I’ve been dealing with some health challenges lately and, well, I’m going to whine about them for a minute. If TMI isn’t your cup of tea, skip this post and come back tomorrow. I’ll have a pretty photograph to share with you.
You might recall my foot surgery in June of 2014. One year post-op I still experienced some pain, to both my and my podiatrist’s surprise and consternation. And then in July I whacked that foot hard into a table leg, breaking the second toe, aggravating the surgery, and setting me back months of healing. It hurt to walk in all of my shoes except my Birkenstock sandals. I threw out most of my old shoes and upgraded to expensive, but very well constructed new ones. My podiatrist had me put an orthotic insert into all of them to build up my arch and correct my overpronation to take pressure off the surgery site and allow healing. I’ve had to stop going barefoot, even around the house; I wear Birkenstock clogs as house shoes. And I’ve cut out all unnecessary walking. I’m finally starting to walk pain-free, but it’s been a very frustrating eighteen months.
In addition, I’ve dealt for years with some digestive issues. A gastroenterologist was surprisingly little help — “you’re eating more fiber, right? Well, that’s all I know to tell you” — despite pain so bad that it was affecting my ability to work. Four years ago I took a chance and went to a pain clinic for it. You would not believe all the things they tried — electrostimulation, antibiotics, even meditation and a version of autogenic training. But it all helped and made this condition manageable.
It should not have surprised me that being ejected from an über-stressful job in June helped even more than all the doctors and their treatments. My discomfort eased by an order of magnitude. All that was left to look at was diet. So I started an elimination diet — and my guts quieted the rest of the way down. As I’ve added various foods back to my diet, I’ve discovered that wheat, almost certainly garlic and onions, and probably legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and certain vegetables (including cauliflower and broccoli) are the main culprits behind my gastro-intestinal distress. What these foods share in common is that they contain oligosaccharides, and my guts apparently can’t process them properly.
Eliminating these foods has been transformational, but it has also turned eating at restaurants into a form of Russian roulette. I can obviously avoid breads and beans because I can see them, but onions and garlic are hidden in so many restaurant dishes. And I eat out pretty frequently, as in my line of work lunch meetings are normal. I avoid Italian and Mexican restaurants entirely now. Fortunately, I can find safe foods at any restaurant with a breakfast menu. And I eat a lot of plain hamburger patties and fries — though those can be seasoned with garlic or onion and often even the kitchen staff doesn’t know it.
Meanwhile, I’m still adding foods back into my diet. There’s some evidence I might have difficulty digesting fructose. If so, goodbye to a whole bunch of fruits (including cherries and plums, which I adore) and anything made with high-fructose corn syrup (which I probably ought to avoid anyway). But I’ll change my diet in whatever ways are necessary to avoid gut pain.
And here’s the kicker in all of this: the pain isn’t the main problem. It’s uncomfortable, but I can usually manage to get through my day. The real problem is that when I’m in pain at night, I can’t sleep through it. The insomnia is worse than the pain.
What this all means is that while I’m figuring all this out I never know when I’m going to tie my guts up in knots and be awake half the night. I suspended the challenges for Christmas, but since the first of the year I’ve felt bad more days than not. I’m determined to push through, though, and learn what I can and can’t eat.
An unintended consequence of this is that my diet has shifted away from proteins and vegetables and toward fats. I keep track of what I eat using an online tool called CRON-O-Meter, and it tells me that lately my diet has contained a whopping 47% fat.
Between a high-fat diet and not being able to walk it off thanks to my stupid foot, I’m gaining weight and all of my pants are too tight.
It’s all been stressful. And if you’ve been following my Driving and Singing series, you know that belting out a tune can really help me vent my stress. Unfortunately, I’ve been having some trouble singing since about Thanksgiving. My throat has been dry and feels “thick.” Sometimes projecting a really big note triggers my gag reflex, of all things! It is so frustrating not to be able to sing out.
I’m determined and diligent. I will push through all of this. But I’m struggling with patience right now.