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My Body Turned on Me


The last six months have been stressful: In addition to my monthly trips to New York, I found myself unable to do anything but watch Mother’s sad decline and her eventual death; I sold what had been my forever home; packed, moved and unpacked—twice—in 16 days. And just when I needed it most, I slacked off on my lifelong practice of stretching and yoga.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when my body kicked me to the curb.

Everything hurt, especially my lower back. Every joint was stiff and achy, and a sharp pain radiated from my left buttock to midway down the back of my left hamstring. It’s been so painful that’s is been difficult to work at my computer all day, much less haul my luggage across country and sit on three-and-a-half-hour airplane flights. Forgive me… but this may be more than you want to know about me: I’ve also gone in and out of “surprise” diarrhea.

I’m not talking about a happy birthday “Surprise!” but a surprise that doesn’t care where I am or if there’s a nearby restroom. Three weeks ago, I’d had enough! I wanted my flexible, reliable body back. With a little TLC, some common sense, dietary research and experimentation, I’m on the road to regaining my former self.

For starters, I’ve resumed getting to the gym early enough to do my stretches and yoga poses before my workout. In addition, twice a day, I abandon my office chair for a yoga mat I keep on the floor behind my chair. For the last two weeks, I’ve also gotten trigger point massages. Who knew I’d been storing knots—the size of golf balls—behind my shoulder blades and along my hip flexors? Already I feel more like my old… younger self. That left me with the “surprise” diarrhea to conquer.

In talking with some girlfriends, I discovered they have the same problem, and are taking prescription medications and probiotics with great results. While I’ve always discussed any problems with my doctor, this time, I first wanted to see if my surprise diarrhea had any relationship with what I was eating. The more I researched, the more I believe there is a dietary link, plus I believe my digestive system has changed over time. The foods that used to work for my gut no longer seem to be my friends. After lots of research, I decided to try the Paleo diet.

While the Paleo diet is similar to what humans lived on 25 to 50 thousand years ago, modern man has modified it to include, among other things, refined grains and high fructose sugars. By following the Paleo diet—cutting out grains and eating protein, fresh fruits, veggies and nuts—my “surprise” diarrhea has ceased. I’ve always eaten food that’s as close to God made it as possible, but the Paleo diet has tweaked it even further. Together with my stretching and the massages, I feel better than I have in months. By the way, you won’t have a weight problem on this diet.

As with all things, if you’ve not been feeling well, please consult with your doctor.

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51 thoughts on “My Body Turned on Me”

  1. Good for you, Brenda! I’ve also been dealing with huge amounts of stress and my body is paying the price. You’ve given me great inspiration to follow in your footsteps. Thanks so much. Cathy

  2. So glad you were able to conquer all of this by yourself and with no doctor..all they want to do is prescribe a med…like the”surprise” diarrhea thing..I get that sometimes and it isn’t a fun surprise…maybe I should try paleo….thanks for sharing…

    • Renee,
      What is it about women when we reach a certain age? So many women are telling me they’ve been affected by surprise diarrhea. Most have said that even with medication and probiotics, it’s a trial and error and not always reliable. Never knowing if you’re going to be plagued by it makes you want to stick close to home.
      Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one,

  3. You have endured more than most anyone could in such a short time, Brenda. Take time for yourself, love yourself and heal. Xoxo b

  4. Good morning girlfriend, You are wonderful. I am happy for you and your self-improvement system. And I will look at the paleo program. Who knows? Maybe I will join you. I have been diagnosed with curvature of the spine and advancing arthritis. Began 6 weeks of physical therapy at Methodist Hospital here – Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30 a.m. wow. I work with Marisol twice a week and she gave me the chart of stretches to practise at home each day. I’ve been so tight – hard to believe one could get that way all of a sudden. How are Sam and Molly coming along? love to you Brenda OX

    • Sweet Friend, Sue,
      Stretching… I’ve been a pretzel all my life and have thrived on stretching! Shame on me that it’s the thing I’ve cut out of my routine when I’ve been pressed for time. We’ll talk soon.

      • Good morning – Yes, I stretched each time I woke last night. Here in the living room to stretch. This is the start of week 2 with p.t. and daily stretching on my own. I will get there, sooner than later is the hope. Yes, let’s talk soon.
        love from Katherine and me

  5. Bless your heart, Brenda! I am so sorry that you have had to go through all that you have. I am right behind you! Although both my parents are still living, I can see what is coming. I am back and forth to Dallas a lot right now, trying to get my parent’s house ready to put on the market. It is like an episode of hoarders!!! We need to take extra special care of ourselves! I believe cancer is the cause of stress, and I do not ever want to go down that road again!!!! Ps…although I have removed dairy from my diet…I have learned that almond milk is not my friend either. Only sticking to coconut milk. God bless you!!!

    • Cathy,
      Stress and recurrence will always be worrisome for us. I’ve been where you are with your parent’s home… That’s a lot of work. I removed dairy a long time ago, but have been drinking almond milk. Why is it not your friend? Should I not be drinking it either, or is it just you?
      Blessings as well,

      • I know, and I really try to remind myself to take a breath! Almond milk is great…try to buy the kind without carrageenan. Supposedly, it’s not great for you, and there are almond milks out there without it. It too, upsets my stomach, so I am coconut milk all the way! xx

        • Thanks, Cathy. Checked the brand I drink and don’t think carrageenan’s in there, although it may be mascarading by another name. I drink the Original, Unsweetened, Blue Diamond Almond Milk… 30 calories. xoxo,

  6. I appreciate your willingness to share so candidly with us! I am glad you are en route to feeling more like YOU! 🙂

  7. The important lesson is that you didn’t stay down, but got up and began again! This has been the story of my life in my early 60s…each time there is a set back…I just have to make sure I start again and do not stay down.

