Monday, November 17, 2008

My F-ing Stomach

I hardly ever talk about my health. It's not always great. That's probably why. I have no interest in writing about it because it sort of reiterates it for me to see it in writing and since I don't enjoy my health issues I don't particularly enjoy writing about them either.

Some of you may recall my woe and despair over my stomach at the beginning of the summer. My stomach was in a bad way for a long time and I wanted to give you all an update because the apparent (so far, fingers crossed) cure for it was something so simple and so easy and so doable that I just wish someone had told me about it earlier so I didn't have to suffer for so long. I hope that maybe some of you might be able to be helped by what helped me, freaking FINALLY.

I've had stomach problems since I was about ten. I've been to many, many doctors over the years and they all said I had IBS. I've been tested for everything from parasites, to bacteria to gall stones and it's never anything. I began to think I had celiac disease earlier this year. I went for a test. Guess what? Negative. I have an autoimmune disorder which is at the moment unspecified. I figured my stomach issues were related. My rheumatologist said not really.

"You have IBS, accept it," she said.

Still, I believe that the IBS is related to the autoimmune disorder in some way, but no one will listen to me, so whatever.

Still, I know that I get violently ill whenever I eat any grain except rice and some things that have grain products in them but aren't grain. And I'm talking more than wheat. Don't even ask what happens with corn. It's not pretty.

My stomach problems got so bad that I started having panic attacks. I was afraid to be away from home because I might get a stomach attack and not be able to find a bathroom and I might be in an embarassing situation. IBS is humiliating and gross and extremely inconvenient. For me the embarassment part was the worst. Combine that with school bathrooms and I needed an IV drip of valium to get through the day (not literally). Anxiety makes IBS worse. IBS causes anxiety. Bad vicious cycle here.

Finally I found a new doctor who is a general practitioner. I've been to him before. I go to him to get my flu shots because he orders the mercury free ones. He's a real doctor but he's a bit of a renegade. He sees things a little differently and tries things that other doctors might not think of. He is honestly the best and most thorough doctor I have ever been to. The man is miraculous.

He read my blood test results and admitted that I was negative for celiac.

"However," he said, "Lot's of people have it and it doesn't show up on the blood tests. Plus, many people have grain and gluten intolerances, especially those people who have autoimmune disease. So if it makes you sick, get strict and stop eating it."

That simple. So I did. And I felt better in two days.

But that's not all.

He also told me to take two, easy, over the counter products that are absolute miracles. Look, I've taken every hard drug out there for my stomach and nothing really worked. Most made it worse. Others made me foggy and sleepy.

The two things are enteric peppermint capsules and DGL licorice tablets. I know this sounds like some stupid quack shit that your mom's new agey friend who went to a year of Chiropractor school before dropping out to move to Sedona and channel her dolphin spirit guide, might tell you. It's not. Trust me, I was doubtful that some licorice and peppermint could help my stomach, but it did. I swear. I also looked it up and these two things have been proven to be more effective in treating IBS and stomach problems than the hard drugs. And I love me some hard drugs.

So I just take the enteric peppermint capsules and chew up the tablet about twenty minutes before I eat and then...I'm normal. Totally normal. For real.

In three days the aches and pains and soreness in my stomach went away. I started to go to the bathroom like a normal human being. Nothing hurt. I wasn't dehydrated anymore. I'm calming down. I can sleep without being propped up on pillows because of the reflux. I almost feel like it's too good to last. I keep thinking it will all come back, but it's been a full week of normalness and painlessness. All from some peppermint and licorice and also totally, one hundred percent, eliminating stupid grain from my diet. I know that part sounds hard but honestly I was so miserable I was about ready to eliminate food from my diet. Just food period, because everything made me sick.

So look, this might not work for everyone. I'm also receiving some other treatments for my autoimmune disease and that could be what's helping too. It might be the gluten-free diet. I don't know, but I've tried being gluten free before and I didn't get better like I have since I started the peppermint and licorice.

In any case, licorice and peppermint won't hurt you, so it's worth a try if you're suffering like I did. I wish someone had told me about it sooner. Just remember, if you want to try it that the peppermint has to be enterically coated or it could make your stomach worse and that the licorice must be chewable DGL because whatever the GL is, can be poisonous, so make sure it's not in there.

