Sunday, December 12, 2010
My Intestinal Saga, Part 1: Dabbling in Parasites
Hmm. Where to begin? I guess I should probably go back as far as I can remember, and that would be my childhood years. The major body disturbances I recall from this time, let's say around age 8 and for several years after, were TMJ syndrome and frequent headaches. I would grind my teeth at night and wake up with a sore jaw quite often. The headaches seemed to arise at random moments throughout the day, but I remember them being excruciating. Besides that, as far as I know, everything ran smoothly (if you know what I mean). It's debatable whether or not the aforementioned problems were from digestion, but later -- in the midst of my health transformation, around age 23 -- I would discover some connections that surprised me. More on that later. (See the three part post on my own personal health profile for more on my physical transformation and dietary history.)
Now on to high school. This was when I first started to notice bloating in my lower abdomen. I've been an avid athlete all my life and high school was the most active time of my life. Lifting weights 6 days a week; running 3 miles every other day; swimming laps and doing sprints; and practicing on baseball and soccer teams on top of all of that. Pretty active, right? Well despite all of that, I still had this perceptible "belly" on me. At the time, I attributed it to fat, but I'm fairly certain now that it was just bloating -- I was pretty ripped in every other regard. So what caused the bloating? I don't know for certain. My educated guess based upon later experimentation is that it was brought up by some kind of milk and/or gluten intolerance. Another primary physical issue of that time in my life was lower back pain. This was why I absolutely abhorred doing any kind of physical labor that involved bending over and lifting. Again, I now believe I have answers as to why that was happening. We'll get to these epiphanies in the chronological order that I discovered them.
Okay, post high school -- my time of spiritual journeying and reconnecting with nature. Here's where the "fun" begins. Parasites. Wonderfully horrible parasites. My first episode happened after going on a survival trip with my friend and mentor, Vince Pinto (who owns and operates a nature school, called Raven's Way Wild Journeys). We hiked into a stream in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona with minimal gear, including a complete lack of water purification. Vince drank from this stream on several occasions with no problem, so I was confident that I would do just fine, as well. Along the stream, there were cow patties literally every couple of feet. This meant that the water was likely contaminated. Welcome to the wild, wild West, where cattle have more rights in nature than humans. Cow excrement aside, Vince and I found a pristine place up stream which we assumed would be safe to drink. 36 hours later, instead of camping in the desert, I was camped beside a toilet. Giardia. Vince, on the other hand, was fine. Unlike him, I was underweight and underfed at the time, so I attribute my susceptibility to the little buggers -- and his resistance to them -- to that.
Part 2 of "My Intestinal Saga" coming soon.
If, for some odd reason, you are absolutely enamored with how cute and cuddly the giardia microbe above is, you can get your very own plush doll at Giant Microbes.