Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Intestinal Saga, Part 6: It's All Digestive, My Dear Watson

On Kwasniewski's Optimal Diet, I felt the strongest I had felt since I was a high school athlete working out at the gym 6 days a week.  My body composition was extremely desirable to me.  I felt solid and seemed to build muscle very easily.  Eating gobs and gobs of fat along with just enough protein, I was never unsatisfied with meals.  The satiety factor of this dietary pattern was incredible, and I happily stuck to it for close to a year even though I had odd muscle tension throughout my body and would toss and turn in my sleep, sometimes waking up for three hours around 3:00 A.M.  My breath also was absolutely horrible, as my girlfriend at the time made perfectly clear to me.  There were so many things right with the Optimal Diet and, yet, so many things were wrong.  I had the body and strength that I wanted, but, good Lord, was I slothful at times.

Me on the Optimal Diet
During the Optimal Diet, I began to tweak my mealtimes to see whether or not my symptoms were fully attributed to the digestion and absorption of my food.  I experimented with one meal a day, which was easy to do and get adequate calories from since the foods I was eating were so low in fiber and very calorically dense.  As I had expected, my symptoms suddenly became isolated to certain times, depending on when I ate.

First, an hour after eating, my chest would usually begin hurting and feeling tender and then subside over another hour.  Also during this time, I would often get a headache and a bit of lower abdominal discomfort along with a unique "pins and needles" feeling in my chest/upper abdomen.  About 8-10 hours after the large meal, in addition to bloating, I'd feel heaviness come over me in the form of shoulder, abdominal, and -- oddly enough -- left calf tension.  From my studies of human digestion, I knew this is when the food would have been traveling through my small intestine (food typically empties from the stomach in 3 hours).  So I thought maybe something was wrong with that part of my GI tract, but had no clue what it could be.  Sometimes the abdominal tension (which felt like a rock) would be so bad that it would "push up" my stomach, and I'd actually have to vomit.  Taking the experiment further, I learned that if I fasted for a day, I would feel absolutely amazing the entire next day.  Upon eating again, I'd experience some "tender chest" pain, but no "pins and needles," headache or lower abdominal discomfort.  I realized after eating the next day and then feeling those symptoms coming on that they were actually happening 24 hours after my last meal.  I came to call these the "24 hour symptoms" as a result of this discovery.  The "8-10 hour symptoms" consistently happened the same time after mealtime.

So I had my answer.  My detective work paid off.  It was all digestive.  It wasn't "all in my head" as some of my close friends and family suggested.  It wasn't due to poor posture or not exercising enough.  It wasn't because I was some kind of hypochondriac.  It was because I had friggin' digestive problems.

Abdominal/Pelvic CT scan
At this point, some of you may be thinking, "Ryan, why the heck didn't you just go to a doctor to diagnose all of this?"  Well, I did.  I saw quite a few M.D.'s, Naturopaths, and body workers, and they all provided some pieces of the puzzle, but I never got a definitive answer from any of them.  I was subjected to various tests, as well -- barium swallow abdominal/pelvic CT scan, gall bladder ultrasound, and stool/blood analyses of all kinds -- and nothing informed me that I had specific digestive problems.  Yet, here I was with direct experiential proof that all of my symptoms were, in fact, digestive.    

I felt defeated, worn out -- ready to be done with these problems that plagued me over the years.  I knew I was having GI problems, and I had tried the herbs, enzymes, HCL, etc., etc., and the only thing that worked was to either eat nothing or eat less.  And to do that meant I would be back at an unhealthy weight, feeling weak and hungry.  Wonderful.  I was stuck with this sh*t.  But I wasn't ready to give up.  In fact, I was entirely prepared to do whatever it took to get well again.  Onward into the fascinating world of *drumroll* fecal bacteriotherapy.  Say what?!  Yes, this is where it gets interesting, folks.

Part 7 coming up next.  Warning: May not be suitable for the squeamish!


Jake of Flag said...


It is quite comforting that you felt similar effects with a no-carb. After three days (without eggs), I usally get Charlie-Horses nightly, heart burn, sleep apnea, clouded mind, and a highly altered sense of reality without 1-2 dozen eggs per day. This is highly alluring form time-to-time, but gets in the way if the above occurs on a weekly bases.

On another note: I always have a rather rude desire to ride myself of pestilence, within 30 minutes after eating a large helping of eggs. I admit to the physiological impossibility of it getting that far that fast; and also admit to a plausible placebo effect; yet there still remains the possibility that many of the nutrients are being absorbed in the esophagus and stomach. This is not unheard of, alcohol and arsenic can be absorbed in such a way. What are you thoughts on this?

The fact that failure requires another try has yet to discourage me. In fact, those who are hapless, those who must fight for there passion, are the ones better prepared for lifes uncertainty. Natural talent and natural abilities do not properly one for the fates – prepares one for good and not for ill. The man who is unlucky has the greatest potential of all!

Jake of Flag.

Danny Roddy said...

One again, another great post.

Yves said...

