Almost three years ago, my stomach started giving me trouble. I’d always carried stress in my stomach, so it took me a while to realize that something more serious was going on. The first thing I noticed was that I could no longer handle dairy products. I easily transitioned to soy milk, but had a hard time staying away from cheese and the occasional ice cream. A few months later, things got worse. After I ate I always felt like there were bricks in my stomach. The discomfort was exaggerated by my schedule. I was spending 8 hours a day dancing. I had been one of those girls that wouldn’t drink much water between classes because I felt too bloated, so having pain that I couldn’t get rid of was incredibly inconvenient. Jumping and partnering with stomach pain was especially unpleasant.
I figured that I must have a food allergy. I started experimenting with my diet to find what the trigger was. I cut gluten for a couple of weeks, went on a low acid diet for a while, and cut nuts for a period of time. While I felt better for a couple of days during each of these trials, the pain kept coming back. Eventually I gave up. I found a few yoga poses that made me feel a little better when I was having a rough patch, and decided I would just have to deal with it.
Fast forward two months. I was spending the summer at home in Texas, and started seeing a chiropractor. I have a sway back and what I refer to a “crunchy” hips (thank you, drill team), so I was seeing someone to help me with exercises targeted to support these areas. We talked a lot whenever I went to see him, and I happened to mention that I’d been having stomach problems. A couple of weeks later when I went to his office, he told me he found my problem.
In looking at my x-rays, he had always focused on my lower back/pelvis area, where my skeletal problems were. One day while he was looking at my x-rays, he had to step outside to answer the phone. When he came back and saw the whole x-ray from afar, he noticed a cluster around the right side of my rib cage… Gallstones. He gave me the x-ray to show my doctor. She didn’t think I would have gallstones, since the most susceptible victims are middle-aged women with high fat diets, but sent me to have an ultrasound anyways.
One week later, I’m at the radiologists’ office and learn that yes, I have gallstones. Plural. 6, actually. Each about a centimeter in diameter. Finally, an explanation for my misery! In a book I read recently, Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers: The Best New Voices of 2006, one of the writers mentioned a gallstone attack. She referred to gallstones as “little balls of evil”, a description I find very accurate. The gallbladder is a small organ that aids in the break down of fats during digestion. It contracts to pump out bile in this process. You can imagine how painful it is to have this little organ contracting around a bunch of crystalline balls after every meal.
While gallstones can be broken up by ultrasound waves, they often come back. The best option, I was told, was to remove the gallbladder. And so, in July 2010, I had a laparoscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder, and the devilish stones within. Once I recovered from the surgery, I felt much better! I could eat again!
Recently, problems have resurfaced. While I am not suffering from the same debilitating pain I had two years ago, I have been having frequent discomfort. I decided to go back on a “gallstone diet” for awhile, and have now started adding foods back into my diet, in hopes of finding the triggers. Below is the list of foods I have been avoiding.
- Spicy foods
- Fried foods (chips, french fries, etc)
- Red, fatty meats (especially bacon, sausage, ground beef, ribs)
- Creamy soups and sauces
- Meat skins and meat gravies
- Whole grain breads
- Nuts, Seeds, Nut Butters
- Brussels sprouts
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Refined sugars
Needless to say, it has been difficult. I’ve had a few slip-ups, but overall have been pretty diligent. My stomach has been functioning better, but my energy has been very low, so I’m adding things back in to make sure I’m getting the proper nutrients. I had nuts over the weekend (Pistachio Milk), and was okay, but when I had a spoonful (or two) of peanut butter, I regretted it. Nuts will remain an occasional treat. Red meat is working in moderation. Whole grains are okay, also in moderation. Refined sugars were okay in small doses, but normally come in high fat delicacies… not good. Dairy I’ve been more wary of than usual, and I think that’s a good decision. Eggs I miss, so I’m adding them back in at brunch on Saturday, and will see how it goes. I had a chocolate over the weekend when my boyfriend and I went to Tcho and learned that more than a pinch leads to pain. Chocolate is hard for me to moderate– it’s all or nothing. I have gone without coffee for 18 days *gasp*. I realize now how dependent I am on it. I should be getting more sleep and eating foods that will give me more fuel, not drinking more coffee. Next week I will probably treat myself to a cup a day, but will try not to abuse the privilege. I need to make more changes to my lifestyle to properly care for my body.
In addition to tummy troubles, I am trying to fight back a cold. I feel it coming on, and am determined not to let it hold me down. After ballet class this morning, I picked up some Green Chile Stew with Chicken (no sour cream) from Green Chile Kitchen so I had time for a nap before work. Growing up in Texas, I have a special place in my heart for Mexican and Mexican-inspired food. This soup was exactly what I needed! It was spicy enough for me to enjoy, despite the dullness of my cold-affected taste buds. It was full of vegetables, and with beans and chicken, had plenty of protein. The beans were my first legume in about 3 weeks, and I think will join the list of “In Moderation” foods. The soup also came with a large and delicious flour tortilla. Yum!
Here’s to hope for a healthy tomorrow!