Sunday, March 8, 2015

The tortured adventures of a troubled tummy

We take for granted so many things in our daily lives. Breathing normally; living pain-free; walking. Here is another big one: eating. Most people don't think about what they eat. They don't consider how sugars are broken down by enzymes in saliva, that digestion begins before you even take a bite of food. Sometimes food makes a person sick, and that person becomes immediately conscious of what he or she ate, regretting that last chicken wing or week-old soup languishing in the fridge. But generally, food is our friend and we love it.

Recently, in my world, I have been made painfully and frequently aware that an "iron constitution" is a luxury. In about mid-January, my digestion started going goofy. My digestion is always off, so I didn't pay it much mind. But then I traveled to Japan for a ski trip. The food we ate in Japan, on the island of Hokkaido, was amazing and different and so deliciously Japanese. Giant bowls of Ramen; skewers of beef and lamb cooked over a bed of coals directly in front of us; a grilled rice ball, slathered in miso and stuffed with bonito... And quite literally the best fish I have ever had and will probably ever have in my life. We went to one sushi restaurant where the tuna sashimi melted in my mouth. And have you ever tried actual wasabi root? What a crazy experience!

Alas, despite my heart and head loving it, my gut did not approve of all the exotic and international foods I was consuming. During and following our trip, I basically stopped digesting anything properly. My symptoms became progressively worse to the point where I was waking up in the middle of the night with calf cramps so bad my calves were sore for the next few days. That's when I started on the serious electrolyte replacement - it has helped a lot. Don't get dehydrated.

I also realized this: I am lazy. Or jaded or frustrated or over it when it comes to medical issues. But the way I've been feeling, the detrimental effects these GI issues have been having on my body, these things are ridiculous. I want to be able to take eating food for granted again. I want to be able to run for longer than 20 minutes and not be wrecked. I want to be able to ski an entire run without stopping because my lower legs are cramping up again in my boots. So, I am slowly working with a GI doc here, trying to force them to want to figure out why this is happening instead of just prescribing me steroids to "help the inflammation" in my gut.

Ready yourself, here's the moral of this tale: Take Care of Yourself. We are given one life in this incredible world where, for some reason, the sun continues to rise every morning. I can't tell you not to take things for granted, because we all fall into that complacency. But I can implore you not to ignore when something feels off or wrong. We know our bodies better than anyone else, and only we can take the first steps to fixing them. Also, take care of your gut. It is way more important than you probably realize.

I will still be running, even though it isn't as far as I want right now. But I have a crazy trail run scheduled for August and a whole spring and summer full of adventures ahead. It's time to take control of these problems that have been crippling me for so long. Cheers, salud, go live your life and love it! And if you know of a GI doc who is more curious about the cause than the symptoms, let me know.

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