Beware Of Almonds, GI Sisters and Brothers (Part I)

posted in: Sicky 29
Welcome to hell. Image: Wikipedia.


Something just happened and it is bad.

I accidentally ate a food that has almonds in it and now I wait for suffering. That’s not me being dramatic. In about two hours, it’s curtains for me.

First will come the twinges of pressure, followed soon by the first cramp. Then the gurgle. Then the clutch. The clench. And then it’ll begin: I’ll be in and out of the bathroom many times. How many times? Many. It’s likely I’ll cry at some point because when you’re in and out of the bathroom as many times as I’m about to go, there are breakdowns. First come the soft tissue breakdowns, if you catch my drift? Then, because of that, emotional breakdowns are likely. I’m in for pain tonight.

Rather than suffer in silence, I decided this was a terrific opportunity (woo!) to tell you about my problem with almonds so that you can benefit from it or relay it to anyone you know who suffers from GI distress of any kind; most specifically, someone like me, who possesses a J-Pouch. Warn them that for a dear friend of yours (that’s me) almonds are a hellscape of torture and agony and, if they are like me, these nuts should be avoided at all costs.

[If you aren’t sure if someone you know has a J-Pouch, you may not know them well enough to ask; if you’re kind and the two of you grow closer, however, they will eventually tell you about it. If you have a J-Pouch, you definitely know. And for all those who don’t have their very own J-Pouch and don’t know anyone with one, please keep reading, as this post is for you, too. Life is long and you may very well use this information later.]

Now, then.

I’ve heard that folks with Diverticulitis can’t eat popcorn or things with seeds, e.g., strawberries, “everything” bagels, etc. The trouble is that super-small stuff can get caught along the way and I understand that when this happens it can be blindingly painful, often requiring a hospital visit.

But for me, popcorn is great. I have it (with a nice pinot noir) for dinner more often than I’d care to admit. Some of my other other brothers and sisters in the intestinal failure business can’t eat gluten — ever. I’m halfway in this camp and when I pass up gluten at a restaurant, I like to laugh and say, “Yeah, but I was gluten-free before it was cool.” In my case, too much gluten causes inflammation and for a girl whose large intestine immolated itself, keeping inflammation to a minimum is the way to go. But unlike people with an intense gluten allergy, I can have spaghetti sometimes and no one dies.

Ah, but almonds.

Let me take you back to 2013. You’d think the worst chapter of my health odyssey was Ground Zero, ten years ago, at Mayo Clinic, when they removed most of my guts and screwed up the surgery. You’re half-right but half-wrong, too, because five years later, every IR drain, every PICC line, every setback and ostomy separation at Ground Zero went head-to-head with the chronic fissure that showed up and utterly ruined me for at least a year. The fissure ruined me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, endlessly, always, constantly, during that time. The fissure became the axis around which my entire life revolved. The fissure became a piece of my consciousness. The fissure was my slave-driver, and I use that term with an understanding of its revolting definition.

And in all the hospitalizations (I lost count); the sick days; the awful ways I tried to cope with the problem (you’ll have to wait for my tell-all memoir for that) — in all that time, no doctor, nurse, or well-meaning pal ever, ever asked me: “What are you eating?”

If they had asked me, I would’ve said, weakly, traumatized: “I don’t know .. Not much of anything because I’m so scared to pass it … In the evening, I’m probably drinking too much Chardonnay because, ha, ha, it isn’t solid … Um, for breakfast … Oh, I eat almonds and Nutella in the morning, usually.”

That’s right. My breakfast for many months — because it made me happy, it was easy to prepare, went great with my Earl Gray tea, and was gluten-free, which was supposed to be a good choice for me — was a handful of almonds in a pretty teacup with a dollop of Nutella on the top. Who wouldn’t want to eat that, right? And I wasn’t supposed to eat toast, after all. Gluten bad. So Nutella and almonds are what I ate. Day after day.

And day after day — ah.

Sorry. It’s time to go. I’ll pick this back up tomorrow, and I won’t make you wait. But I can’t wait. Because it’s starting.



29 Responses

  1. Cynthia Luke
    | Reply

    Ms Mary,

    I know how you feel. I have been diagnosed with diviticulitus and now diviticulosis. It’s been a rough year this year where I have bad pains on my right side of my stomach. They ruled out all. Still trying to find out what it is. I have changed my diet and working. But I miss all the foods I love. But If it works I will try my best. Sometimes you fall off the diet and then it comes back but that’s human being. I have a lot of friends who have stomach issues and family who have been diagnosed with stomach cancer. We definitely need to know our friends and family what they are going through it helps us out.


    Cynthia Luke

  2. Jennifer
    | Reply

    Oh! Much love, to see you through the coming hours..

  3. Sherrie Brady
    | Reply

    Praying this will pass quickly. You are a gutsy girl. But maybe not so much! Poor attempt at humor.

  4. Jamie
    | Reply

    So sorry Mary! I’m allergic to almonds, and a number of other foods, including all tree nuts. I do well avoiding these things most of the time but occasionally get one by accident because I wasn’t careful enough or because the person serving the food did not really know (or care?) what was in it. Consuming food your body rejects makes for a very bad day. Hoping you feel better soon!

