As the Stomach Turns

The commercials make me crazy. They advertise over-the-counter or prescription medications that claim to treat heartburn, acid reflux, or general indigestion. And they always feature a bunch of fun-loving, portly guys out on the town for a night of sausage pizza, spicy chicken wings, and draught beer.

Their leader (let’s call him “Bob”) is temporarily sidelined by some form of gastric upset. Luckily, Bob has his magic medicine, and upon taking it, can safely continue his binge without consequence. “Gee, Bob,” I find myself yelling at the set, “maybe you should ease off the chili-cheese fries instead!” But he never listens.

The thing is, I know exactly where Bob is coming from, and I’m just using the poor guy as a scapegoat. Despite my tough ’n’ sassy demeanour, when it comes to my innards, I’m like a delicate flower. And I’ve always been a “tummy barometer” kind of person. Whatever is out of balance in my body, chances are it will make itself known through my digestion. Add years of bad habits–overeating, drinking, unchecked stress, and anxiety–and you can see that I need the advice on digestion presented in the articles in this month’s issue more than anyone. But of all the things I learn from alive and follow through on–getting regular exercise, improving my sleep, taking supplements, paying attention to my emotional health–managing my temperamental tummy is far and away the toughest.

It doesn’t seem fair, frankly. I’m a lover of the good things in life: fine wine, rich desserts, good Scotch, BĂ©arnaise sauce…why should I be the one cursed with tummy trouble? Based on some of my detoxing experiments over the years, I should probably be living a life of culinary purity and going macrobiotic, or at least vegan. When I’m being very careful, things in the ol’ midsection are looking and feeling good. My pants fit, I don’t feel like a sick puppy after every dinner, my energy level goes up…then some shopkeeper waves a wedge of provolone under my nose, and it’s down the rabbit hole again.

My supplement cupboard reveals a stash of cures for the digestively disadvantaged: probiotics, enzymes, peppermint tea, oil of oregano, and a few other things you don’t really want to hear about.

And this is where I start to feel a lot like Bob and his buddies. Oh, sure, I’m not taking a prescription drug for reflux, then hitting the all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet, but am I really that much different? Just because I’m using “natural” cures, does that mean I’m being much more responsible for my health? I know what I need to do; I just don’t have the good sense to do it.

Bob, if you’re out there, maybe we should get together. I’ll meet up with you and your pals, and together we’ll throw away all our little bottles and jars! We’ll have our very own support group and call it “Indigestion Anonymous.” Then we’ll go out to eat…or maybe we could just grab a cup of green tea somewhere?

Source: alive #290, December 2006