After months of following a whole food plant based diet that was low fat, low sodium and almost gluten free, the pressures of life started chipping away at my resolve and I started to fall into some junk food vegan habits. Buying one tub of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy ice cream to try as a treat turned into bags of Lays Potato Chips, even more non-dairy ice cream, fast food french fries and veggie burgers nearly every day of the week. As my apartment heated up with summer my will to prepare any kind of good food wilted, dried up and turned to dust.
So it was bound to happen sometime.
It seems that the best time to go to the Emergency Room at my local hospital is 7 am Sunday morning. I know because I was there last weekend and only one other person was in front of me. While I have heard lots of horror stories of people waiting all day to see a doctor, I was home asleep again an hour and a half later.
The lady who checked me in remarked that they hadn’t seen me for a very long time when she pulled up my file. I went to the walk in clinic once in 2012 and again maybe in 2014 for antibiotics to cure infections that were too far gone to be fixed with cranberry and Vitamin C. In 2009, I had a mammogram. Before that it had been over 10 years since I’d been to a doctor for any reason. I’m generally healthy and if I’m not I prefer natural cures or alternative medicines. A couple of years ago I visited an osteopath twice for a frozen shoulder. She was very helpful, but those types of treatments aren’t covered under medicare, so the hospital wouldn’t have known. Even on Sunday, I had fixed myself before I actually got in to see the doctor. If I had just waited it out a bit longer at home, the whole thing could have been avoided.
It seems that my recent descent into junk food veganism has not only stalled my weight loss but the high fat content has made my gall bladder very angry. I’ve been having mini-episodes without realising that’s what they even were. A couple of uncomfortable nights of painful bloating that I blamed on overeating and gas. One particular night where I could only get comfortable to sleep if I propped myself up with six pillows on the couch. I was oblivious!
Until last week when I went to house and pet sit at my sisters while the family went on a trip for a week. I drank a whole bottle of wine each night I was there to help me relax and sleep, but when I’m in the relaxing stage I like to eat … and when I have wine any willpower I might have to resist chips or ice cream goes out the window. So when I discovered the largest bag of Lays chips that I’d ever seen in the cupboard, I ate them all! Back to back with a huge serving of tortilla chips smothered in black beans, salsa, and a heaping mound of guacamole. And then I ate half a container of Ben & Jerry’s (it was the last half thank goodness or I might have eaten a whole tub!) And just as the food and wine coma started to send me off to dreamland, the pain started. My stomach was swollen and hard, there was pain between the top of my stomach and the bottom of my breasts. It was bad, but not so bad that I couldn’t fall asleep, and when I woke up the next morning it was gone. So I just thought I had eaten too much and had some painful indigestion and gas issues. I wasn’t concerned.
That was Tuesday or Wednesday night and I came home to my place on Friday. It was a busy day of things to do and appointments to keep. I hadn’t eaten all day and I was starving by the time the Tall Ships were supposed to be making their way up our mighty river for the festival on the weekend. My boyfriend and I decided to sit out on a restaurant patio and eat while we watched them sail in. We shared a plate of nachos with veggies and salsa (no cheese or sour cream), a veggie burger with fries, and an order of onion rings. I had two small glasses of white wine. We didn’t finish the nachos and got the leftovers wrapped to take home.
I felt fine after the meal and we did some shopping before coming back to the apartment. My boyfriend went to take a nap and I put on Netflix and poured another glass of wine. It wasn’t long before I felt hungry again so I ate the rest of the nachos. My boyfriend got up and we watched a movie. It was really hot in my apartment and I was craving something sweet so I opened a container of So Delicious cashew salted caramel non-dairy ice cream that we had bought earlier to try for the first time. My boyfriend didn’t want any. Salted caramel is a weakness of mine. I just couldn’t stop eating it. I was beyond stuffed, already starting to feel the swelling of my belly, and still I ate the whole thing.
By bedtime I was in agony. I knew I had overeaten big time and figured I was having another gas episode, but I thought I would be able to get into one position where it would be tolerable enough so I could fall asleep and then when I woke up the next day I would be okay again. But this pain was much more intense than any other episode. It felt like right below the band of my bra had been put into a vice and now it was squeezing. There wasn’t any tolerable position where I might fall asleep. Thinking I had gas, my boyfriend went out and bought me over the counter pills for that. I took one but it had no effect, so I took another. I felt like if I could only burp or something to relieve some of the pressure I might be okay. And I did feel a little better after a burp here or there, but nothing substantial and certainly not enough to allow me to sleep. I spent the whole night travelling back and forth from the couch to the bed and crying. A couple of times I nearly passed out from the pain.
