May 16, 2014

Report From My Gut: Let's Talk Motility!

This blog entry is not for the faint of heart!

Time to talk "motility."   For people with GERD, gastroparesis, and other GI conditions, "not going" is not just uncomfortable -- it's a crisis.   One "slow" day can easily spiral into a few days, making my already challenged intestines and slow stomach even more cranky.   And, I have found that when I am constipated, nausea often follows.

This morning, I am on day three of feeling not my best.  

I do all the advised things.  I've done most of these in the last 24 hours:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits (Veggie diet -- check!)
  • Eat more fiber (that's ALL I seem to eat some days…)
  • Take probiotics (done -- in the form of pickles and Puehr tea…)
  • Exercise (stair-climbing daily, a few big walks each week, Tai Chi, stationary bike…)
  • Drink more liquids (water, non-caffeinated tea, caffeinated tea, more water)
  • Relax (trying!!  trying!!  trying!! but easier said than done when the clock is ticking and I need to leave the house for work -- bloated, again!)
Now it's less than 40 minutes to my departure time and I need to shower, get dressed, pack my lunch, and head out -- but who wants to schlep to work feeling like you've got an extra 29 pounds in your gut?  Gassy.  Crampy.  Psychologically bloated.   I don't like using public restrooms (who does?) and with "gut issues" it's just better dealing with things at home, trust me.

So, this remains an ongoing issue for me.  For months, I had somehow settled into a routine and constipation was occasional.  It is upsetting to be back in this situation, worrying where and when my next bowel movement will be!   If I "take too long" in the morning, that can prevent me from meeting my exercise goals -- a 45 minute walk before work, or my Tai Chi class.   It's a daily struggle.

One comfort:  If you are reading this and experience the same issues, you are not alone.  Constipation is one of the most common concerns, and one of the least discussed.  It may not be "life threatening" but it is definitely life-impacting.


A few interesting and helpful online resources:

Silent Struggles: The Ugly Truth about Gastroparesis and Constipation

Gastroparesis FAQ:  Constipation Causes & Remedies.  Video from Living With Gastroparesis blogger Crystal Saltrelli, Certified Health and Nutrition Counselor

Excellent graphics and information are included in this Constipation Fact Sheet by the Bladder and Bowel Foundation 

Australian Government Initiative: Looking After Your Bowel -- A Guide to Improving Bowel Function.  A whole government-issued document on the subject!  More good graphics here.

April 14, 2014

Linkage: Mind Over Stomach (and Everything Else)

I heard a story this morning on NPR about how putting different labels on the same milkshake caused different physiological reactions in test subjects' stomach responses.  Fascinating stuff.  See below for the link.

How much of our body's response to food is in "our minds?"   And, if there is a placebo effect, is this a bad thing?  How can we leverage this unreality to our benefit?   I say if it's "just" the placebo effect, well, great!  Feeling better and improving your health without medication side effects -- absolutely!  

But -- as you know if you're suffering gut issues, the stomach IS a second brain -- will this make the expression, "it's all in your mind" even more frustrating when there is scientific evidence to back this up?


Mind over Milkshake: How Your Thoughts Fool Your Stomach (From NPR, 4/14/2014)

Placebo Effect in the Treatment of Duodenal Ulcer (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 12/1999)

Radiolab: Guts (Season 10, Episode 7)

Nortriptyline No Better Than Placebo for Gastroparesis Symptoms (American College of Surgeons News, 5/2013)

Homeopathy is Bunk, Study Says (The Guardian, 4/2014)

April 1, 2014

Recipe: Root and Tuber End-of-Winter Soup

Roots and tubers soup

Got roots?  Got tubers?  Make soup!

After weeks of snow, vortexes, and overcast skies, though, even I've had enough of the roots and tubers -- the only vegetables at my greenmarket, for the most part.  As much as I love a good sweet potato, I've had it!  Except, we were still having it.  As I've noted elsewhere on this blog, our household gets most of its produce from the farmer's markets.  It's a fun challenge to eat locally and seasonally (though I have in recent weeks dipped into the hothouse greens -- I just needed some fresh leafy stuff.)

Inspired by our winter produce bin, I created this root soup, which is also inspired by my effort to avoid getting sick.  Everyone I know has come down with a cold or "flu."  I've felt fine all winter, which I attribute to my "anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting" diet hacks like large amounts of garlic, onion, cinnamon and ginger.    This soup includes a shallot, garlic, and lots of nutrient-dense roots and tubers.  It's also well-cooked, an easy to eat soup for the sensitive stomach and esophagus.  I'm still doing well with foods that are somewhat softer, more gruel-like.



1 large shallot or a few small shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled, sliced and diced
1 large parsnip, peeled, sliced on the angle
2 white potatoes (Yukon are especially good here), unpeeled, sliced and diced
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 apple -- optional (I have not tried the apple addition yet, but initially thought it would work well)

Ingredients for the soup. 

  1. Add 1 tsp oil to a large pot.  Cook over low heat and add the garlic.  When fragrant, add the onion and cover, stirring occasionally.  Cook for a few minutes, or until softened.
  2. Add the sweet potato and parsnip.  Stir and cover, cook for a few minutes until fragrant.  Add a small amount of water if sticking to pot.
  3. Add potatoes and stir.
  4. Add water to cover pot contents by 1-2 inches.
  5. Bring to boil and lower heat, simmering until vegetables are softened and "come together." (There's a point when making soup when the contents of the pot go from being "ingredients in water" to "soup" -- you'll know it when you see it, and you'll probably smell the change, too.)
  6. If using the apple, chop into small pieces and add when you add the water.  (If you try this addition, let me know how it goes.)
  7. If needed:  When vegetables are softened, use a potato masher to mash a small section of the pot's contents.  This thickens the soup a bit and provides interesting texture.  You may find the soup is already "thick" enough, to your taste, in which case omit the masher step.
Serve warm with bread or crackers of your choice.


Mother Nature Network: Root Vegetables 101 Primer

Healthy Home Gardening's article on The difference between roots and tubers

Oh My Veggies A Guide to Root Vegetables

Visual Dictionary: Tubers 

The Good Root Guide (Daily Mail)