Let me know if any of you try it and it works for you too. That would make me really happy.


Lauren said...

Wow I am glad you have found relief! My dad has celiac disease. he says the only way to know for sure is to have a small procedure, a biopsy, of your colon to see if there's damage. (they usually only do that if your blood test is positive) Either way - there is so many delicious wheat free things to eat out there, I hope you can embrace it like he has.

NeekoalinAZ said...

Glad you are feeling better my friend. And remember, you are Jewish so you should be whispering the names of all those diseases. Maybe next time use subscript or something. :-) My grandmother used to whisper everything that was bad. "You know she has the ***cancer*** (whispered)."

Emily said...

That's wonderful, and who cares if people make fun of homeopathic treatments; I love them. It's not like if I came down with cancer I would try to treat it through homeopathic remedies alone, but why not let all the options work together for you?

I've had such a hard time finding a doctor like yours who's open to all the possibilities; I'm glad you found one!

Renee in Seattle said...

You situation sounds exactly like my husband's secretary; negative for celiac, but miserable and gluten and dairy intolerant. Her stomach issues are so bad they interfere with her life, her ability to pursue relationships, a meaningful career, and don't even mention the medical bills! I'm going to forward this to her right now. I hope this helps her.

MtnMama said...

Ever since my chronic bladder infections were cured by homeopathic therapy I am no longer a AMA-centric thinker. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy... and so on.

MizScarllet said...

Hey - after years and years (I too know the anxiety of "wheres a bathroom!!!" - add a 40 minute commute through the middle of nowhere, contemplating which forest roads I could pull off of to be ill - and it was a nightmare.)

I found that certain foods and oils trigger me.

But god bless my PA - she put me on Lexapro - now I have the IBS, but not so anxious about it, so it cut my symptoms in HALF. I still have it, I just shrug and go aobut my very painful business.

Instead of wondering what people think when I disappear from the table for 15 minutes during a meal.

I will try those two.

What always pissed me off was that I could never seem to loose weight. You'd think if we were sick so much, the lbs would drop off - I take it back - I did drop 20 lbs one month, but that was all stress and IBS. If that's how you've been living...damn, girl. You have my support and encouragement.

Candid Carrie said...

I have a renegade vet. I wish he could treat people. He thinks outside of the box and I believe he could do amazing things with people, too.

I know it sounds silly but I would trust my vet with my life before I would trust my own doctor ;)

bluelikethesky said...

Wonderful news!!!!!!!

My daughter has a new friend who is allergic to corn. And you know what that means? Corn starch. Corn syrup. I went on a label reading frenzy before her last sleepover.

Most people have no f*ing idea of the challenges people with gut issues face. I'm so happy you've found something that works, and I don't give a flying flip if you had to channel fifteen dolphin spirits to get it!

L said...

Wow... you could have just described me there. I've had to eliminate gluten, diary and eggs from my diet to get some relief, but I'm still sick. Docs told me the same thing, it's IBS, suck it up.

I am not lying when I say I am going to Walgreens NOW to get those supplements. It would be so nice to have the relief you did.

Thank you SO MUCH for posting this. My doctors were completely out of ideas and now I have something to try.

Anonymous said...

BBC News had an article on Friday that peppermint oil was found to be the best thing for IBS

Gayle said...

Wow -- I suffered from intense IBS all through my high school years. My doctor said it was triggered by stress (parents' violent divorce, being a teenager in general), and nothing I did seemed to help. I was also obsessed with my weight, so I pretty much stopped eating -- it was the only thing that made me feel better (and kept me thin, of course). The IBS still flares up every now and then -- I wish I would have known about your remedy years ago. Best of luck with food and health.

sarah said...

That's so weird I read an article yesterday that said peppermint oil was clinically proven to be a lot more effective for IBS than prescription drugs. I was going to try it so I'm glad it works for you, I definitely will now. Here's the article.

Chiada said...

Glad to hear that the peppermint and licorice are helping you so much. My sister has Crohn's disease, so I've heard many a sad, pitiful story regarding IBS (especially bad are the ones that have something to do with a plane...).