Finally early Saturday morning the pain subsided enough so I could fall into a restless sleep for a couple of hours and when I woke up it was gone completely. But I felt sore from the spasms. I didn’t eat anything for fear of starting it up again. I just drank water and gingerale to try and keep things settled. Then around supper time I felt hungry and I decided to eat just a little something. I had a bag of mccain potato wedges in the fridge so I put them in the air fryer. I had a little bowl and instantly perked up a bit and felt a little better, so I had another little bowl because I was still hungry. And for awhile it seemed okay, but then the pain came back even worse than before. I couldn’t find any relief, no comfort of any kind. I paced from bed to couch to bed to couch, trying to find some way to be that didn’t feel like I was dying. Lying, sitting, standing, walking, staying still, there was no way to be that wasn’t excruciating. It was a very hot and humid day and I felt cold, actually covered up in a blanket. My boyfriend touched me and recoiled because he said I felt like ice to touch. He was worried and wanted to take me to the hospital right then but I refused. I thought I could wait it out that it would go away and I vowed that when it did I was done eating … period!
I started Googling my symptoms to see what I could find out and it didn’t take long to see that it could be my gall bladder. My best friend had gall bladder problems and I remembered her gruesome stories of the pain induced episodes. She eventually had hers removed. This definitely sounded like that. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t even stay still long enough to research the issue and look for possible home remedies in one sitting. I kept getting up and moving to another room, another place, another position before I’d be able to continue reading. I eventually discovered a recipe for a concoction of organic apple cider vinegar mixed with organic apple juice that many people said would make the pain stop. I didn’t have any apple juice and all I had was No Name generic apple cider vinegar, but I was ready to chew off my own arm if that would help so I headed to the kitchen and swigged back a couple of shot glasses of vinegar. Nasty! It burned going down and the taste lingered even after I drank water and gingerale to clear my palate. I thought it had been all for nothing because nothing happened right away, but about 30 minutes later the pain subsided and I collapsed in bed beside my boyfriend and fell asleep.
My rest was short lived as the pain returned a couple of hours later, early Sunday morning. I was beside myself with feelings of despair. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t take it anymore. I managed to gag back some more apple cider vinegar but nothing happened. A half hour went by and I was no better and maybe even getting worse. So I called my mom at 6:30 in the morning to see if she could offer any kind of insight or advice. She told me to go to the hospital. So then I woke my boyfriend and we went. I just couldn’t do it anymore and I prayed they would give me morphine or something to knock me completely out. But while we waited for the doctor, the pain went away. The apple cider vinegar had just taken a bit longer to kick in than I thought it would.
Nevertheless, I took my turn with the doctor and he agreed that it sounded like an angry gall bladder to him. He brought in a portable Ultrasound machine and had a look but none of us could see any gall stones. He told me we couldn’t be sure until I had a full ultrasound with a technician, they would be able to see little stones if they were there and then I might be looking at surgery. He told me to eat a low fat diet in the meantime. He didn’t need to tell me that! I was ready to never eat anything only plain brown rice again if that was what it took! But certainly I am done with all the chips and ice cream!
My ultrasound is this week, early Friday morning. I have emergency bottles of organic apple juice and Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar in my refrigerator in case I have another episode. So far I have been okay. On Sunday I mostly slept and drank herbal tea. Later in the evening I had some ginger soup with noodles. I never eat soup. If I am having soup, then I am unwell for real. On Monday I started eating some food but just very small portions of oats, brown rice, peaches, quinoa, and blueberries. I continued that on Tuesday. Today I was a bit more adventurous and added in some Ezekiel bread, tomatoes, beans and salt-free organic hot sauce. It’s all good.
My angry gall bladder has really been a blessing in disguise because it’s got me off the junk food vegan trail and back onto my original whole food low fat path. It’s reminded me of what I already knew, that junk food is bad for me. So there is a good although painful lesson. I have also been reminded that if I don’t bring these things home I can’t be tempted and they won’t be here to eat if I have cravings. When my boyfriend left to go home this week, I cleared out my cupboard and fridge of any lingering fries, ice cream, vegan cheese, and other fatty things that don’t fit the Engine 2 diet guidelines. He can have all that if he wants, it’s his health. But at my place, we’re not doing that anymore.
I already feel better. Sometimes you just need a whisper to get the message, but sometimes you need a beat down before you’re ready to listen. I got a big ass beat down last weekend and I’m hearing that message loud and clear once again … IT’S THE FOOD!!!