  8. Hi Brenda,
    I am so sorry you’ve had it rough recently. I can relate to the “knots the size of golf balls”. Well put. One day at a time. I have also had lower back trouble I solve with over-the counter pain meds.
    Feel better.

    • Janice,
      Back problems can be incapacitating, can’t they? Since I can only take Tylenol, exercise and stretching have kept me in good balance. I don’t recommend two moves in 16 days. Thanks, Brenda

    • Jan!
      I’m more excited to see you here than I have been about anything in a long time! Praise God! You’re the one I hope is on the mend. What an ordeal this must have been for you. You know you are loved by so many, and each one of us continues to pray for you. If only I lived nearby! Lunch, sitting on the porch and talking… Any time with you would be such a gift, my friend.

  9. So excited to read that you are trying Brenda! Dan and I have been eating paleo for about 4 years now. It’s changed our lives. Let us know if you have any questions! Hope you are feeling great soon

    • Tara, Good to know it’s made a big difference in your lives. For the most part, I’ve always eaten Paleo, but didn’t know it. It’s when I eat cheese, dairy and pasta that I get out of whack.

  10. So glad you are feeling better Brenda! It’s amazing how our bodies react to stress and also just getting away from our routines. For me exercise is key to feeling flexible and good; and of course eating well. Interesting turn with the Paleo diet. I’m glad that is working for you. I didn’t realize Paleo eliminated whole grains. Stay well! xoxo

    • Sometimes James would say I was “too delicate to live.” LOL! I’m a tough woman, but my system is a finely tuned machine that doesn’t like when it’s mistreated. I workout three days a week, but eating things I shouldn’t, not stretching and the golf balls have gotten me! xoxox, Brenda

  11. I like the way you seized control of the situation. Your plan sounds like a good one, and it’s effective, so that’s all that counts. Blessings to you!

  12. Stress can do the craziest things! Years ago I was dealing with a lot of stress (and didn’t realize it) and half my face (including half my tongue) went numb! I ended up having an MRI and they couldn’t find a thing…in the end, stress. Looking back I can totally see it, but in the moment I was blind to it.

    Glad you’re on your way back to you.

  13. Give yourself – and your body – some credit! Experiencing the loss of a parent and a major move is extremely stressful. Nothing loosens bowls like stress! Why do you think prisoners on Death Row experience bowel incontinence as they are marched to their execution? Before jumping to conclusions about your diet, I’d invest in a conversation with your primary care physician and get a referral to a nutritionist and/or therapist. Your body is telling you to get some balance back in your life. Not to go on a radical diet.

    • Thanks for the wisdom Stacia! I’ve had lots of conversations with my family physicia-and counselor–about stress. I’m back on my regular meditating and yoga program and the massages are helping. I’ve always eaten a very “clean diet,” as close to God made it as possible. It’s when I vary from that diet my system gets in trouble, like the noodles in the Pad Thai dish or the corn chips and cheese at the Mexican restaurant. My mother had a very sensitive digestive system as well. You probably know this, but the Paleo diet is protein, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds. The only thing it’s missing is carbs, and now that I’ve gotten this IBS bout under control, I’ve added some good carbs back into my diet. It’s hardly a radical diet. Thanks, Brenda

  14. Ann,
    Good article. Thank you! As long as I stay away from baguettes and cheese–Oh, Mon Dieu!–I should be fine.

  15. Dear Friend,
    It’s comforting to know you’ve reclaimed your body! Things change as we get older; things no one told us about. Your grandfather introduced you to yoga? That’s amazing! He was ahead of his time. What drew him to yoga in the first place?

  16. I’m so glad you are giving yourself some much needed TLC after an arduous time. I have a couple of friends on Paleo and they swear by it. I have to work out and do yoga both physically and mentally. Everyone around me can tell when I’ve not been able to get to the gym: something along the lines of Holly Golightly’s Mean Reds… I hope you have some calm after so much storm. xo

    • Since James is no longer here, there’s no one to tell me when I’m off track. Sam and Molly continue to stare adoringly at me, but I know they’re hoping for some love, a scratch behind the ears and dinner… xoxox, Brenda

  17. My sincere condolences, Brenda, on the loss of your mom. Those times of overwhelm and grief tend to send all our best intentions for self care right out the window. Glad you are reclaiming your own time and attention. May your recovery be swift and easy!

    • Wonderful to see you here, Patty. Getting back to my regular routine has been one of the best things I could have done for myself. A little TLC. Thank you, Brenda

  18. So sorry about your Mom’s illness and passing, Brenda. I understand. I am happy to hear that you have turned things around again with your health. Stress will do terrible things to the body, too. #ThursdayFavoriteThings

  19. Brenda, you’ve certainly run the gauntlet of stress. No surprise that you are feeling its effects. I’m glad you’ve got a handle on it, plus, it’s a good reminder to all of us women to care for ourselves in a loving and pro-active way.

    And being in “Mom Mode” as I usually am, I want to remind all of you bright and busy women to make sure you schedule necessary appointments for things like colonoscopies! Don’t ignore symptoms, please. I say this as one who has lost a mother-in-law to cancer. Now, I’m going to schedule a yoga class! XOX

  20. I agree that your body needs a different mix of foods as you age. I have reluctantly gone to paleo also. The weight is dropping off and the cravings are gone. Dropping the sugars and starches seems to be the real key for me right now.

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