I was laid low this week with a bum stomach--projectile explosions from both ends, spine-cracking cramps, and chills, chills, chills. I first thought it was stomach flu, but now believe it was a bout of E. coli from meat left out of the cooler.
Not surprisingly, my food changed, and in a big way. I had no appetite, and consumed small portions of ginger ale, bananas, blueberries, and ginger chews, and rice cakes. I've also been swilling mushroom (and some chicken) broth. It felt as if the illness stripped my entire intestinal flora from my body, and that I wasn’t digesting even small amounts of these bland foods.
As it was happening, I saw this experience as a problem, a big one, until I saw an email from a woman in my Women & Food Group. Jill recently came down with bronchial pneumonia. Lily wrote her an email and commented, “The body has some interesting ways of cleansing itself.”
My thinking about the vomiting et al shifted after reading this. Thinking of the significant discomfort and unpleasantness as a kind of re-set of my gastro-intestinal system—and my eating—now feels like a more accurate and helpful way of viewing this experience. And, once again, I get to experiment with eating differently, finding out what my body needs in this time.
“So,” thought I, “What would I do if I had a clean slate—er, stomach?” I would introduce new flora in my digestive tract. Kefir (a fermented milk drink) has lots of probiotics, so I went out got some raw goat milk kefir, and some sauerkraut, which also contains them. For the last couple of days I’ve been eating sauerkraut first and last thing in the day, and a couple of times throughout the day.
I’m not feeling like eating meat right now, which is significant. I was eating large volumes of protein to help with my attention deficit disorder, and have noticed the lack has affected my focus, concentration, and memory.
However, I’m a bit afraid of it, too, and not up to digesting it right now. I also was increasingly conflicted about my growing embrace of Buddhism—a key tenet of which is not killing or causing harm to other beings—and chomping on meat. (Then again, the Dali Lama eats meat, supposedly because his doctor told him he needed to do so, and other Buddhists do eat meat.)
Right now, my body is hungry for vegetables and mushroom broth. My mouth, however, wants fat and sugar. I need to eat protein. What to do? Satisfy the body’s hunger and needs, and not the mouth’s.
The New Food, Now
My first meal today will be a bowl of mushroom broth with garlic, a teaspoon of miso, some spinach, and two servings of silken tofu. I’m also going to eat 3 boiled eggs (I’m shying away from fat, so scrambling them isn’t attractive right now). That will give me about 30 grams of protein, versus the 42 I’d get from the eggs with a 4 oz beef patty. That protein hit was extremely valuable, so I am concerned about the shortfall. (I may add a small portion of beans and a corn tortilla to boost the protein load.) I may have the same meal for dinner (without the beans and tortilla).
I am again trying to stay away from sugar, including fruit, and other carbs. A key reason is that I now have a yeast infection, both from the die-off of the healthy flora and the swilling of ginger ale and other sugars. Unfortunately, I have been craving sugar. Some of that is Candida-driven. It also happens when I don’t get enough protein.
I have a lot of gratitude around this process: gratitude for my spirit of inquiry, for my willingness, for food to eat, and food options.