Time for Gut Healing: When Eton Mess Brings Untold Distress

by | Jan 20, 2015

Where dwells benevolent belly love and digestion as silky smooth as a babe’s behind?

I’m not there yet, but I’m on the way, a far cry from the bedridden mess I was Christmas night.

I confess,

I’m so glad of heart

to be far from the distress in the sand dunes that was

my regurgitated Eton Mess

The last time I went this long without sugar, booze, fruit, legumes or grains I was a baby. And as for any meat besides fish? A bit of lamb about seven years ago, I think. For years I happily ate mainly vegetarian food, dairy products, grains, and fish. Amongst my peers I probably paid more attention to health than many and researched a lot. So funny that I should end up the one smashed, tired, stuffed, in bed. But such is life and blessings sometimes come in disguise, I know that by now, so I was looking for the gift pretty soon after I was able to stop chucking up.

Four weeks after the dreaded Christmas episode, my diet consists of bone broths, meat, fish, more bone broths, homemade raw goat milk yoghurt, vegetable ferments, beet kvass (zing, this drink rocks!) and abundant fresh vegetables from our garden. I’ve just added avo and started on almond flour pancakes fried in ghee, weeeee!

I’m following the GAPS Introduction Diet as a pathway to healing my digestive system. And dare I say three weeks in, it’s working.

I spent Post Christmas and New Year mostly in bed, scouring gut healing forums and articles on the net. I read how a woman had just cut out alcohol, all sugar, grains, and dairy as part of her healing program. Her January had become Banuary, characterised by how many things are presently banned from the menu. I thank this woman for elucidating my experience so eloquently, and making me smirk.

You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result, so said Einstein, apparently.

So for the month of Banuary and some time beyond, I have farewelled sugar, grains, dairy, and booze to heal a very sad and sore digestive system. Over several months last year, my IBS symptoms had worsened, each time a reaction and flare up weakened me. I was tired a lot of the time, when I was working it was stress and adrenalin that kept me going. It vaguely seemed linked to rich foods like cream, or when I mixed rich foods and alcohol, or ate too much refined flour pasta once in Germany, when several well-meaning hosts in a row fed me white pasta. I’d vomit, have indigestion, get diarrhoea, constipation or a combination of all. I had herbal remedies from the naturopath, and probiotic goodies. I tried homeopathy. These provided a little relief, but I could tell I wasn’t hitting the mark.

Two weeks before Christmas I was discussing my health issues with a dear friend of my Dad’s, who has dietary limitations he observes very strictly.

I never go to the doctor without already knowing what’s wrong with me, he said.

And this isn’t helping me, I gestured to my glass of red, taking another sip.

No, it’s not, he said.

The GP ran stool, blood and breath tests. Everything was negative or “normal”. If this was normal, I’d hate to see unwell.

Come Christmas Day, I had just recovered from yet another flu. I ate lightly at breakfast and told myself I needed to be aware, and take it very easy on food. I knew I couldn’t overeat without repercussions. But sometimes in spite of ourselves we make the village burn, just to feel the heat of the fire. 

It began with lovingly prepared prawns set in a bed of iceberg, topped with a creamy sauce. Following this was BBQ fish with butter, and I had to “help out” by eating extra to ensure the chef kept cooking. Then crayfish, washed down with two glasses of white. I just couldn’t say the magic word, the key to my liberation: No.

All the while the Eton Mess My Nemesis was waiting quietly in an esky, beside an equally menacing version of my Mum’s famous Vanilla Slice with Passionfruit Icing.

I ate a serve of both, of course, it would’ve been wrong not to, and washed them down with a couple of glasses of bubbly.

Soon after Dad was passing around his Milk Tray and asking for help. I declined. Stupefied with utter disbelief, he pushed the tray at me again.

My End was nigh.

Perhaps this queasiness will be eased by a dip in the sea, I wondered, fruitlessly. I withdrew from conversation and settled deep into a shaded camping chair. The Great Undoing had begun. I discreetly walked some distance away, knelt down in the dunes, and unleashed a great hurl.

And again, before I got a lift back to Margaret River with my aunt and uncle, then again, and again, and again at their place, going between my room and the toilet for a few hours. There was nothing left yet it wouldn’t stop. I was praying distantly it wasn’t gastro and I wouldn’t infect them.

Finally I googled that honey can settle a stomach. Whatever did people do on their sickbeds before we had iPhones? Oh yeah, that’s right, they allowed doctors to blood-let them. The second spoon of honey settled me enough that I could sleep. I spent the next day trying to drink a little homemade rehydration in the form of salt, bicarb, ginger, lemon and honey. And sleeping. And looking at health articles on the internet. And sleeping.

The next day I crawled slowly home in the electric ute back to Manjimup, with a half boiled egg my aunt had offered me, sitting untouched in the centre console. Spent, done, finished, drained, sucked dry, dehydrated, defeated. A death of sorts occurred. Somewhere, somehow amidst my exhaustion, I found some pieces anew to put the elusive puzzle of my health back together.

As good fortune would have it, I already knew how to ferment vegetables. I’d overcome my vegetarian aversion to bone broths several months earlier, having read long enough about their health benefits. After a couple of days more reading, I decided I needed to do the GAPS Introduction Diet, and begin as soon as I could get everything organised.

It was a challenge to set the vegetarian values aside, but, I realised that way of eating and relating with the world had become something that nourished my mind, but no longer, my body.