Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My intestines and me

So I was reading, and I noticed Heather Armstrong is doing some sort of 21 day cleanse that's supposed to promote an inner spiritual makover. Ok.... I know people who do this, I will be patient. And so then I clicked on the link about Oprah, who apparently did this too. And I'm sitting and reading this blog of hers, and the one thought in my mind is, "Lady, I couldn't eat anything you're eating."

Let me explain.

When you have a bad, bad case of bacterial gastroenteritis (raises hand!), your intestines are very, very unhappy. Extremely unhappy. And this, in turn, puts you on a restricted diet. Because if you don't eat the restricted diet, there are dire consequences. Consequences that are not suitable subject matter for a blog.

And then you get to have lots and lots of tests, and they do a flexible sigmoidoscopy on you (raises hand!), and then the doctor sits down with you and tells you about the fun place food will now have in your life. Basically, you aren't going to get to eat anything you want. Not for a long, long time. And the doctor gives you the lovely news that some people who are ill like this, their intestines are never quite the same again. They may not digest foods as easily, etc.

So for the last six days, I have had the following restrictions placed on what I can eat (it doesn't leave a lot of variety):

  1. No dairy.
  2. No fried foods.
  3. No greasy foods.
  4. No alcohol.
  5. No fatty foods.
  6. No raw fruits.
  7. No raw vegetables.
  8. No complex grains.
My existence revolves around egg salad sandwiches on white bread, lean poultry with no spices, Jello, fruit ices, graham crackers, chicken broth and noodles, couscous, pasta, and recently, peanut butter sandwiches! Oh, and I can digest jelly too. =) And bananas, which is breaking the one rule about raw fruit. We've been adding foods gradually over the week and my digestion is quite happy with all of those.

But really, Oprah and all of the people doing that spiritual cleanse? You are freaking nuts. And how the heck are your digestive systems handling it?

Right now, I'd just give anything to be able to eat vegetables again. (Because I can't; I have tried with ones that have been cooked into mush, almost, and it doesn't work.)


Alex Fayle said...

I feel for you - due to stomach acid, I had to cut out almost all the same things for a while. On the up side of it, though, I slimmed right down to a weight I haven't been at since I was 20! And it was all healthy weight loss. (he says trying to look on the positive side)

Good luck and feel better soon!

Julie Carter said...

Oh, I've been there. Your diet sounds almost exactly like an IBS diet, which I have to count on at times. I truly feel your pain.

Karen said...

I had a bout with IBS back in my 20's--painful to say the least and I would imagine you're going through something similar. Hope you feel better soon and that you can enjoy food once again!

David said...

Why, that's a list of my favorite foods!

Kristine Overbrook said...

When I read your list my first thought was, what can you eat? Yikes.

Chris is being supportive, right? not bringing home old favs that you can't eat?

I would need to throw a fit or three. It seems as though you're taking this in stride.

I hope you recover soon.

Kiersten said...

That's awful. And I agree with you on the "cleansing" thing. I know a woman who put her husband on a lemon juice cleansing diet and it screwed his system up so bad that he died.

So yeah, don't mess with it if it's not broken.

But I am sorry for you--your diet is definitely not fun. Here's hoping things improve, and, more importantly, you stay healthy.

Ryan Field said...

I don't get these spiritual fasts either. Thank you.

Hope you're better soon.

Anonymous said...

Oh, much sympathy.

I have diet limitations due to allergies to wheat, dairy and eggs; the occasional IBS flare also puts me on something fairly similar. We won't go into when the taste buds rebel.....

LoraliSophia said...

Ouch, I hope things better for you! I saw that diet promoted on Oprah. My roommate and I were looking at each other in awe that anyone would do that to themselves. Personally, anytime I hear that a 'cleansing' is part of a diet, I run the other way. Fast.
Unless there are specific reasons for having a restrictive diet (such as in your case) there is no need to do funky and fancy things to your digestive system. If someone is a normal, healthy person, they shouldn't be eliminating foods like the lady on Oprah was suggesting. Like you said, they're freaking nuts.

Kelly Swails said...

The microbiologist in me wants to know what bug you had. Because boy! Did it throw you through the ringer.

Sympathies on the diet. Though, look at all the protein you're getting! *looks on the bright side*

Anonymous said...

Hope things get better from here on out for you. And, I agree. Anyway who would voluntarily do the cleansing diet is just nuts.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Kelly Swails, some form of E. coli, most likely. Except not the kind that kills you, that you hear about on the news, because I would be dead by now. =)

The doctor said it wasn't worth trying to culture to figure out the exact strain that infected me because there isn't a current outbreak of E. coli, and there are pretty much a ton of possibilities about which strain it could be. Plus, we have good E. coli bacteria in our intestines to start with. I was on Xifaxan for a long time; I needed like a triple dose, and I just got off it, and we'll see how the intestines do in the next few days.

As to how I got sick, we don't know. There are a million and one ways to get contaminated, and it could be as simple as Chris and I ate the same thing, and I got sick and he didn't.

But it's definitely not C. diff., which is a relief. =)

Tim Lieder said...

The movie that really did it for me was Supersize Me. Forget about the whole "McDonalds makes you fat" part; this movie really makes you paranoid about every greasy awful thing that goes into your body.

And Vegans do look good.

Suzy Q said...

Hello, Jenny,

I am very glad that you are doing what is right for you (and your intestines) and are on the mend.

As for me, as a long time vegetarian and somebody who has done these cleanses and continues to do so, I find it a bit presumptuous and bigoted for anybody (especially coming from those who haven't done so) to say that those who do these cleanses are "freaking nuts".

While I do not personally advocate these for "spiritual reasons" (mine have more to do with actual health), there is valid science that does in fact support cleansing the colon, and digestive track. When done carefully, with proper nutrition and even a basic understanding of human physiology- one can reap many benefits.

I wish you great health :)


Kelly Swails said...

Ah. Okay. The E. coli O157 strain can definitely kill you if you're young, old, or immunocompromised. Since you're not any of those things, I don't know that I'd rule it out; they treat it with supportive therapy, which is what you got in the hospital. (IV fluids and such). Since they didn't culture you, there's no way to know, but it could have been any number of things; E. coli, Shigella, etc.

Just be glad it wasn't C. diff. People that have been on antibiotic therapy can get C. diff, though, and it's bad when you're getting over something like what you had and then blammo! Get C. diff. I could talk about some wild treatments for that, but I won't ... definitely not the topic for a professional-type blog.

Anyhoo, glad you're feeling better. Once your normal flora gets reestablished you should be able to eat fiber again.

Rachel said...

Hope things look up (gastronomically) soon. I've known others with similar problems and you can get to a place where you feel safe eating food again, but it does take a while. And yeah, you'll probably always have to be a little wary. But, you're 27 and seem to be relatively healthy despite that so I'm guessing, you will do fine.

Hang in there.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Kelly, they did do cultures while I was in the hospital, but they all came back negative because I had been on antibiotics for over a week by that point. Still sick as a dog, but since I only responded to the antibiotics (and the insides of my intestines look like infective colitis; this is another reason we know it's not C. diff, since apparently your intestines look very odd with it), that's why it was classified as bacterial gastroenteritis.

Sheila said...

Sounds very much like IBS diet fun!

I went through all of that (restrictive diet) before finding out I am gluten intolerant. Gluten caused most of the problems.

Hope you feel better soon!