Have you tried probiotics? Not sure if they are considered a quack item or not, but they really help. I'd definitely recommend looking into them, not only for the benefits of your stomach, but also overall health. Some people think that a lot of our health and immunity is related to the "flora" of the gut (the good bacteria vs. the bad bacteria). Probiotics help the good bacteria to flourish. It's also really important to take them when you are on antibiotics, which kills off all bacteria, good and bad.

Missicat said...

Wow! Glad you found relief. I do have some stomach issues myself, so will probably try the peppermint capsules and licorice...can't hurt, right? Would be sooo nice if it worked...

inspector voyeur said...

Hey there,

You might appreciate the shirt at this link if you are having gluten troubles. Hop you like it.

Books & BS said...

I'm glad you found something that helped. I have horrible IBS that alternates between the two of the extremes from time to time and have had horrible bouts with it over the years. Have you tried Noni? I started using it a few months ago because I had pretty much given up hope of ever being able to eat anything normal again and it seems to be working. After about a week and a half it basically made my IBS symptoms disappear. It tastes pretty awful though but I just hold my nose and chase it immediately with juice.

sallyacious said...

I went to college with Shauna James Ahern who writes at
She has all kinds of fabulous gluten-free recipes there, as well as a simply amazing attitude toward life. She's worth reading just for that.

Ordinary Housewife said...

I think it's funny that when you have the I'm-Always-Looking-for-the-Nearest-Bathroom-Disease, you feel like you're the only one on earth who has it. No matter where you go, everyone else is frolicking around all carefree, eating fried cheese in the middle of the freaking wilderness, miles away from a public restroom, and you're the only one in the history of the world who is a bathroom nerd. Glad to read here that I'm not the only one after all.

Sarah said...

Im happy the peppermint is working for you!! I have IBS as well and it never did much for me - although I have found using a lactose free probiotic helped me get past the pain part! Thank god you finally got some relief- its not a fun disease

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased to hear that you have found something that actually works for your problem/s. I do know what you are talking about and how uncomfortable and distressing this condition is.

I have arthritis, asthma and IBS and non-coeliac gluten intolerance. What worked for me was a wheat free diet, low salicylate (which means the peppermint oil is out for me) low preservative, careful on the food colourings (no tartazine) and oh, ginger helps a lot. It took me years and years and a few more years to sort that lot out.

I am 60 and started having problems in my early 30's.

Thank you for sharing and I am so glad that you are feeling better.

Anonymous said...

Another thing that has helped me was to stop drinking diet soda.

M said...

Peppermint and licorice were suggested to me by a pharmacist while travelling through India some years ago. Amazing stuff fixed my Dheli-Belly instantly.

I suffer from similar gastro issues as you do. My local doctors would only suggest drugs and even the naturopath I saw didn't suggest peppermint and licorice as a natural remedy. One doctor even wanted to put my on a high dose broad spectrum antibiotic because he thought I had some kind of parasite!

I'm not quite as bad as you thought. I only take peppermint (and occasionally licorice) when my stomach starts turning south.

One other remedy I use is activated charcoal. I find this helps a bit too.

Anonymous said...

Is this something you can get at a Walgreens or is more of a specialty store?

AJH said...

Try The Doctor Within

for gluten free and other food goodness ideas.(I have no commercial or other association).

I have gone gluten free and to much better health, though no celiac condition. I read somewhere that current day wheat has 7 to 10 times the gluten it did 100 years ago due to crop yield improvements.

Jan said...

This is the stuff: Cindy is the real deal, and her product is too. For all those who suffer, this is a cure!

Kate said...

Urk. I feel ya, sister. I'm on chewable acidophilus, folic acid, and b12, with lots of vitamin E. So far, so good. Oh yeah, and no grains. Fun!

Anonymous said...

i'm delurking for this, it's funny what will drive people to comment :)
i'm glad you've found relief for you stomach issues. i've also had digestive issues for the past few years, mostly pain and nausea, and peppermint is something that has helped A LOT in controlling it. i mostly drink the tea, which tastes like hot minty nothing b/c i drink it black. and fyi, if you're in a pinch, i've heard peppermint altoids can help too.
p.s. LOVE your writing

kerry said...

