They call the stomach our second brain. Our guts are where nerves turn to butterflies and our brains where mac and cheese becomes mom. Brain tells belly how to feel and belly tells brain what to feel and how to think.
I had terrible heartburn for ten years and nothing helped—not the Tums I devoured by the handful; daily prescription; or eliminating tomatoes, red wine, coffee, or (my beloved) hot sauce.
This usually happens to much, much older people, countless medical professionals told me as they scribbled refills and handed them to an increasingly-dismayed 18-28-year-old me. I tested negative for ulcers; everything I ate felt like knives. I was running low on clever ways to self-deprecatingly describe my “old man stomach” when a friend referred me to her mother, a nutritionist, who told me Western medicine had it all wrong: Heartburn doesn’t happen who you’ve got too much stomach acid, it’s the result of too little. I started drinking raw apple cider vinegar—mother and all—cut out most processed food, developed a probiotics habit, and never looked back.
I tell the story of my stomach for a few reasons: For one thing, I may be 31 and childless but I’ve got the soul of a Jewish grandmother—I love to talk about digestion and want to help you with yours (I’ll also over-feed you if you come over for any reason and any amount of time and yes, I realize the irony in this).
I was also raised in a Bay Area hippie town by a mother who at one point in the early 70s ate only fruit that had fallen from trees (more on that later). This brain-body connection stuff? This real-foods, mindful-eating, raw-apple-cider-vinegar-drinking stuff? This interconnectedness-of-everything stuff? So cool.
But finally, I’m a writer so this anecdotal musing wouldn’t be complete without a metaphor (and gratuitous em-dash use). Ideally one where I butcher whatever semblance of a scientific basis my claims once had and twist it to fit the narrative for which I’m trying. Sometimes the cure for heartburn is vinegar. Sometimes the most natural solution is the one that seems at first counter-intuitive. Sometimes you’ve got to try doing the exact opposite of what you’ve been doing.
Or, in the words of the immortal Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock, sometimes you have to: “Climb down, Lemon. Climb down.” (It wouldn’t be a Josey blog if I didn’t find some way to shove a 30 Rock quote in somewhere. Also, I wouldn’t be Josey if I didn’t point out TWSS.)
But there’s also this: Our guts and brains were once made of the same tissue. Brain and belly trading stories back and forth, secrets and lies. A digestive reminder of the interconnectedness of everything. And what could be a more profound metaphor than that?
—Josey Rose Duncan