

Joe: Y’all shouldn’t be looking at me anyways. Yoga is supposed to be a meditation. Y’all should be meditating. Everybody in here should be able to do yoga naked ‘cause we should all be so focused on ourselves.

Mrs. Gail: That’s what I tried to tell ‘em Joe!

I politely stretched into child’s pose and minded my own business.

Lesson: Focus on yourself.

Friday, November 4th (Yoga Den, Mandarin, Jacksonville, Florida 9:15-10:45 A.M.) I almost didn’t make it today you guys. The bed was so warm and cozy. And I thought to myself, KG, you’ve already done four days. Isn’t that good enough? Then, that same nagging feeling I get when I make self-promises began to surface. It’s familiar. I cannot tell myself I’m going to do a thing and not follow through. Off to yoga I went. This isn’t any old type of yoga. The instructor begins by playing a banjo and we all chant Om Namah Shivaya. Then, we chant three OMs and begin our practice. It’s intense. Today, I almost threw up. I know that’s not a good yoga practice if you almost hurl. And it certainly goes against what you’re supposed to be practicing in the first place. I thought I was done overachieving, but this proved otherwise. Every now and then, I still unconsciously overextend myself; yoga is no different. I’m working on it. After Savasana, she plays the banjo again and we do three more OMs. This particular practice is my favorite one, but it usually doesn’t come behind four other yoga days.

Lesson: Be true to yourself by honoring your word. Be mindful.

Saturday, November 5th (LA Fitness, Lakewood, Jacksonville, Florida 11:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M.) On Saturdays, I wake up sans alarm clock. I lie in bed, blog a little, write a little, and then decide what I’m going to do. Not today. Friday afternoon, my goddaughter texted to inform me that the local bookstore had run out of copies of The Unhappy Wife.

“So I can come Monday?” I asked Jen, the owner.

“We’re open Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 A.M.” she replied.

I broke my usual routine and was at the bookstore by 9:00 A.M.

“Thank you so much,” she started, “Really appreciate you.”

“No. Thank you,” I smiled.

We were helping one another. Because of her, I didn’t have to sell books out of my trunk, and because of me, she was gaining more customers and revenue. This was the win-win I’d heard so much about.

Afterwards, I went to yoga.

Lesson: If you want something, you have to be willing to break self-made traditions.

om
Royalty Free Pixabay

Sunday, November 6th (Walk with Dwight) By this day, I was tired of yoga. My shoulders felt as if I’d been lifting weights all day. My core was a bit tighter, but hurt when I bent to the side. My legs felt as if I’d done 100 squats each day. So Dwight and I took our usual Sunday walk.

Lesson: Know when to listen to your body, as opposed to your mind.

My creativity is back, but quite honestly, three days worth of yoga is quite enough for me.

*©2016 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.