Why do I have a stomach ache? It's not because I eat out for a living

I never knew what it means to have normal digestion. It’s especially difficult when your profession centers around food. As a food jou...


I never knew what it means to have normal digestion. It’s especially difficult when your profession centers around food.

As a food journalist, I usually dine out several times a week. Since hitting the road in recent months scouting restaurants across the country for The Times’s fall list of favorites, back-to-back dinners have been the norm. My stomach issues – constipation, acid reflux, diarrhea, etc. – lasted my whole life. But this work made them worse.

I know I know. Eat for a living? Your life must be so hard! And I admit that sometimes I feel good after a meal at the restaurant. Great, even. But more often than not, I’ll be couch-locked for hours with a stomach ache.

As a teenager, I talked to my GP about my digestive issues and she told me I had acid reflux. I started stocking antacid tablets in each of my purses, but all they gave me was temporary relief. I was tested for food allergies but nothing came up.

A few months ago, when I started my restaurant scouting trips, I was in pain almost every night. My spouse advised me to see a gastroenterologist. It turns out that a type of bacteria that under a microscope almost looks like spiral dough was wreaking havoc on the lining of my stomach. It’s called Helicobacter pylori, H. pylori for short, and it lives in half of the world’s population.

H. pylori has been evolving in human microbiomes for at least 100,000 years. It came to light in 2005, when Australian doctors Dr. Barry J. Marshall and Dr. J. Robin Warren won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to discover the link between bacteria and peptic ulcers.

Many people carry H. pylori in their stomach without any negative consequences; but for some it can move into the mucus layer of the stomach and cause a host of problems, from stomach inflammation to ulcers to stomach cancer, Dr Nina said. Salama, microbiologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.

Many people with H. pylori likely contracted it during early childhood through contact, such as sharing food or breathing in aerosols released by vomiting, Dr. Salama said. It can also be transmitted by food that has not been cleaned or cooked in a safe manner, or drinking water infected with the bacteria.

As hygiene standards have improved in the United States, H. pylori has become less common here. Dr Salama said some studies suggest the symptoms can be managed with dietary changes, such as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables or reducing salt intake. There is also a treatment: a high dose of antibiotics and acid blockers taken for several days.

Before testing positive for H. pylori, I had never heard of the bacteria. H. pylori doesn’t get the same public attention as irritable bowel syndrome, the gut issue currently making the rounds on TikTok among users who identify as “hot girls with IBS” It is not talked about in the media as much as celiac disease, a chronic disease that makes people gluten sensitive.

But once I started talking about my own challenges, I found others in food-related jobs that had tested positive for H. pylori.

Luisa Weiss, an American cookbook author who lives in Berlin, found out she had H. pylori in 2019. After years of bloating and irregular bowel movements, the positive test “felt like a release”, she said. she declared.

People don’t talk about these kinds of health issues enough, she added, because they find it embarrassing. “And so they don’t realize that people are in danger.”

Ms. Weiss took the antibiotics, but was also diagnosed with celiac disease. Although her stomach problems have improved, she is careful about what she eats. She asks others to help her taste foods when developing recipes and avoids spicy dishes in restaurants.

Aileen Corrieri quit writing her food blog, Hungry Aileen, a few years ago after learning she had H. pylori. Like Ms. Weiss, even after the treatment she was afraid to go back to her old diet. “I just spend a lot of time on TikTok and YouTube watching cooking videos,” she said, “just to live through the visuals.”

She said her doctors didn’t take her stomach issues seriously: “They just told me, ‘Don’t eat acidic foods, you’re fine.’ I really felt alone in there.

Despite all the research on H. pylori, some aspects of it are still not fully understood, Dr. Salama said, such as precisely how H. pylori leads to cancer.

Nobel laureate Dr. Marshall said in an interview that the origins of the bacteria were also unclear. “How did the human race become so universally infected? ” he said.

Some studies suggest that H. pylori may benefit the esophagus or protect against asthma. But Dr. Marshall thinks people with stomach problems who test positive for H. pylori should opt for antibiotics.

I finished my course of antibiotics about a month ago. It was a painful 10 days where I vomited during exercise, spent an entire day feeling nauseous on my back, and had a constant bitter metallic taste in my mouth. In a few days, I will see my doctor again and I will know if the bacteria is gone.

I’ve had a few restaurant meals since, but it’s hard to say if my situation has changed. I realized, however, how much I had normalized being uncomfortable.

I doubt my stomach aches will go away completely. But if they come back with a vengeance, maybe next time I won’t wait 30 years to see a doctor.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Why do I have a stomach ache? It's not because I eat out for a living
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