Gut Instinct

Gut Instinct

Nine days in the hospital. This is what a monkey gut can do. Nagging, for years, with its hot little protests and complaints. You blame gluten, or milk, or a parade of assorted culprits, from chili peppers to chai. And while these offenders may indeed play a part in the long burning dance of your life with food, a new realization begins to poke its way into existence. 

Your brain has a twin.

And it lives in your gut. The Second Brain.

It feels every spike of happiness, each dull thud of disappointment. It twists in anticipation and burns with worry. It alerts you to the creepy guy, leering at the bus stop. It nudges you to pay attention. We ignore our animal intuition at our peril. It is an ancient gift we take for granted. 

The trouble is, some of us feel too much in our gut. And we pay a price. 

I write about this because too often we assign digestive symptoms to food allergies, or eating on the go, cross contamination or a schoolyard bug. We blame something outside ourselves, an invader, an enemy. And meanwhile, back in our body-brain we churn our anxiety into searing little pockets of trouble. Trouble that gnaws and radiates and eventually, perforates the duodenum. 

That's the top theory for my current flare, anyway.

I've been tilted on tables while sucking iodine through a straw, beamed by x-rays and rolled into CT scans (twice). I visualized surf a la John From Cincinnati while stuck inside an MRI machine as my three hip screws got hot. I blew through five IV's due to tiny, wallflower veins and ate and drank nothing for six days to rest my searing gut. I listened to my gastroenterologist in the middle of the night as he sat at my bedside in the dark and explained each possibility and indication with soft-spoken calm. An endoscopy will be scheduled when it is safe to do one.

I am back at our apartment now, and tired. Waking up in my own bed is heaven. My diet today is baby rice cereal, some carrot soup. Mashed potato. I am caffeine free and sipping warm rice milk instead of coffee. Steve is baking mini banana muffins.

It's good to be home.

Images from my hospital stay, taken with my iPhone.