From my early to mid-twenties, I lived a hedonistic life. Too much alcohol, too much bad food, not enough sleep. Because of this, and because of the anxiety I experienced caring for my ailing mother, I developed chronic digestive problems.
To be specific, I suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Chrohn's disease. I was withering. My face and eyes turned lifeless and my already thin body lost an additional thirty pounds.
These digestive problems came as a shock to me. I'd only ever experienced perfect health throughout my life. But now, I was cramping, bloating, and in mental agony realizing that dairy and sugar couldn't be part of my life anymore. I began to understand the deep emotional connection we humans have with our food.
But I didn't want to let my life slide by. I decided that I was going to heal and, after a year-long bout with depression, I started my healing journey.
It was tough, at first. I went to many hospitals and took prescribed IBS drugs, but the pain, cramping, and indigestion only worsened. At one point, one of the drugs caused my spleen to swell to three times its size, which landed me in the hospital for three days.
Doctors told me I was suffering from an incurable condition that I would have to live with for the rest of my life. But that was simply unacceptable to me. I started looking for holistic lifestyle changes that could help me.
My Healing Journey
First, I began practising self-intimacy. The ability to be aware of your feelings. I felt my pain and didn't avoid it. I spent forty-five minutes each morning and every night meditating on my painful belly, feeling it, and acknowledging its discomforts, lumps, and trapped gas. I was compassionate with myself and learned an ancient self-massage technique called Chi Nei Tsang.
Second, I simplified my diet. I cut out all dairy, alcohol, and sugar (including fruit). I started using stevia extract as a sweetener to placate my emotional needs, and focused intensely on my food as I was eating it. This allowed my body to chew better, maintain a state of calmness, and release more digestive enzymes.
Breakfast and lunch became boiled oats, stevia, salt, nuts, and seeds. This oatmeal dish is an amazing foundation for digestive health, and gives my body an important baseline to make bowel movements more consistent.
Third, yoga and breathing. Much of my pain came from trapped gas, so the logical solution was to untrap it. I used breathing techniques, yoga poses, and interior locks to massage and relax the internal organs. The interior locks, or bandhas, were important because my pelvic and abdominal region had lost their natural, relaxed state due to years of bloatedness and distention. All this played a crucial role in learning how to let go of the gas, reduce pain, and allow for healing.
Fourth, finding grace in non-linear healing. I relapsed several times while testing foods and refining my daily yoga practice. Pain and poor bowel movements would come back and I'd re-enter a depressed state of hopelessness. I felt I'd never get back to a normal life with social eating experiences.
But these low points forced more introspection and self-intimacy, which in turn provided additional healing insights. I remained compassionate with myself and somehow had faith that I would eventually become fully healed.
Over time, my gut healed. I had consistent and good bowel movements the likes of which I hadn't experienced in over five years. My face and eyes became brighter and full of life again. I gained weight and found more energy to grow and keep moving forward.
As of today, I'm proud to say that I can drink alcohol or eat an ice cream cone in moderation without any negative effects. I still sometimes indulge in unhealthy foods too freely, but I can quickly recover now that I know how to heal.
This has been a radical journey with many more aspects to it than I could fit into this blog post. If you are experiencing any digestive discomfort and don't know how to fix it, please message me on Slack if you're an X-Teamer or send me an email at email@example.com. Digestive problems can be devastating, but you should not allow them to define the trajectory of your life.