Friday, January 7, 2011

My Intestinal Saga, Part 3: Making Connections

With the realization that my back pain was somehow related to what I was eating, I began connecting some dots.  Less food + Simple food = Less back pain.  More food + Varied foods = More back pain.  But what the heck did food have to do with muscle pain?  Why would my lower right back hurt so incredibly much based upon my dietary choices?  Why did I feel so much lighter and tension-free when I ate less or fasted?  I began researching the human body and its inner workings to find out why my pain was so localized to this one place on my body.  It turned out that, in the lower left abdomen where the junction of the small intestine and large intestine, there exists something called the ileocecal valve.  This little valve controls when undigested food exits the small intestine and begins the journey into stool formation in the large intestine.  Hmm.  Did this area have something to do with my back pain?  I pressed on my abdomen where the ileocecal valve was located.  It was tender.  Not only that, but I felt the pain from my back transfer to this spot when applying pressure.  It was an epiphany for sure.  I thought, "Wait just a gosh-darn minute here!  Does this mean my pain is actually intestinal, not muscular or skeletal?"  Apparently it was.  Fascinating!

My entire school of thought shifted.  No longer was I wholly committed to a purely external yoga or massage-manipulated path to healing.  I believed I had found the root cause of the pain and tension I was experiencing, and now I only had to figure out how to manage this internal problem.  Easier said than done.  For several months I experimented with herbs, digestive supplements of all kinds, probiotics -- the whole gamut of intestinal warfare.  Nasty herbs for any parasites that might be still hanging out.  Enzymes to aid the breaking down of food.  Good bacteria to repopulate my sad, miserable gut.  All these things, along with continued yoga and the like -- yet, aside from simply eating nothing at all, I experienced little or no improvement.  What hadn't I changed?  Was there anything else I could do?  Or would I have to live with this inconvenient pain the rest of my life?

Finally, the cognitive dissonance had to come to an end.  I was underweight.  I was fatigued.  I had little zest for life.  I asked myself a difficult but honest question: Was I unhealthy because I was a low-calorie vegetarian?  It was time.  I was ready to take a good, hard look at this mostly philosophically-driven food choice -- one that I had always thought could only make me healthier.  That's what all the books I was reading at the time were telling me.  Everything in my mind up to this point had said "yes" to a vegetarian diet.  All these years, however, my body had been crying out a resounding "NO!"  Time to eat some meat.  And, while I'm at it, why not eat nothing but meat for a while?  Oh, how I loved extremes at that time in my life.  So on I ventured into the world of zero-carb, "The Bear," and a sudden fondness for the Inuit.  More digestive lessons were soon to come.

Part 4 of "My Intestinal Saga" up next.

2 comments:

undertow said...

Were you ever on anti-biotics in your youth? I think all the different types and numerous times I was on them in my youth, it did a number on my gut flora.

Lately though with the addition of some kefir and lots of soaked beans, on top of my whole food diet, things are slowly improving down there. I think the beans are giving the good bacteria some food to munch on.

Interesting read, look forward to your next saga post!

Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...

undertow,

I was not on huge amount of antibiotics when I was a child as far as I know. Last year I tried a course of Flagyl which helped me feel better for about 1.5 days. Didn't really change anything long term. I also tried a pretty crazy therapy which I'll get into soon with my posts.

That's great you're finding something that may be working for you. I struggle with anything gas-forming (like beans) due to the gas getting trapped in my intestines and feeling very uncomfortable. Right now, I'm on a meat and rice diet, which seems to calm my gut way down.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the comment!