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Looking for solutions in the wrong places

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

My stomach has had a rough 13 years.

It honestly started a couple years before 2007. Intermittently, without warning or pattern, my stomach would turn on me. I would feel as though I was being stabbed in the abdomen with a knife. It could come in the middle of the day. It could come while I was working as a waiter halfway through a shift. It came often at 3:00am, forcing me to pray for relief while I rolled around in the fetal position.

Of course, it would cause bathroom frequency, which is a wonderfully-embarrassing affliction. Those who didn’t know the pain I was in would inevitably laugh at it and crack jokes at my expense. I couldn’t blame them. They didn’t know.

At my brother’s wedding towards the end of summer 2007, I admittedly ate too little and drank far too much beer. The next morning, the stabbing pains left me on the bathroom floor for hours, unable to leave my hotel room. That was the last straw.

Soon after, I went to a gastrointestinal doctor. After answering a series of questions for him, he plainly told me I had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

While happy that there was at least an answer, I was left with a whole new set of questions. The doctor told me to go buy some psyllium fiber and take it before each meal. That was the only guidance he gave me.

Fortunately, it kinda worked. I immediately felt relief. My quality of life went up dramatically. But I needed to know more. So I read… and read and read. I learned about “triggers” and FODMAPS, elimination diets and peppermint oils and probiotics.

Every approach would work for a period of time and then… just wouldn’t. The fiber pills were my safest bet, but in recent years, even that stopped working to the same effectiveness.

Things that other IBS sufferers swore by had minimal impact on my own quality of life.

Every couple of years, my wife would tell me that I needed to do something about it. I needed to learn more. Quit eating certain foods. Finally figure this out so that I wouldn’t be stuck with these debilitating “attacks” as I called them.

I’d try an elimination diet for a few weeks and come out with a list of things to do or not do: exercise regularly, keep stress levels down, don’t eat too much dairy, don’t overeat, and so on. But I would still have attacks – less frequently, but still.

There was no solution.

An answer from an unexpected source…

I’ve also suffered from terrible migraines and neck pain for 7-8 years now. It’s directly related to occipital nerves in my neck. Again, this is something I’ve had to figure out and solve for myself over time. My family doctor had no answers for me.

My wife insisted that I go to a chiropractor. I have a healthy skepticism of chiropractors, so I didn’t want to go. But after another bad migraine (most of which would force me to stop doing anything for the rest of the day), I finally gave up and made an appointment.

While at the chiropractor’s office filling out forms, I noticed that I could check “digestive problems” on the list of ailments. I didn’t think he would be able to help with that, but I marked it nonetheless.

During our consultation, I mentioned my IBS, describing briefly my symptoms and the issues I’ve been struggling with for over a decade.

Immediately, he told me to start taking bile salts – specifically, Cholacol.

Why? He said it sounded as though I was having problems with my liver and gallbladder. Because of my rather strong allergies, my liver could potentially be weaker, which would impact bile production and my body wouldn’t be digesting food properly (fats in particular) before it reached my intestines.

A bottle of Cholacol was $15. I figured it was worth a shot.

One month in: a stunning result

For the first 4 weeks of taking Cholacol, I did not have a single “attack.”

I was ecstatic. At the same time, I refused to believe that it was the solution yet. I had far too many “solutions” that worked temporarily. I kept up with it.

But after a month of no attacks, I was convinced. And I threw everything at it – all my old triggers. I ate food late. I overate. I had pizza for dinner and ice cream afterwards (the dairy content of that one-two punch was devastating to me 100% of the time).

No attacks.

After 13 years, I have actual, concrete, repeatable results that clearly tell me something about my body and my digestive system.

I had just been focusing on the wrong thing.

When solutions aren’t clear

How often do you have a problem but you don’t really know how to get out of it?

I know lots of people who tell me that they wish they could do X or Y, but they can’t because Z.

They wish they could have more kids, but the two they have are so stressful that they can’t imagine it. Or they wish they could be a stay-at-home parent, but they both need to work to pay the bills. And so on.

Are they looking in the wrong place?

My IBS has been fixed because I changed my perspective. All this time, I was focusing on my intestines, and I should have focused on my gallbladder and liver.

Often, when people have financial problems, they look at the income side: they need to make this much money, so they have to work at this particular job.

They can’t chase something they are passionate about. They can’t build that business. They can’t quit that job. They think it’s a money problem.

I say, it’s a “bills” problem.

Every person I talk to that has some measure of that wish to make a change owns a big, beautiful house. They drive pricey cars with car payments. Some of them clearly spend a lot of money on stuff.

What if they downgraded their house? What if they got older cars? What if they ate out less and cooked more?

Maybe they could cut their lifestyle down a little bit and build a little margin in their financial lives – margin that could be used for other things that they really want.

My wife is a stay-at-home mother. I run my own business with its ups and downs. People talk all the time how they wish they could do that.

Truthfully, they could. But they’d have to make tough decisions like we did. We’ve been renting for 10 years. We’ve focused on paying down and paying off our debts whenever we get money. We don’t take big vacations or buy fancy SUVs. We’re focused on keeping payments low. We cook a lot.

Is that the right way to go? It is for us. But that’s because we knew that one way to solve the “we don’t have enough money” problem is to spend less money. It’s more important for us to have my wife at home and to have me running my business instead of owning that big, beautiful house. We’ll get there eventually.

If you have a problem in your life, it might be worthwhile to think about solutions that you never even entertained before. Imagine anything was possible – that’s your starting point.

For my health, I had to imagine that maybe something else was going on with my body. Maybe I was fine, but another part of the digestion process was broken. It took someone else to put that thought in my brain. But I’m glad he did.

A new perspective led me to a new solution. It probably could for you, too.