So, we’re going to have a little story time today.
I’m going to talk about the last year of having chronic stomach problems, and how I finally cured them with Whole 30 (and some other stuff).
Stomach problems are actually the worst.
This might not be true for everyone, but it’s absolutely true for me. I’ve been chronically ill before (I’m sure I’ll get into that at some point), and I’ve also gotten sick a million different ways. That’s why I can say that, for me, my stomach problems are the worst of the worst.
Flash back to a little over a year ago:
One day in June of 2017, I woke up and went for a run before leaving to pick Ariana up from the office in the afternoon. Five minutes into the drive, something started to feel… off.
Within minutes, I felt the worst stomach pain of my entire life.
It felt like food poisoning from Hell. I had cold sweats, intense abdominal pain, and I was shaking. All this sitting at a red light five minutes away from home. I pulled over in the nearest establishment with a bathroom and all but ran to be sick. This episode lasted for a good twenty minutes before the pain faded and I could stand up.
This was the first episode I experienced, but it definitely would not be the last.
Over the next six months, there were no improvements.
Every two weeks or so, the same thing would happen. Food poisoning symptoms with severe stomach pain, or if I was lucky, shorter versions of the same pattern. Anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour of the flu, or several hours of discomfort. After months of this cycle, it escalated to the point of disorder.
It felt like it was taking over my life.
I became used to suffering cold sweats and abdominal pain at school or work, or when I was out running errands. The disruption of having to be sick in the bathroom in order to get temporary relief was a weight I carried everywhere. And the threat of suffering when I couldn’t lie down, take a shower, or rest was always there. As the symptoms got more frequent and more severe, I was no longer able to function normally. By the time December ended, I knew I needed to see a doctor.
Finally, I felt like I would get a solution.
I endured test after test in order to try and find out what had happened to me. I had a family history of Chron’s and Celiac Disease, but the tests all came back negative. My mom told me (for the thousandth time) that I needed to start cutting inflammatory foods out of my diet. My doctor echoed this, and told me that I should try an elimination diet. She recommended the Whole 30 diet.
When I tried Whole 30, I had no expectations.
Getting those negative test results had me all but hopeless. I was pissed and in despair over the fact that I had no answers, and seemingly no solution. All those months of pain and stress also gave me another unfortunate side effect: anxiety. When I had anxiety about not being close to a bathroom, or having to work all day, the stress would actually give me stomachaches. So it became a horrible and painful cycle of getting sick, worrying about getting sick, and getting sick from worrying about it.
The suffering from that experience made me desperate enough to try anything. Even spending an additional $200.00 on Whole 30 approved food for a month at a time when we could barely afford to pay our bills.
And so my Whole 30 journey began.
Whole 30 is an elimination diet. For 30 days, you’re supposed to cut out all processed foods including grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, soy, alcohol, and a long list of preservatives and additives. Honestly, it was hard. I felt hungry all the time, and cranky because of the hunger. But at the same time, it was the best I had felt in nearly ten months. Two days after starting Whole 30, I was stomachache free.
Even though I was starving, craving dessert like nothing else, and had to meal prep every single calorie I ate, it was completely worth it. For the first few days, I still got anxious about whether I would get a stomach ache, but nothing ever materialized. It was an incredible shift from what I had been experiencing previously.
You get the picture. I cut out everything bad, and started feeling good.
After two weeks of total elimination, I decided to start experimenting with adding food back in. Now, technically you’re supposed to do this after a month. But since I was convinced it was a particular food causing me pain, I just wanted to find out which one it was and get back to eating carbs.
First, I added processed food back in. Added sugar, soy, and preservatives. This meant I could eat barbecue sauce again (blessedly) and cook with soy sauce. No stomach ache after a few days, and I moved on to the next banned food – grains. Rice, gluten free bread, and gluten free pasta were just a few of the delicious carbs that I was finally able to indulge in. Nothing made me sick, so I added in dairy too. Other than being slightly lactose intolerant, no horrible stomachache from that either.
I left gluten and legumes for last, because those were my biggest fears.
After feeling so good for so long, I was hesitant to add the last two foods back in to my diet. At least, not without help. At my mom’s advice, I added in digestive enzymes as insurance against hard to digest foods like legumes and gluten. After adding both back in over the last few months, I still have yet to get sick.
If none of these foods caused it, what did?
Honestly, I think I did some one-time damage to my digestive system that it couldn’t recover from until I did Whole 30. I never gave myself time to heal from something that came on very suddenly, and instead made it worse by continuously eating inflammatory foods. Now, I eat the exact same way as I did before, but those two weeks gave me the refresh I needed. I also think taking daily enzymes makes a huge difference.
If I ate Whole 30 all the time (but like, with rice so I don’t die of starvation) I’d probably feel amazing all the time. But I really like bread and dessert, and I like to cook comfort food, so I make the choice to indulge. But my experience with a chronic stomach problem definitely reminded me to listen to my body, and to be more open to prioritizing health over cravings.
This post isn’t really a clear cut narrative.
A lot of “This Cured Me” posts are simple: problem, solution, cured! and “you-can-do-it-too”. So I know this one could use some work. But this is real life. I didn’t stick to Whole 30 perfectly, but it still cured me. I also didn’t find “the One” food that was causing me pain. Instead, I have a strong suspicion that I shouldn’t have tried cooking my own raw beans for the first time so soon after learning to cook. (Who knew undercooked kidney beans were poisonous? It’s called Lectin poisoning, and you can read more about it here.)
There are also other factors that were hard to tie into the background of this post, like my PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). That already made me experience bloating and stomach problems the year before, which is why it took me so long to recognize my symptoms as a different problem. But this is exactly what I did when I realized I had a real problem, and this is what worked for the chronic stomach pain that I experienced.
This will definitely not be everyone’s experience.
Obviously I can’t speak for every person who has experienced chronic stomach pain and tried Whole 30. But if you’re having mystery symptoms and tested negative for autoimmune disorders that affect digestion, then I think it’s worth a shot.
Let me know in the comments if y’all have tried Whole 30 and what your experience was like!
Until Next Time,