Kate Scarlata and the Miracle of the Happy Guts
I’m not sure when the yeses started. I think it was when I first went to Montana for a writer’s retreat. I said yes to that even though it made more sense on many levels, mostly financial, to say, No. Maybe later. Maybe in another life. Maybe in another life where I do what I want and get what I want and make a lot of people including myself happy.
But I said yes, and I went and then I said yes again to New York and yes to Martha’s Vineyard and yes to self-publishing and yes to Write or Die and yes to Rabbit and yes to Beyond Adoption: You and, yet, still, the whole time, throughout all the yeses there was one thing that didn’t change: my troublesome pooping predicaments.
For those of you who read my book, you know I pooped my pants in a nice coffee shop in the East Village. Other people shit the bed. I shit the Big Apple. For those of you who know me, you know I am obsessed with poop. I talk about writing and say it’s the same as pooping. I am both a writer and a pooper. Both are equally true. Both feel equally out of control. The only difference is that when I walk out in public people aren’t going to look at me funny, hold their noses, and say, Uh, did you write today? There are many glorious things about pooping. It can be such a release, such a great emptying, and yet, if you do it in public, in your favorite pair of jeans, for example, it’s mortifying.
I even once almost made a fire truck crash in Newton Center because I’d pooped my pants. Ask Janie Quinn. She’ll tell you.
Are you getting that this shit business, while a pleasure for me, is also a big problem?
Do you have to consider the state of your guts before you head out for the day? Do you have to wonder whether there will be available bathrooms within an easy sprint wherever you are going? I’ve been doing this for so long I don’t even notice. Thinking about when and where and if when it comes to pooping is so second nature to me it’s like breathing. I just do it.
It wasn’t until I started writing about being adopted and researching the trauma of a baby being separated from its mother that I tied my almost constant intestinal distress to the gut punch of being born to a world that disappeared without warning.
It’s crazy that at 50 I can’t keep my shit together because at birth my mother disappeared. But I’ll tell you something, talk to an adopted person and ask him or her about intestinal distress and odds are in your favor that you will hear all sorts of stories. Adopted people all over the world have hurting bellies. And most of them have no idea why.
Doctors are clueless and so medications are giving for IBS and leaky gut and ulcers and yadda yadda and, yes, these people may well have these diseases, but for Pete’s sake, why? Medicine aims for the symptoms, but could we please do a little work and seek out the cause? What if the nurses had known to rock me, to pay special attention to my diet, to my nervous system? What if my birth mother had left behind a shirt so I could smell it and soothe myself that way? What if my body hadn’t started life with all cylinders firing because something, everything, was really wrong and no one but me seemed to notice?
All of this gets me to Kate Scarlata. I went to high school with Kate—she was a year ahead of me--but I met her on Instagram. She is a Boston-based nutritionist and I’ve long been admiring her bright posts, and then one day I saw a picture of her new book, The Low-FODMAP Diet and that yes thing happened. Yes to what, I wasn’t exactly sure, but I’d learned that if my mind told me yes my body better follow because whatever it was always seemed to work out magically well. I messaged Kate and asked if I could talk to her. I told her I didn’t have IBS and that my main concern was adopted people with hurting stomachs, but that I had the feeling she could teach me something really important. Basically I was asking someone who makes a successful living teaching, writing, and consulting for free time. This is one of the cool thing about the whole yes trail. When you are on it and you ask people you never met for things you can’t even quite articulate, they tend to say yes back.
I ordered Kate’s (not her first) book and almost wished I had IBS when I was reading it. Mostly because the pictures of the food made me really hungry. If irritable bowel syndrome meant I could eat potato pancakes and BLTs, I was in. Granted, I could eat those foods without IBS, but I liked the idea of them being prescripted to me. Like, Mack on this delicious bowl of queso dip and watch yourself heal. Maybe I did have irritable bowel. But, really, in my guts, I knew I had something different: I knew I had relinquishment shitters and I was going to have to find my own cure since no one else I knew had been diagnosed with this yet.
Kate is cool. I mean, she’s super smart and talks about food and the body like the scientist she is, but at the same time she laughs about it all and makes it--the body, the dark parts inside, the whole kit and caboodle, seem manageable. For, you see, there was a period of time, a year and a half, when Kate, a registered dietitian, was not well and none of her doctors were making it so that she could stand up straight and go about her business pain free. She had to find ways to talk to doctors using language they could understand to finally figure out what her body needed so she could live a normal, healthy life. She googled like crazy. She researched her way to solutions.
Those are the best kinds of healers: the ones who had to heal themselves first. They know. Kate knows the guts because she had to figure out her own.
We talked about stress and how it can keep the small intestine from doing its small wave cleansing routine. When this happens, debris accumulates and the body no longer functions optimally. Kate told me that stress itself changes the gut microbes and that changes such as these are a possible link to depression for the connection between the gut and the brain is vital. It seems, to me, that I think what I eat. When I eat well, my brain is clear. When I eat sugar or bread my thinking gets murky and I feel like my insides need a shower.
We talked about how people can use food as a coping mechanism. How the bag of chips we use for solace can cause problems down the tube of us, and how a greater awareness of what our body needs can change our lives for the better, for the so much better, and that was why Kate wrote this book: to show people with aching guts they can feed themselves to health.
We talked about the small intestine and bacteria and how an overgrowth of certain bacteria can cause problems. I found out that my beloved kombucha was something that contributed to this problem.
The only thing different I did in my diet for the two weeks since talking to Kate was that I stopped drinking kombucha.
And, gentle reader, my turds are now shaped as if from the hands of a talented sculptor. My poops sing the kindest, purest song.
But wait: it just gets better. A bottle of kombucha is, around here, four bucks a pop. That means, already, in two weeks, I have saved $56.00.
That means in a year I will save $1,460. And that doesn’t account for the double bottle days or the rolls of toilet paper I won’t be needed because said sculpted poops basically fall out, clean.
Are you still with me? Are you okay?
Sorry. I just love poop. I know it makes some people queasy, but, really, think about how much work goes into each one. All that organic food. All that chewing. All that body effort to get as many essential nutrients from that apple as possible. Or from that Twinkie. Whatever it is that you call a meal or a snack.
I’ll stop now. I can feel I’ve pushed you too far. But it’s hard to talk about poop without talking about pooping.
I want to thank Kate. I am so grateful she said yes to talking to me. I am so grateful to my curiosity. To my determination to figure out how to best thrive in this body that’s still trying to figure out how to live in a world where the carpet so surprisingly got pulled from beneath my feet at such an early age. Before I could even stand on my feet.
Here’s to yes. Here’s to Kate’s guts, and to our questioning natures. Here’s to good food and calm intestines. Here’s to peace of mind. Here’s to saving money.
Last night when I was falling asleep I realized something: my stomach didn’t hurt. It was the strangest feeling, like when your ears ring after a concert and then, suddenly, you realize that annoying buzzing has stopped. My body felt quiet. Peaceful.
It’s the next day now, almost night, and my stomach still doesn’t hurt. Was it just dropping the kombucha? No. But that was a key element. I’ve been meditating, exercising, avoiding stressful situations and people. I take time every day to feed myself in ways not connected to food. I listen to what my body needs: rest, beauty, fun, stimulation, and I find these things. My full-time job these days is me.
It’s good work.
The benefits are amazing.
Talking with Kate was a game changer. The pieces are all starting to come together.