Weird stuff happens in foreign countries. The bacteria and the food is different, so things that your body can deal with just fine in America cause serious problems abroad. For instance, when I had been in Madagascar about 10 weeks, I got a huge whitehead zit. Grossness alert ahead: It was the kind that is just begging to be popped, pus just under the surface, so I obliged… then had to spend 5 days in the hospital because it got infected and the infection threatened to speed to my eyes and my brain. Not cool.
So, I thought conditions in Indonesia were somehow to blame for the horrible bloating I’d been having for the past few months. I thought maybe I was allergic to soy or MSG, but after carefully watching my diet, no patterns emerged. I thought maybe I was overeating too much on vacation, but I seemed to get really bloated even if I didn’t have much to eat. So I did a google search, and it said that parasites and worms, though they usually cause diarrhea and weight loss, can also cause bloating and constipation if it is a truly massive infestation. I was pretty sure I was being eaten alive, starting with the intestines. Thanks a lot, Indonesia!
So, I finally got myself to the doctor last month. I went to the fancy western clinic in Jakarta, and used their wi-fi while I waited for the doctor. When I went in to see Dr. Dian, she poked around my abdomen and confirmed that, yeah, I was really bloaty. “Are you on your period?,” she asked. No. “Do you have any known food allergies?” No. “Do you drink a lot of soda?” None. “Do you have any heartburn or acid reflux?” No. “Do you always chew gum?”
I had, at the moment, been happily chomping away on a piece of sugar-free Extra Dessert Sensations Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream gum. Over the past few months I had become something of a sugar-free gum connaisseur. I had a lot more free time, and I was finding myself nibbling and snacking whenever I was sitting around my house, so to try to avoid that and keep my mouth busy, I started chewing sugar-free gum. Unfortunately, Indonesia only seems to produce, like, 3 flavors, and I got sick of those real quick. I started asking for gum in packages, I bought some when I was in Australia, and my mom brought me some. By the middle of January, I had a huge stockpile. I even had more waiting for me in packages when I got back. Here’s an idea of just how much (and this was after I had chewed a ton and given away probably a third of it):
Having so much gum made feel like I needed to do all I could to use it up, so I started chewing more and more. By the time I went to the doctor, I was probably up to a half a pack a day! Basically, if I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was chewing gum. Wait, not just chewing gum. I was chomping, snapping, blowing bubbles, and generally annoying everyone within earshot.
So, back to the doctors office: She told me that chewing gum makes you swallow more air and can lead to bloating. I read on google later that the artificial sweeteners are also bad because your body doesn’t digest them well. She suggested that I try a week without gum and see if it helped, then come back to see her again if it didn’t.
So, I tossed the last of the gum I brought with me on my travels.
And the bloating was over.
Meaning, I had managed to chew so much gum that I was able to convince myself I had a massive infestation of worms. Not cool. No hospital time, so not as bad as the zit, but right up there.
Anyone want a lifetime supply of sugar-free gum?