  5. Heather
    | Reply

    Lactose Intolerance, that’s my gut churning issue. Thankfully, it is easily controlled with lactase enzyme, but I remember the nights in the bathroom well…before I was diagnosed I spent many nights afraid to leave the bathroom. I was almost always sick around 1 am. It was like a little man was doing a sword dance inside me…and not a nice, highland style, dance around the sword type either.

  6. Kathi Bryan
    | Reply

    I’m so sorry. Hope it passes quickly and you feel better.

  7. Mary D
    | Reply

    You have dealt with a lot health wise and you are still standing to fight another day. Cheers to you. Years ago I was diagnosed with diverticulosis after suffering intense pain that made it difficult to walk. Working with my GI doctor I took control of my colon health and have not had another incident of diverticulitis in the last 12+ years. But I also developed adult asthma and have severe allergies to tree nuts. Nuts I had eaten for most of my life. I read labels now, I keep my distance from nuts and I took 3 yrs of allergy shots so I wouldn’t eat something with hidden nut products in it and cause a life threatening incident. With all of these health challenges we get to know our triggers and take better care of our bodies . As we mature taking care of our bodies become more front and center. I once told my doctor I thought I had a lifetime guarantee on my body parts. He chuckled and said unfortunately that is not true. How right he was. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  8. Georgia
    | Reply

    Mary, You are my hero. You have been through so much, but still have your sense of humor. I don’t know how you do it! I wish I could fix your gut for you. Please keep sharing and educating us. Love you.

  9. Dsrlene Dockins
    | Reply

    Mary, I am sorry for your pain. It is a horrible way to live. Prayers for you.

  10. Colleen
    | Reply

    So sorry you got this in you and then that you have to suffer until it gets out of you.
    I have an odd food issue some foods I used to enjoy and every thing went well now make my tummy hurt I am old I used to these foods and no problem
    Now I eat something and later my tummy hurts but next time I see the food my taste buds my brain and my tummy just are not learning “you will pay for it later ”
    For you I know it is serious and I do hope you are able to get the bad stuff out without further damage to your guts remember the hand held shower is your friend

  11. Christine
    | Reply

    I’m sorry! Saying a prayer for you tonight!

  12. Karen
    | Reply

    Hmmm, almonds. Hardly ever eat them ,but have never connected them to symptoms. I have UC too, still have my colon thankfully. Popcorn was my enemy for years, but remission due to Remicade has fixed that. Prior to remission, if I ate popcorn, I suffered for at least a week.

    Hang in there, and I can relate to every word you said. Hoping your night isnt as bad as you expect.

  13. Brenda King
    | Reply

    Dear Mary- My heart goes out to you, due to your dilemma. I have IBS, and am lactose intolerant, AND have diverticulosis. Horrible memories of nights spent like you are now, plague me. It was awful to feel like things were finished, crawl back to bed, only to have it bast me again, as soon as I’d lie down. So, back to the potty, more times than I could count. Then I’d have to crawl out of bed, as I was just getting to sleep, to get ready for work. (UGH!) I’d feel exhausted, had a sore rear, and had tummy issues all day, then I’d collapse on the bed again, as soon as I got home from work. No way to live! Fortunately, my symptoms have decreased considerably since I retired. I know you have many working yrs. ahead of you, poor thing! I have few suggestions, but a heating pad sometimes feels heavenly, a lovely read helps sometimes. Lots of good, non-irritating fluids, and a small nibble of something you love, that won’t trigger you, helps. A small, fun, quilting or sewing project that is not stressful might cheer you, and lovely, calming music to relax by, is so nice.
    Take good care of yourself, treat yourself to something that will cheer you, and know I’m sending my best thoughts and prayers your way! Brenda King, Bend, Oregon

  14. Kerry
    | Reply

    Hope you feel better soon. My mother has just been diagnosed with diverticulitis – was told that she probably had it for years although treated for something else without having test done – discovered because when she moved to a different county she had to change her doctor. Doctor investigated further and sent her for tests after she mentioned a pain. My father (and some of his family) are coeliacs. So far I have no gallbladder -I was treated for hiatus hernia and then sent for an endoscopy to see if I had an ulcer, all clear so nothing done. Then I had jaundice – that moment I walked by the hall mirror will stick in my mind for years – whoa who gave me that awful fake tan! Then laughed my head off – Oompa Loompa! Only then steps were taken for gallbladder surgery – one week later it was sorted! And now I just burp with everything! Very embarrassing! Although great for childish competitions – I win! Hah! Can’t wait for grandchildren!