Ryan, your series is fascinating. We seem to have a lot in common (intestinal problems, tried raw paleo, adult palate expansion, etc.). I am awaiting the next installment with great anticipation! You mentioned tests and doctors.. what kind of stool testing did you get? Based on my research I decided to get a PCR stool analysis. It's more sensitive and I found I had 3 infections (and confirmed gluten antigens).

trix said...

"fecal bacteriotherapy"

I've read about that....I think the first time was at Art Ayer's 'Cooling Inflammation'. Wondering who your donor was and if you went through a practitioner who did all the testing as well as performing the procedure.

Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...


Your ridding yourself of pestilence 30 minutes after eating a lot of eggs probably has more to do with the stimulation of the gall bladder and the resultant intestinal contractions that occur after eating fat-rich foods. It is a natural reaction to consumption of fat and is more likely your bowels emptying than the eggs coming out the other end that fast.

I like your quote: "The man who is unlucky has the greatest potential of them all." I truly feel like my struggles with digestive health have provided me with much potential for learning.


I had a stool test to detect traces of blood in my stool (I had a small amount) and a comprehensive stool analysis done through a naturopath. I had "many" Blastocystis hominis among other things, which I'll get into in my next post.

Never heard of PCR. Sounds like it might be worth trying out. I'd be interested in hearing more about your experience with it.


The short story is that I did it at home in conjunction with a naturopath and prior screening done for my donor (a friend of mine). I'll get into the details of all of that in my next post.

danimal said...

loving the series so far. can't wait for the conclusion

Anonymous said...

Waiting for part 7.

Your digestion history sounds parallel to mine. I too have been the rounds. Fecal transplant was my next hope. Please tell me you are cured. :)

It baffles my mind, how fat and protein make me feel so much better yet, my colon refuses to cooperate! Grrrrrr..

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying your blog series Ryan, and am looking forward to part 7! Hopefully it's a happy conclusion and you're feeling better now.

My own belly aches went away when I gave up certain fruits, refined sugar, and red potatoes.

Life is sure a lot better when you're not in pain!

Anonymous said...

I so want to know what your final dietary recommendations are. Please tell me it's resolved and it's bacon and eggs!


trix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
trix said...

An article about fecal transplant:


trix said...

Another article:

(I don't know how to make a link)


Anonymous said...

How is your palate expansion going?

Marc said...

Thanks soo much for sharing your experience, it means a lot for all of us who struggles with health issues & foods.
I totally can relate to your quest, I was vegetarian, macrobiotic,ayurvedic approach, & current paleonu. I am still underweight (113 pounds, 5´6 male), once I cut my carb intake my weight went down about 5 pounds further. I have totally avoid gluten, seed oil, sugar for about 3 years now, some things have improved some got worse, like my stomach grumbles 3 hrs. after meals and about 5:30 am every time!
I just hate it!, I had perfect digestion before but what keeps me on this high fat mod carb thing is that my hair loss have decreased dramatically, my skin looks great,my face is much less puffier and above all my bleeding stools & hemmorhoids have stopped (elimination of legumes & brown rice definately help on these issues).
I still have a long way to go in these food/health quest, but people like you make the path much more enjoyable.

Thank you!

Gabriel said...

Another great in the series.

An observation: your body comp in that photo doesn't look great. Not bad either, but you still have a puffy look and some water retention it seems. You have some muscle but also some love handles.

Not lecturing, I have a similar body comp right now, and most of it is water retention.

trix said...

I thought this very interesting about parasite changing behavior.

trix said...

Toxo & changed behavior

Dana Seilhan said...

One question: got any gelatin intake going on, through bone broth or by any other means?

Ray Peat has an interesting take on that, to wit: if you consume too much muscle meat but not really any other part of the animal, you wind up with too much cysteine, methionine, and tryptophan and it stresses your body out. He specifically mentioned trouble sleeping. I know someone who started self-administering gelatin before bedtime and when she remembers to do it, she sleeps like a baby. The glycine in the gelatin balances out those other three aminos in the muscle meat.

Still gotta look out for the gut health, though. I'm gonna guess your gut flora were so used to the vegetarian diet that they went into full rebellion when you fed them different stuff. :/

Anonymous said...

The suspense is killing me :) !

Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...


Thanks for the links. The one on parasites didn't work -- would you mind reposting it?


I think that the water retention you're seeing has a lot to do with the intestinal bloating I was experiencing during that time. Depending on how much bloating I have, I can look like I have quite the gut.

But, yeah, I was no Anthony Colpo -- but, damn did I feel good and strong.

Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...


I tried gelatin recently and it seemed to amplify my gut problems and actually caused me to sleep more poorly. :-(

aeshcame said...

this is interesting, i have tummy discomforts but never yet to get it diagnose, maybe something is wrong in my gut. after reading this i think i should seek a professional help..

trix said...

TOXO [12.4.09]
A Conversation with Robert Sapolsky

sigvaris socks said...

Digestive problems can lead to being out of shape and as I can attest so does poor posturing.

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