History Part 1 – From Good Health to Bad

I’m not planning to write an autobiography here. I’ll try and stick to the details and milestones as they relate to my lifelong health conditions – most notably leak gut.

Growing up as a child, I don’t recall having many digestive problems. Like most kids, I had a few “stomach aches” and a few stomach viruses. Our family had food poisoning once from a family reunion. That was not pleasant. I had an ear infection at the same time and was on antibiotics for that. I’m not sure if the antibiotics helped or not, but my poisoning was not quite as bad as other family members. Perhaps I simply ate less of the offending food.

Although relatively free of childhood digestive issues, I did have a lot of respiratory infections. My parents told me that I had pneumonia several times as an infant and coughed so much that I required surgery for a hernia by the age of four. I have a very dim memory of the surgery and recovery. More memorable were frequent colds and ear infections. Since my family didn’t have health insurance, we weren’t constantly running to the doctor for antibiotics, but I certainly still took quite a few doses.

My childhood diet was not good. I ate too many carbs and too much sugar. Though we lived on a small farm and always had a slaughtered cow in the freezer, I was not much of a meat eater. I was overweight. My mom had to buy “husky” size clothes for me. Remember those?

Heading into my teen years, the combination of a puberty-accelerated metabolism and a desire to lose weight caused me to finally slim down. The quality of my diet didn’t improve too much – I just ate less. I developed an interest in practicing yoga, a lifelong habit that has served me well over the years. In my later teens, I also started some weight lifting and strength training, a practice that I also maintain to this day.

I should mention milk, because it holds a special place among my food issues. As a child, I never really liked the flavor of milk, but I used it on cold cereal or mixed it with chocolate to make it palatable. On a few isolated occasions during my teens, I felt really sick (nausea, irritated stomach, dry heaves) after consuming meals with significant amounts of milk or cheese. It didn’t happen all the time. These were just random blips and I didn’t pull the incidences together until years later. Set the milk issue aside for later discussion – back to the story…

As is not unusual, I had teenage acne. My case was fairly chronic and stubborn. My dermatologist tried various topical treatments ranging from the usual benzoyl peroxide, scrubs, washes, creams, all the way up to Retin A that caused my skin to redden and peel off. He also prescribed topical antibiotics. Nothing helped much. In my later teen years, my dermatologist prescribed an oral dose of 1000 mg per day of tetracycline (a broad spectrum antibiotic). I was on this dose of tetracycline for more than two years when something weird started to happen. Little did I know that this was the very beginning of a lifetime of digestive problems!

In the next blog post, I’ll explain what happened after I took antibiotics for several years and where I went from there.