  15. Marianne ten Kate
    | Reply

    Well, I’ll have to rethink the Almond Praline I was going to send you…. But seriously, as your situation now dictates, you will have time to pour over your erudite readers’ comments (maybe save homework and contracts, etc., for when you are on the mend!) so herewith my two pennies’ worth. Just today on Radio 4 here in the UK I listened to a program on dieting (You’re Doing It Wrong) in which a doctor was confounded by how his body processed food. He did glucose tolerance tests on himself after eating pasta and red grapes. He had a normal reaction to wheat, but red grapes put him into the diabetic category. He tested his “long-suffering” wife’s glucose tolerance on the same foods with exactly the opposite reaction. She can eat grapes – which are at the tippity top of the glycemic index – till she’s pink in the face, while wheat sends her glucose readings off the charts. He links this divergence in their experience to the vast array of intestinal flora and fauna that inhabit – or don’t, to our detriment – our guts. I’m an IBS sufferer – a bowl of cherries in comparison to your plight – but I’m convinced our individual microbiome has a huge part to play in our health. (I can, at the drop of a hat, bang on at great length about the joys of the low FODMAP diet.) Matching our microbes and to a healthy diet is the key. How that is to be achieved is still a huge crap shoot. As your other commenters have said, it’s trial and error for the most part. Let’s hope someone out there can monetise our digestive well being and can sell us a custom ‘top-up’ for our gut buddies! Big Pharma may be more interested though in another aspect of gut research – the bacteria that can help make – or keep – us skinny. Sign me up for those right NOW!! Take care of yourself and thanks for sharing with us and hope it doesn’t hurt more when you laugh 😉 Best wishes for a speedy from Yrrup.

  16. Marianne ten Kate
    | Reply

    Speedy recovery….!

  17. Patti-Ann Kubacki
    | Reply

    I’m so sorry you aren’t well. Knowing what you can and can’t eat is so important with any type of GI issues. Be well and I hope this episode passes (just kidding) quickly and as easily as possible.

  18. Kim S
    | Reply

    It’s morning and I am just reading this. I pray you are waking up after a restful night of sleep. So sorry you were dealt this card in your life, but I commend you on your attitude. You have learned to coexist with the enemy and call it out for what it is. Thanks for sharing your battle strategies and letting us know what works and not so much. Wishing you good health as you carry on. By the way, almonds are way overrated in my book. Thanks for all you do, you are a breath of fresh air every time I read your blog.

  19. Veronica
    | Reply

    Hi Mary ,
    It’s Wednesday Lunchtime here in Ireland , and I am so hopeful that you are surviving this difficult bout. You poor old pet . It is very important that you do have some time to have a little pity & empathy for yourself – and I really hope you know how much we are sharing it with you right now , as best as humanly & spiritually possible. You spend such a gigantic portion of your time being brave & stoic , by choice & otherwise. And very brave.
    It’s always great to be allowed to share in the fun & the pleasurable ordinary of every day life with you. We wait this one out with you and are sending our love & evey best wish for your healing. Xx Veronica

  20. Barbara
    | Reply

    Feel better soon Mary.

  21. Angela Clemons
    | Reply

    I’m soooo sorry you have to deal with such a painful thing. Following terrible back pain during which they discovered renal cell carcinoma (so kidney surgery) followed six weeks later by gall bladder surgery, I had a few months of hydrocodone. Growing up in the 70s I thought I’d be a great druggie on prescription stuff since I was too paranoid to do the illegal stuff. My mother was great at instilling guilt and fear! LOL. What a cool way to join the party, right? WRONG. Maybe it’s my advanced age but I experienced just the opposite of what you have to deal with during a bad spell. You would probably disagree with me at this point, but I’m tellin’ ya, life ain’t worth livin’ if ya can’t poop. Hang in there, kid!

  22. Clark
    | Reply

    Have that problem with milk, ice cream,. yogurt, etc. Had to switch to non-dairy and lactose-free stuff.
    Love almonds but not almond milk.

  23. Lindsey
    | Reply

    When I eat almonds I get hiccups. When I eat chocolate I sneeze. This didn’t happen until I passed my mid-50’s. I think I am lactose challenged so limit milk products, but can have pizza now and again.
    Who knew what you could digest comfortably would change over time?! It’s one of the (so far) big amazements of the body. The other two were: my body made milk after birthing babies, and pubic hair turns grey. No one prepared me for that last one. Again, who knew?!!!

  24. Rosemary Small
    | Reply

    Poor Mary. I hope you are feeling a lot better by now. I’m sending you big hugs all the way from Australia.

  25. Cindy
    | Reply

    Thank you for posting this. I have a lot of gasrtic issues and recently one of my doctors reviewed some blood work and my good cholestoral was low–and she told me to eat almonds. I’ve been having some uncomfortable bowel issues and it never crossed my mind it could be the almonds.

  26. Kim Landry
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, I’m so sorry! I read you all the time and even feel like I know you pretty well but I have never commented before today. I have celiac disease and several other add on’s that guarantee that my gut is satisfied the it is the most “Princess and the Pea” of all guts. I pray for your quick recovery. Be well and write!


  27. The Backpage - Mary Fons
    | Reply

    […] professor faced with quicksand. She’ll be back. And when she comes back, she’ll finish her story about almonds and all the other stories she has to tell. There are so many, you see. The time is the […]

  28. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    So sorry, Mary. Praying that you are healed of all this so you can get on with your “excellent life”!

  29. […] post from a few days ago was a real cliffhanger — and then I kept you cliff-hanging. I’m sorry about that. There are […]

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