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Apertifs perhaps?
February 24, 2009 8:43 PM   Subscribe

How can I get my digestion back in functioning order?

For the previous 13 months I drank an enormous quantity of alcohol which I calculated out to averaging seven or eight drinks a day; and not going more than a handful of days alcohol-free. It was quite the bender. It served its purpose. I had my fun. Now its time for the next thing. I have thus far taken February off from drinking.

The problem is that my digestion, which degraded during the bender, became much worse when I stopped drinking - a proliferation of gases escaping out both ends and cramps when I eat anything of modest substance. My appetite is basically non-existent even when I work out. It is quite the struggle to eat in the first six hours I am awake.

I know I brought this upon myself, but I would now like to bring upon myself the appetite to eat two, maybe even three meals each day without feeling sick to my stomach. There isn't much difference between a simple rice soup or beef with cheese and garlic all over it...it all feels wrong inside me. For example the salad I forced down for dinner feels like a ball of needles in my intestines.

My attempts thus far:
I eat yogurt daily.
I have upped the probiotics by taking it in pill form as well.
I drink a quart of fresh ginger root tea (not the dried teabag stuff) a week.
I have also kicked in a liver and gall bladder herbal tincture recently.

I would love to hear suggestions I have not thought of; and if any of them help me sleep through the night, all the better.
posted by iurodivii to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
See a doctor. if this has been going on for a month, it's past the point where you can blame it on the alcohol anymore. You need to get checked for more serious GI problems.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:55 PM on February 24, 2009


I am not a doctor. But speaking from my own experience: you really want to think about seeking medical attention. I had symptoms remarkably close to what you're describing about four years ago, and was diagnosed with GERD. The prescription was a two-month course of Prilosec, a bland diet (no caffeine, peppermint, or acidic foods), and an endoscopy to make sure it wasn't an ulcer.

Before and during the beginning of the treatment, when the disease was worst, I really had no fun at all. I had very little appetite, and what food I did eat had about a 50% chance of staying down. This meant that I was essentially on a starvation diet (about 500-1000 calories/day). Between the lack of energy and the frequent vomiting, I wouldn't wish the experience on any but my worst enemies. Eat that probiotic stuff if it makes you feel better (mentally and/or physically), but see a doctor too; Prilosec is available OTC now, but anti-ulcer treatment is not, and trust me, you don't want it to get worse than it already is.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:08 PM on February 24, 2009


Yep. See a doc. Alcohol is hard on the digestive system top-to-bottom, and if you had poor digestion before/during, you might have exacerbated an existing problem and/or possibly contributed to the development of another one. There is a lot that can go wonky and self-diagnosis is not a terribly good idea.

If that's out of the question for whatever reason, you might want to look into slippery elm. It's mucilaginous and pretty benign, so it will help to soothe the digestive tract. Shouldn't hurt, in other words, and might help. Plus it has been used as a food source, so you'll get some nutrition out of it.

Oh, and maybe lay off the raw stuff. Soft, well-cooked, bland, not too fatty. Sure it all feels wrong, but if the whole thing is not functioning, you don't want to call on it to break down plant cell walls all by itself.
posted by Knicke at 9:10 PM on February 24, 2009


I drink a quart of fresh ginger root tea (not the dried teabag stuff) a week.
I have also kicked in a liver and gall bladder herbal tincture recently.


These are wastes of time and money, as are all other "remedies" not proven by rigorous scientific study. Don't bother.

Definitely DO see a doctor at the earliest opportunity.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:19 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


From someone who has gone through this twice, once in college with fried food and chocolate and again in 2008 when I quit smoking, you can to a great degree self-medicate this and still be in good shape. First thing I do look is for salt-free spices to cook some good dishes loaded with hot, rich green vegetables, fatty acids from three or more kinds of oils and lots of broth. Even a gumbo would begin to stir the pot.

These will reintroduce your stomach and especially your esophagus to tastes without being too spicy or rigorous like salt-seasoned pan-grilled chicken. With a 28 day regimen of prilosec or tagamet you can achieve wonders.
posted by parmanparman at 9:23 PM on February 24, 2009


Stomach and digestion problems can have myriad causes. See a doctor, but you might try a juice fast (google it) first. At the very least a fast can "reset" your system.
posted by zardoz at 10:34 PM on February 24, 2009


I knew someone who had to have life-saving stomach surgery to repair ulcers caused by binge-drinking. They had begun hemorrhaging profusely. All that alcohol had destroyed his stomach lining. Go see a doctor, ASAP.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:54 AM on February 25, 2009


All I can say is that you need medical attention. Go see a doctor. Your story could be suggestive of a variety of potentially serious conditions that warrant evaluation and treatment.
posted by drpynchon at 3:40 AM on February 25, 2009


I'm not sure a fast is the most beneficial way to help someone with no appetite.
posted by gaspode at 4:33 AM on February 25, 2009


Yes, see a doctor, and it's probably GERD. Totally treatable, but if left untreated it can get worse. There have been times when I've had it so bad that for days I had this pain in my chest that feels like I'm having a heart attack. That's how it's commonly described because one is warned that you're not having a heart attack.

