Leaky Gut Syndrome. It sounds nasty, not very medical, and not even a little official. It reminds me of a lame insult you’d throw at your Kindergarten nemesis. “Ick, you look like a leaky gut.” So why do researchers, clinicians, doctors, and all those guys continue to use that term? Well, despite its disagreeable name, the description very precisely depicts what’s occurring. Thus, the not so beloved term, leaky gut. So what does that mean? It means the intestinal tract is unfortunately getting beat down by various digested toxins so badly that it’s becoming porous. These areas become permeable, leading to toxins then literally leaking out into the bloodstream and causing all types of terror in the body. For more detailed information on how the gut may become leaky, check out this article by the The Daily Beast.
By the way, I hate my gut.
I’ve had to be very careful what I eat and drink in the past few days because for whatever reason, I seem to be so sensitive to just about everything that I my body reacts disapprovingly. It’s so bad that someone recommended I find a bubble I can crawl inside and live in. Thanks, friend. I’d rather not. Instead, I’ve been on one of my many crazed searches to find out what the heck is going on. Of course I’d see my doctor if I thought I’d find solutions that were more long-term and eventually preventative rather than pharmaceutical bandaids, but it’s usually the latter when I do go, so I knew I wouldn’t find solace there.
The most annoying symptom is that I can’t breathe. My asthma’s triggered by foods that I normally have no problem with. Not breathing is no fun, but even more so when you have no idea what’s making it more frequent. I thought I was coming to learn many of my asthma triggers – preservatives, gluten, animal hair, pollen, dust, strong scents, smoke and strong spices when cooking (thus thus the bubble suggestion) – all irritants I can identify as harmful. But all of a sudden, I started to feel like I was having spontaneous asthma attacks without a trigger.
I hated not knowing when I would have another attack. It used to be so predictable that I would just do what I needed to do in order to reduce inflammation and go about my day, accepting that one of the usual culprits invaded my body. But this new unknown trigger was like the boogeyman, stopping me in my tracks. Not only was I frustrated that I was experiencing symptoms but I was angry because I’ve been so diligent in avoiding triggers. I mean, I even did the unthinkable recently and significantly reduced my sugar intake. Ugh. Who does that? I hated it at first but that’s another story. Ultimately, it was worth it.
Anyway, I was doing all the normal stuff I usually do in an attempt to flee from triggers, so I wasn’t sure where to go from here. I decided that the only option I had was to become even more obsessively hyper-vigilant about what I ate, and maybe, just maybe, I’d start to see a pattern. So, I became the even more annoying, abnoxious restaurant goer. “Ma’am, do you know if this has ANY unnatural additives, strange colorings, harsh chemicals or hidden gluten in it?” I usually got the disgusted, but casual “No, it doesn’t” just to get me to shut up. It helped to know that I was being lied to, because at least then I had an answer. Twisted, I know, but still helpful. This seemed to help at times, as I realized that maybe the take-out place that claimed to have “all-natural” ingredients included fake natural ingredients under the guise, “natural flavors” that may come hidden in some of the products they purchase. Even more twisted. I’d like to believe that even most restaurant owners are bamboozled by this stealthily hidden problem rather than assume that they’re cut-throat, greedy bastards, but I guess I’ll never know.
Even at home, though, I was having weird inflammatory responses. My breathing became labored and I turned into a blow fish within a few minutes of eating something. “Hey kids, check this out, I look nine months pregnant.” They threw me glances of pity followed by scrunched up expressions that guaranteed they were thinking, “She’s so weird.”
One evening, I decided to have some coffee. I had a few sips from the same cup much earlier in the day and it was delicious. Being the true coffee drinker that I am, I had no trouble reheating it hours later and enjoying it as much as I had that morning. And if you’re a real coffee junky, you’re not one bit judgy or grossed out by my coffee drinking rituals right now.
For whatever unknown reason, this same, innocuous cup of coffee that tasted oh so right and was well-received just hours prior by my finicky gut decided to reject it in the most violent of ways. Once again, I was turning into a puffer fish, uncontrollably transforming like the Hulk when someone ticks him off. The breathing, then the pregnancy belly, which further exacerbated the breathing, then the trying to take deep breaths, then the sheer hopelessness, and ultimately feeling very stuck and desperate for answers.
Wait a minute, I thought. It made sense. It was related to leaky gut. In my gut, I just knew it, quite literally. My gut, although welcoming the coffee with open arms earlier that day, had somehow changed its mind later in the evening. Just a few hours later, the environment in my gut must’ve changed so much that a substance that was harmless so quickly betrayed me. While waddling around feeling forlorn and simultaneously making pitiful attempts to implement some deep breathing, I realized that I was again being stripped away from yet another one of my loves. I couldn’t drink coffee the way I used to any longer.
It’s nothing short of grief, not only because it’s one of the few vices I have left, but because it speaks to the body’s imperfections, to the various phases of life, to aging, even as I often jokingly share that ,”I used to be able to eat anything.” And this modification I have to make, just another thing to add to the now long list, has attempted to conquer me. And I must surrender, not because I’m weak but because in my acceptance lies my fight.