Walking home from school one day I wanted to burst into tears.
It was the spring of my 6th grade year and no, I wasn’t being bullied.
My stomach pain began just before school let out and was so severe I almost couldn’t, or just didn’t want to, walk.
The pain was an intense burning that made me sweat uncontrollably and beg for relief.
I finally made it home, which was about 2 blocks from school, drank some Pepto Bismal, and tried to go to sleep.
At the time I didn’t know laying down would only prolong the burning in my stomach.
After 20-30 minutes of agony the pain subsided completely and it felt like nothing ever happened.
And it didn’t happen again for about a year.
Finally, one day in 7th grade, the pain returned. While my class was supposed to be reading quietly I was bowled over in my desk trying to sleep.
My friend Jason looked at me, noticed the marathon runner’s sweat on my face, and asked if I was OK.
“No, I think I’m dying.” Typical adolescent exaggeration. :)
The truth is, during these bouts of stomach pain death sounded like a great alternative.
The pain began occurring more frequently. Once every month or two.
I wasn’t a fan of doctors back then and I didn’t bother telling my Parents about this recurring pain knowing my Mom would force me to see one.
By High School the pain occurred on a more regular basis. Sometimes every day, but usually once or twice per week.
I decided it was something I’d just have to deal with for the rest of my life.
Intense stomach pain for 30 minutes every week isn’t really that much in the grand scheme of things. That was my rationalization anyway.
Finally after High School I started keeping track of what I ate and drank immediately before a bout of pain. I’m still not exactly sure why I did this, but I think I assumed my diet had something to do with stomach (i.e. digestive) problems. Pretty obvious if you think about it, right?
Here is what I noticed:
1) Drinking a 7-11 Slurpee would almost surely end in me laying down in the fetal position.
2) Eating a big fast food meal (2 Whoppers, large fries, and a pop (soda) was typical for me at the time) would put me in agony about 50% of the time.
As you can tell I was on the SAD (Standard American Diet) and it was killing me.
But because of my notes I was getting somewhere. I could see when my pains occurred.
I immediately stopped drinking Slurpees and similar frozen soda treats.
And I started experimenting with my fast food meals. (I wasn’t yet smart enough to stop eating fast food altogether.)
What if I didn’t eat the fries?
How about if replaced the soda with the lemonade or iced tea?
What would happen if I only ate sides and no burgers?
I tried any variation I could think of.
What I found was that sugary, carbonated beverages were my enemy.
Drinking any carbonated or sugar-filled beverage during a meal would usually result in stomach pain. Fried, fatty, fast foods would bring the pain more often than home cooked meals, but the common denominator was what I was drinking.
I was a soda pop junkie and it never occurred to me that might be the cause of my problems until then.
I’d grown up drinking Pepsi, Mt Dew, Faygo (the local favorite in Metro Detroit), et al. From a very young age 80-90% of my fluid intake was carbonated beverages.
By the time I was in college, four 20 ounce bottles of Pepsi per day was nothing. Instead of drinking 8 glasses of water per day like is generally recommended I would drink 8+ glasses of carbonated poison per day.
So I decided I needed to stop drinking anything but juice and water.
I didn’t know what I was about to go up against.
Sweats, headaches, inability to focus or concentrate. The withdrawal symptoms were horrible.
I feel your pain if you’ve ever quit smoking because I went through a similar situation. It’s not easy. But it is necessary.
The first week of withdrawal was the worst, and it lasted about a month in total. I’m pretty good at delaying gratification and I knew if I was dealing with these symptoms then I must’ve really been poisoning my body.
And then one day: relief.
No more withdrawal.
And most importantly, my burning, agonizing, stomach pains went away forever.
Are there any health issues you’re experiencing that might be the result of what you’re putting in your body?
The easiest way to figure it out what food is causing your problems is with elimination testing:
Remove one, just one, food or drink from your diet for 2 weeks. If you experience withdrawal symptoms then extend the period of time until after the withdrawal symptoms are gone.
Did your health issue go away?
If yes, congratulations!
If not, remove something else from your diet.
What food or drink should you start with?
First, eliminate soda. If you do your own research you will find that carbonated beverages are poison.
Second, eliminate fried and junk food. I eat a healthy vegan diet, but I won’t preach. If you eat fried meats (or if you’re a junk food vegan/vegetarian), I’m not going to tell you to stop, even if it is in your best interests. Do your research and do what you want. Just don’t complain about your health problems. ;)
If eliminating soda and fried/junk food doesn’t work, it’s time to tackle the 8 foods that account for 90% of all food allergies: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.
Wheat is by far the most difficult since it is in virtually everything. That said, it is doable. I recently went on a gluten free vegan diet for 30 days. It took a little extra planning, but I exposed myself to lots of awesome new meal options.
Elimination testing takes time, but your health and happiness is worth it.