To those who think like Inspector.Gadget, GERD is not solved by medication alone. You have to change what you eat, when you eat, and sometimes how you sleep (upright for awhile probably). Ginger is an amazing major assistant to GERD treatment. We actually make our own very strong ginger syrup for my GERD. However I have tried other natural cured --baking soda and apple cider vinegar--and they've done nothing. It's a long process with a lot of elements, see a doctor and you'll find what works for you.
posted by scazza at 6:23 AM on February 25, 2009


"For example the salad I forced down for dinner feels like a ball of needles in my intestines."

Salad is rough on your intestines because it's acidic, raw, and fibrous. You must go to a doctor ASAP, but it may help in the meantime to eat very mild, gentle foods like plain rice, potatoes, applesauce, broths, and yes yogurts. No fat and nothing acidic, meaning no chocolate, tomatoes, citrus, butter, mint, beans, spices (even mild ones like cinnaimon), caffiene, carbonation--I'm sure there are more complete lists online. Look at the construction of the food and think about how much work your body will need to do to digest it and try to minimize it. Think old people food. Oddly, despite ginger's spice and seeming acidicness, something in it's chemical makeup does help. Water may be hard on your stomach too, but try to stay hydrated.
posted by scazza at 6:34 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oddly, despite ginger's spice and seeming acidicness, something in it's chemical makeup does help.

It promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder, which obviously is a help in digestion, as well as being something of an anti-nauseant.
posted by opsin at 7:41 AM on February 25, 2009


Yep. See a doc. Alcohol is hard on the digestive system top-to-bottom, and if you had poor digestion before/during, you might have exacerbated an existing problem and/or possibly contributed to the development of another one. There is a lot that can go wonky and self-diagnosis is not a terribly good idea.

Quoted for truth. The amount you were drinking, while excessive, shouldn't be enough to completely destroy your digestive system all by itself. I agree that it sounds like you exacerbated and intensified an existing problem.

Trying the sort of diet advised for GERD patients certainly won't hurt, and might at least help you get your strength up. Not a substitute for going to a doc, though, even if the change in diet makes you feel better.

Ginger is wonderful for quelling nausea and aiding digestion, but it's not a magic potion that prevents stomach upset. It's unclear if your quart a week is all at once or throughout the week, but if you're taking it as "medicine," instead try drinking a cup of ginger tea with your meal or afterward. Chamomile tea is soothing, too.

I think fasting would be a bad idea for someone who is already lacking appetite and having stomach issues. Juice would be pretty hard on your poor, aggravated GI tract.
posted by desuetude at 7:51 AM on February 25, 2009


In addition to seeing a gastroenterologist, see a registered dietician as well!!

I do, for pretty much the same issues that you describe, minus the alcohol.
posted by jgirl at 8:09 AM on February 25, 2009


Apple Cider Vinegar. You can get it in tablets at whole foods-ish stores, do so because it tastes vile. Take some before bed, or with a meal, whenever your issues suggest you need the digestion help most.

Seriously. Yes, visiting the doctor to cover your bases is wise, and that is what I did for symptoms like these after losing my gall bladder... but after getting scoped, getting no concrete answers, and being tried out on half a dozen different meds without any relief I gave taking the ACV a shot. I went from having everyday issues to maybe once every month or two -- immediately.

Honey is good for coating a burning throat, seems the raw honey works better. I use a spoon or two of that on those once every month or two issues, and it usually does the trick.
posted by Pufferish at 8:28 AM on February 25, 2009


On honey: yes amazing, but it can be hard on a sensitive stomach. Gentler than pure sugar but still hard. As a singer and as you can tell GERD sufferrer, I suggest YogiTea Throat Tea. It's my favorite of the throat teas out there if you need throat help. Cures like lemon and honey don't really cure anything, they're just soothing. A throat tea will have slippery elm to coat your throat in mucus which will last longer. I've done a combination of ginger syrup and throat tea, yumm.
posted by scazza at 2:24 PM on February 25, 2009


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