I remember it so vividly.
I’d just had a great evening at home with friends to celebrate the winter holidays.
We gathered around the kitchen reminiscing and catching up on the year’s adventures. Work, family, fashion, home remodeling stories and upcoming vacations.
We indulged in some adult beverages and enjoyed a wonderful home cooked meal.
Seasonal produce roasted to perfection. Melt in your mouth roast chicken. And the most amazing poached pears.
As I closed the door and watched the last friend pull away and get swallowed up by the night, the pain in my stomach was overwhelming.
I failed to notice it before, but I was bloated and looked pregnant!
My mind started to race.
I lay on the floor, I wondered:
- Was it something I ate or drank?
- Could this be related to a recent spate of other stomach issues?
- How serious are these symptoms?
- What will I do if I still have problems when it’s time to go to work?
But MOST importantly how could I reduce the pain of gas and bloating starting now?
Some over the counter painkillers and a horizontal position created clarity.
I recalled reading some books about natural health and the role of our gastrointestinal tract related to immunity, the importance of more good than bad gut bacteria and the role of stress and digestion.
The more I learned, the more I was forced to admit, my gas and bloating after the holiday dinner was not an isolated case.
Sitting for long periods at work in meetings or working on a project made me feel uncomfortable. I favored certain clothes due to their less restrictive nature and I really needed to get to the bottom of the problem.
I felt great in the mornings before breakfast.
My stomach was flat, did not feel hard to touch, was not painful and did not make a lot of noise.
Not long after eating, even small amounts of food, created heaviness in my whole body. My abdomen became fuller and felt like a fully inflated bicycle tire.
Not eating helped was not a long-term strategy!
After ruling out any diseases, I tried an elimination diet with very limited success.
Some days a food was good, other days the same food expanded my abdomen like an expectant mum.
Without anything structurally wrong, the only help from the gastroenterologist was to try the FODMAP diet and to welcome me to the ranks of IBS sufferers.
Did you know one in five people in the USA suffer from IBS?
75% of all IBS sufferers are women 
I decided if I wanted to feel better, I needed to figure this out myself.
I spent every spare minute researching online, reading books and asking questions.
I also spent a lot of money visiting ‘experts’ unable to solve my problems.
It occurred to me that my problem started with what I was eating.
I started the Paleo diet with the idea of eliminating the top food allergens and allowing myself to truly heal from the inside.
After several months, I wasn’t feeling much better.
I don’t believe it was a problem with the food I was eating or the Paleo diet.
It was a problem with what my body did with that food!
Probiotics and Fermented Foods
I experimented with fermented foods.
I’d heard they were full of probiotics – the good bacteria and more diverse than capsules or powders.
I graduated from buying Kim chi and sauerkraut to making my own.
I learnt that fermented drinks like kombucha and water kefir, contained small amounts of alcohol and were a food source for the bad critters in my gut.
In addition to probiotics, I learnt about prebiotics and their role as a fertilizer for the good bacteria – the more the better!
I had fun with my home experiments and helping others learn to make their own fermented foods, but I still had symptoms of gas and bloating.
One day while reading about tenderizing meat, I learned about papain, from the tropical Papaya or Pawpaw family.
Papain tenderizes meat, as it’s a protease that naturally breaks down the meat fibers.
Protease is an enzyme that breaks down protein molecules and is often included in commercial meat tenderizers.
After more research and self-experimentation, protease helped to offset the feeling of fullness after a meal containing meat.
I was so excited!
It had been about six months since that holiday dinner, and I couldn’t believe how much better I felt!
I wanted to know more!
During one of my research sessions I discovered humans need different enzymes to help digest different foods:
- Protease for protein
- Lipase for lipids
- Cellulose for certain fruits and vegetables
- Amylases for carbohydrates.
I became aware of the negative impact of stress on digestion.
Rushing through meals without thoroughly chewing creates more work further down the line.
During times of stress, digestion is put on hold to deal with the imminent stress.
Part of deprioritizing digestion also creates less hydrochloric acid (HCl) needed to sterilize stomach contents and commence protein digestion.
According to world renowned author and nutrition therapist, Nora Gedgaudas:
Having inadequate hydrochloric acid can be a real problem. Gas, bloating, belching and a feeling of heaviness in the stomach after meals are all classic symptoms. Weak or brittle nails, and some cases excessive hair loss can be common symptoms. These symptoms represent only the tip of a bigger iceberg. There is also a wide open gateway to developing multiple food sensitivities.
Now my body had my full attention!
The stress of changing jobs, a serious medical procedure and a new relationship had tested the limits of my wonderful body.
I vowed to not take my health and quality of life for granted any longer.
I looked for more information about digestive enzymes and quickly became glassy eyed!
What was the difference between the bottles available at the local health food store, the pharmacy and even the chiropractor?
I wanted to find an objective test to avoid the trial and error of just following generic directions.
Were there complimentary ingredients that helped the enzymes be more effective? Were there side effects I needed to know about?
After finding the end of the Internet, I discovered Dr Howard J Loomis Jr, an expert in the world of enzymes and enzyme nutrition.
Fortunately for me, Dr Loomis trains practitioners around the country through the Food Enzyme Institute and I missed the chance to visit Wisconsin!
I was referred to someone locally and the protocols and testing were explained.
I started with a 24-hour urinalysis, a detailed set of questions and non-invasive body palpation to create three points of reference.
My practitioner explained why my body was having trouble digesting any food and the supporting supplements, dietary and lifestyle changes needed to rebuild my body.
I was still skeptical but figured I had nothing to lose!
The supplements were all natural, made in the USA and organic where possible.
It took several months to notice any changes.
I started to get discouraged.
But I had committed to ‘a season’ of change and recognized there was no magic bullet.
Gradually my body healed.
I had less gas and bloating and knew how to take care of the symptoms when they occasionally returned.
I was so happy!
I didn’t have to wear baggy clothes any more.
I didn’t feel uncomfortable when sitting for extended periods.
I had more energy and slept better.
And one of the best side effects was having a renewed respect for my body.
 Gedgaudas, Nora T CNS, CNT “Primal Body, Primal Mind”, Healing Arts Press, Vermont 2011, Page 58