College Student - Alcohol and Stomach Problems

by Roberto
(Baltimore, MD)

I'm a 19 year old college sophomore. I've never had any problems with depression or stress until about a couple months ago. One night I had (what I didn't realize at the time) was an acid reflux attack out of the blue. At the time I just thought I hurt a muscle because I had never had any health problems prior. Then I started getting nauseous after eating a lot of the time and getting heartburn occasionally. After going to the doctor I found out I had acid reflux. Here is my problem: I used to have so much fun drinking like a college student and smoking pot often. Basically what I did for fun with all of my friends is get drunk and/or smoke pot. However, I can't have more than a couple drinks without getting an acid reflux attack. I still smoke pot to be social even though I know I shouldn't. It's not like I'm some sort of one-dimensional person who only drinks/smokes (I got a 1290 on my SAT) but on weekends that's really what people do. I live in a dorm with two friends who I made through smoking pot before I had these problems and most of my friends I know through drinking/smoking pot. My acid reflux really isn't even that bad relatively speaking. I basically no longer have a social life because of this and it makes me really sad. Whenever I see someone who's drunk it makes me sad. What's more, I was always a good student but now I am having trouble concentrating in class. I've gone down from 170 pounds to 155 pounds through a combination of not wanting to eat to get acid reflux and being sad about having acid reflux. I have to force myself to eat. I understand that people have bigger problems than this (my twin brother has had mental breakdowns), but I've always sort of seen myself through the prism of that lifestyle that I'm having a really hard time dealing with it. I really don't want to be on antidepressants.

Ben's Answer:

Your problem is you've messed up your gut and you need to fix it. Alcohol might make you feel more socially connected to your friends, but it is not going to ultimately keep you happy. Your gut issue on the other hand, if not corrected, could lead to all sorts of metabolic problems and can even lead to mental/emotional issues. There is a strong connection between gut health and brain functioning.

If your twin brother has had mental breakdowns and shares your physical constitution, this should be a HUGE warning to you!

And if your brother, or anyone in your biological family has bipolar disorder, then you need to know that antidepressants are one of the leading causes of bipolar symptoms that can become chronic.

There are many excellent methods of healing your digestive system. One of the main core principles of Ayurvedic Medicine is to have a strong, balanced "digestive fire." It is the basis for all health, physical and emotional.

Taking a dietary healing approach is the way to go. Modern medicine's answer is to let you go on eating and drinking whatever garbage you want, and then giving you an acid-blocker, which then further dampens the digestive fire and causes poor absorption of essential minerals.

Ayurvedic cleansing diets are great. So is the Body-Ecology Diet (lots of raw and especially, fermented foods). Another important rule is to avoid acid-producing foods and eat lots of alkaline foods - especially fresh vegies.

If you want this to work - take a break from alcohol - at least until your system is functioning well again. You'll have more energy, feel more focused and happy and strong if you give this enough time. Even a few weeks should make a huge difference.

You have to listen to your body. If we do what our body doesn't like, it let's us know. Sickness is the body's way of getting our attention and telling us that we need to make a change.

Doing this now, while you're young will save you many years of suffering and potential chronic illness in your later years.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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