In 2012, two months after I’d gotten married, I was in hospital. The night before I’d had a delicious dinner with my husband, things were great, until I got a bad case of heartburn. I’d experienced a similar heartburn the year before; a persisting agony that did not let up or leave me alone and had me curled up in anguish on the kitchen floor with my cats watching me concernedly. This time round, it was worse; but! It was just heartburn, I told myself, so I decided to distract myself by playing Dragon Age II until I got so tired that I’d sleep through the pain. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I tried to go to bed around 4am, but lying down only made the pain worse. Then came the nausea. Not a fun night, let me tell you.
I spent the next couple of hours crawling between the shower where the boiling water helped ease the pain, and the toilet, where my stomach would heave up what I could only assume was the oldest bile my body had ever produced. It was gross. And painful, did I mention painful?
Anyways, around 6am I think I gave up and crawled into the bedroom to wake up my husband. We ended up in the hospital where, as it turns out, I was diagnosed with one hell of an inflamed gallbladder. They kept me in for a few days to see if it would settle on its own. It didn’t. On day four of my stay I went into the operating room and six hours later I woke up in recover sans a gallbladder.
“Oookay, that sucks. What’s it got to do with low carb stuff?” you’re wondering.
So I had a keyhole surgery – a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, if you feel like being all fancy – which meant I was home again a few days later and really unable to stomach anything except custard and yoghurt-soaked bread. I didn’t have solid food for another fortnight. I lost a lot of weight, but I put it all on again and honestly that was the worse way to lose weight, the pain is indescribably.
When I could finally eat solid foods again I discovered very quickly that I couldn’t just eat whatever I wanted – something the doctors had neglected to mention, and, from my research, they often don’t tell you to alleviate stress prior to the procedure. I had a lot of trouble – I thought – with dairy. Turns out now, it wasn’t the dairy but rather the sugars in the dairy I was eating. When I’d have just a tiny bit too much I’d getting shooting, stabbing pains in my abdomen that radiated through my back and made me feel like the heartburn was back 100fold over. Often it would leave me curled up on my bed wishing I was dead. I’m not joking.
So I cut out dairy with a vengeance, and very nearly went vegetarian barring lean meats and chicken. I stopped drinking alcohol completely, and could no longer stomach sweets of any kind, including chocolate. It was miserable: what was the point of having this organ removed if I could no longer enjoy anything?
Eventually, the pain stopped flaring up as often and I slowly reintroduced dairy and other things I had cut out: always in moderation and always in fear that the pain would come back. It got to the point where instead of having an attack every day I’d only have one once a month, and then maybe one once every couple of months…and then I started the Low Carb thing, and I haven’t had one since.
My current theory is that the sugars and the carbs I was eating were harder to digest than the fats, and without the steady flow of bile from the gallbladder, I was getting bile dumped into the intestines by the liver, which caused the agony. Now, with less carbs and more fibre in the system, things don’t stall so much that I need heaps of bile to digest what I eat. In other words: no more pain!