When I was in my mid-twenties, I started suffering from a beastly burning in my upper belly. I didn’t drink much, exercised a lot and viewed myself as a healthy eater, which at the time meant that I didn’t eat any fried food, ate meat only a few times a week and limited my intake of calories, carbs and fat. Nevertheless, I came down with this severe burning a little while after I would eat most meals. Even a banana would create a burning sensation, and suddenly I’d be lying on the floor of my cubicle at work, completely debilitated, waiting for the pain to subside an hour or two later. Over-the-counter meds didn’t help.
After finding the pain to be too unbearable, I made a trip to see a gastroenterologist. Soon afterwards, I was given an endoscopy – where doctors stick a camera down your esophagus and stomach so they can search for inflammation, ulcers or perhaps an alien.
My stomach was fine, but there appeared to be some redness down toward the duodenum, or the uppermost part of the small intestine. The doc gave me some prescription that he called an acid blocker.
I took this acid blocker for about a year, until one day I was on vacation in Costa Rica and my backpack, containing my pills, was stolen from my rental car. Suddenly, I was in a foreign country without my credit card, Spanish dictionary or my stomach pills. I luckily was able to cancel my credit card without any financial damage being done, but what was I going to do about the pills?
I thought back to when I had started the pills. What foods was I eating a lot of then? Well, tomatoes and bananas came to mind. I also recalled that citrus fruits sometimes made my belly burn too. So I decided to avoid those for a while and see what happens. How nice would it be to not have to take a pill every day.
So that’s what I did. No pills. I just avoided the foods that were bothering me. Over 10 years later, I can eat those foods in moderation. I just needed a little break so my body wouldn’t be so reactive to them. It’s like getting in a fight with your lover and then needing to step away for a moment and collect yourself.
We aren’t meant to be able to eat all foods all the time. Our bodies will mix well with certain foods and not others, depending on our constitution at the time. We will have some general tendencies in our nature, but this will also shift and change over time, depending on stress, lifestyle, etc. I’m grateful to whoever stole my backpack in Costa Rica for helping me learn this. It’s one of the life events that brought me to study Ayurveda and helped me learn that removing the root cause of the problem is much more effective than continuing the harmful behavior and having to take further steps to correct it, such as medicating.
Now, why didn’t I think about trying this more preventive measure before being robbed? Well, I can’t beat myself up about it now, but I can continue to look at my life and evaluate where I might be putting band-aids on problems instead of solving the root problem, and I can continue developing my self-control – and both of these things are a lifelong practice.
May we all keep practicing. Namaste.