Yay for finding a solution!!! And it's something natural. Wow. My mom has stomach issues, too, and the probiotics helped her a lot. I wonder if this would help her. I'll have to suggest she try it.

Yay for you feeling good!!!

Michelle said...

Let me know if any of you try it and it works for you too. That would make me really happy.

Because if you could help just one person...

(I kid! I kid!)

Rosa said...

So glad you found a solution! I have been diagnosed with IBS and have also enjoyed the benefits of enteric-coated peppermint capsules (this is not homeopathy, by the way Emily, just a natural remedy) - and have since discovered that soy is my nemesis - but the peppermint is a great back-up! I've also been told that charcoal tablets are good to take after your tummy gets upset - but am yet to test this one myself. :-) But I'd just like to encourage anyone whose doctor has diagnosed IBS to try elimination diets to see if it's some common allergen before just accepting the pain and disruption - because sometimes it can be so simple! Just my two cents... :-)

KT said...

Thank goodness you're feeling better! IBS sucks even when it's not accompanied by the grain intolerance you have, so I can only imagine how relieved you must be to find something that works! And thanks for the peppermint tip --

Hilary said...

I think it's wonderful that you were able to find a good doctor.. one who thinks, rather than just prescribes. I'm very appreciative that you posted this. Thank you! It's on my shopping list for Friday. Just for good measure, I'll wash it down with a cocktail of Black Sambuca and Peppermint Schnapps. ;)

Wide Lawns said...

Wow I am so surprised at how many people have or know someone with stomach problems. I'm convinced it has to do with the quality of our food and the extreme amounts of stress we all put ourselves under.

To everyone who mentioned probiotics - I take them too and I've started taking lactaid as well, but I was doing these things before the peppermint and licorice and it didn't help as much. Still probiotics are really important for more than just IBS, so I take them religiously.

Personally I like Hilary's idea - sambucca and peppermint schnapps!! Also very festive for the holidays.

Michelle, you are so funny. I thought of that when I wrote that. I don't want to help just one person though. I want to help THOUSANDS of people. But one is definitely a start!

FreshHell said...

A little late commenting but I did want to say thanks a million for this information. I was diagnosed with IBS years ago - stress-induced, of course. I'm also lactose intolerant and have given up milk, ice cream, etc. I am a vegetarian which helps and I rarely eat in restaurants, gave up "fast food" a long time ago. This helps but I will have to look for these products because sometimes you don't see a flare up coming until it's too late. I can't tell you how many nights I've slept sitting up because of heartburn, reflux, general bad stomach. Thank you!

Rachel said...

Enteric peppermint caps are the bomb: I take one of those puppies before going out to a restaurant and it has made my life much easier. (Actually, they're peppermint-ginger-fennel caps from I also drink peppermint tea and take acacia fiber every day.

What I really need to do is to go back to my IBS hypnotherapy CDs since my IBS is definitely stress-related. They're so relaxing, but I find it hard to tell myself to take 20 minutes to do nothing...

TK said...

WL, I agree with you that it's stress and modern diet. I'm sorry that you have had to live with this, it is miserable. I had the panic and anxiety that was I think partly caused by the gluten intolerance and the family stress and abuse. I also think the "stress diet" causes the immune dysfunction.

I spent 10 years not able to eat anything with gluten, it was way before all the gluten free products available now. I can eat wheat again, but not oats, and still have the anxiety.

I'm so tickled you posted something that not only can help a lot of people, but also that you could see in comments that you certainly are not alone! Bless you!

My dog actually has colitis and/or IBS (stress will cause it as well as what else we don't know after a ton of tests) and I was able to help him a lot with plain sugar free yogurt and taking him off all grains except rice. I also added a little canned pumpkin. Never a mom so happy to see such "beautiful" poo! He's a smart pup too, if he's not crated over the weekends and is sleeping with us, if he has to puke or even emergency poop, he runs to the bathroom and hops in the tub, because that's where I would toss him when I couldn't get him outside or to tile before he urped.

I personally found meditation helpful for the stress and for upset stomach, and found I could tell my body that it could "hold it until I found a bathroom!" and if I firmly believed it and didn't allow doubt, mostly it was true. There's an older book called I think "Your Body Believes Every Word You say".

Not to say sh*t doesn't happen.. just that panic makes it happen with greater frequency.

Mattie said...

I am TOTALLY going to try this!

AND, if you don't mind, I'd like to copy what you wrote and give the info to my sister. She's worse than I am in the bowel department.

Thanks so much for sharing this. If it works, you can have my first born.

Oh, wait ... he's 38, married, and the father of 2.5 kids. Well, maybe I can get him to mow your lawn or something.

Anonymous said...

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (an IBS disease) when I was 15. It was horrible and embarrassing and I was my doctor's very youngest patient, sitting in the waiting room with mostly elderly clientel. It was awful.

At first they pumped me full of steroids to heal me faster, but you can't stay on them - I was in bad shape at that point. Then they put me on these huge orange cow pills - a sulfur drug - anti-inflammatory. I was never convinced those really helped me.

The condition has plagued me throughout the years - I'm 36 now. It has been mostly under control with about 4 flare ups. I have to go for those awful colonoscopy tests every few years because supposedly I have a 300% better chance of contracting colon cancer than the average person due to this disease.

Funny thing is that aside from some discomfort and tenderness in the stomach region, I haven't had a true attack in about 10 years. I stopped taking the medicine like 5 years ago, and yet every time I go to the doctor I am "warned" to keep taking the medicine or I will get sick. The medicine made me feel worse.. and it can damage your liver. It also turned your hair and skin slightly yellow-orangish... ick.

Years after I was first diagnosed, I also found out this was an auto-immune disease. I was put on another drug called purinethol (or 6-MP), which suppresses your immune system so it stops attacking your insides... however the bad part is that you are also more prone to getting sick from outside germs and (the deal breaker for me), you have to religiously have a monthly blood test, because of a serious possible complication that you can die if your white cell count gets too low. I stopped taking that one too and have been fine for years.

Sorry this is so long, but I have one last thing to add. My mother told me I had been a "colicky baby" so maybe I was predisposed. I also have a type double-A personality. The weird thing is that I went from always being constipated to suddenly the reverse situation... and there was suddenly blood which is what scared me into going to the doctor.

After years of wondering why and how I got this disease, I stumbled onto an article about how pasterization in milk does NOT kill all the bacteria like it is supposed to and that they believe it might be the cause of chron disease (similiar to ulcerative colitis in that they are both IBS). I only buy ultra-pasterized milk now.

What actually happens is that the bacteria in the milk, absorbs into your intestinal and stomach lining, and that is actually the reason your immune system is attacking. It cannot get to this lining for some reason without tearing up the intestinal and stomach wall, which is what is happening in IBS diseases. Supposedly a very long course of low grade anti-biotics can cure these diseases completely.

Alot of the medical community seems to be resistent. I think there is a self serving interest in alot of our medical system to keep the patients coming back for check-ups and "treatments", not to mention keeping us on "maintenance" drugs for the rest of our lives. I know people that have had cancer and told they were dying, so they stopped taking their medicine and actually improved. Really makes you wonder.

At any rate, I will try your pepperming and licorice... do you know if a regular drug store would sell it and what section it would be in?

Becca said...


First, I need to apologize. I'm the brat who left the obnoxious comment about the picture of the truck with the flag, if I recall. I was rude, immature, out of line, and also just plain wrong. I owe you a sincere apology, and I am truly sorry.

If I'm not being too nosy, have you been tested for gastroparesis? One test is a gastric emptying test. Another is called the Sitz-Marker test, (please don't quote me on that, it's been a few years). I too was given a diagnosis of IBS, told to stress less, and eat more fiber. I felt worse and worse, losing more and more weight, and was in constant pain. I finally found a GI specialist who would take me seriously; she ordered the gastric emptying test, and within a day I had a diagnosis of gastroparesis.

It usually seems to hit people who are 1) in their mid-50s and 2) Type II diabetics, but is often idiopathic as well - I was 25 when it struck, and am not a diabetic of either type. I know how debilitating that pain can be, and I'm thrilled that you've found some relief. I 100% agree with the other posters who say the heck with people who make fun of homeopathic treatments - it absolutely has its places and benefits. :)

Apologies to you again for babbling on this long. Hoping that you feel even better very soon.

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