Confessions of a Naturopathic Doctor: Junk Food Hangover

When the rest of the world sees Naturopathic Doctors, they see chirpy, yoga-obsessed do-gooders who never saw the inside of a McDonald’s bag. So it’s natural for a large portion of the population to want to feed us torn up strips of our own yoga mats with a little no-carb dressing.

But the reality is that I live the lifestyle I do because it hurts too much to do anything else. Periodically I forget this, like last night, and I pay heavily for my transgressions.

Anyone old enough to drink, and a disturbing number of those not legally able to drink, is familiar with the idea of a hangover. Too much alcohol, and the next day you get to stumble around, feeling like the roof of your mouth is a bit hairy and that your brain is still a little pickled from the night before. Now imagine that same wondrous feeling from eating the wrong foods.

That’s right, I had most of a cinnamon loaf last night, drenched in cinnamon and sugar. Only it wasn’t sugar because that’s too expensive for that store bakery. Instead it was high fructose corn syrup and all those little, long-worded chemicals that mean: “you’re now a lab experiment. What will this do to you?”

In my defense, I was watching a Manga movie with my eight-year-old, making his night special. But I topped off my cinnamon loaf with not one but two bags of microwave popcorn. It was the Cub Scouts’ new, healthier popcorn, complete with canola oil, but it still contained those darn artificial and natural flavorings which again include pretty much any chemical under the sun they want to put in there.

Like alcohol, it took about two hours to start feeling pretty poorly. I was irritable, out-of-sorts, and pretty nauseous.  Regret is always twenty-twenty. Did I really need to eat most of a loaf? A second bag of popcorn? But I made it to bed early, convinced I could sleep this one off.

No such luck. Today my mouth feels numb, my tongue too thick. I’m constantly thirsty. My fingers have swelled up so the ring that normally fits on three fingers only fits on one. Instead of dropping overnight, my weight went up a pound, and I expect to gain two or three more pounds today from water weight.

But I also don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. It isn’t itchy, it’s just not right. I’m constantly looking for faults in myself or others. At 2:30 this morning I woke up briefly from a minor panic attack. I calmed myself down, but I normally sleep like a log.

My body aches, not really bad, just like I’ve been lifting trees all day. That kind of tired ache, only yesterday I just sat on my butt. So this ache isn’t from muscle fatigue. It’s from chemical buildup.

Oh, and I’ve got my eye blisters or blebs. Nothing like a partial loss of sight to make you feel really smart about last night’s choices.  See, other people have sensitive skin. That I could just get a steroid cream for. But I have sensitive sclera (the whites of my eyes). They bubble and blister when my body isn’t happy. I lose peripheral vision, and it’s pretty scary, even though I’ve had them before and they go away when I’m good.

So I think I’m swearing off store-bought junk food again, at least for a while. For those of you who’ve read this with disbelief while swigging your morning-after drink, just be happy you’re a rapid acylator (can process  the chemicals and alcohol more rapidly).  I won’t be joining you for any kind of binge drinking or binge eating anytime soon.

I practice what I preach to patients not from a pulpit, but from having walked the paths my patients have walked too long myself.  It’s not a moral imperative for me to eat healthy, home-made, locally grown foods. It’s a physical necessity with immediate consequences for me. And I fall down, but I can’t stay down here. It’s horrible and it hurts. But I know the way out of the valley of darkness, and the path is paved with salad.


3 Replies to “Confessions of a Naturopathic Doctor: Junk Food Hangover”

  1. I’m trying to understand how I didn’t throw up and die from my teenage diet. Such wonders as binging on bags of donuts and whole frozen pizzas and of course the entire bag of oreos in one sitting (groooosss). But I didn’t drink soda, so people considered me a healthy eater, bahahahahahahaha
    Recently had two fast food meals on a road trip and I thought I was going to puke.

  2. Thanks for your comment!

    In my teens and twenties I could eat anything, and I subsisted on ice cream and pizza. Now I know that “full feeling” was really my body reacting poorly. But I managed to survive. The body gets tired of cleaning up after us, so the pain/nausea threshold gets easier to hit. I imagine there are those who’s body just doesn’t complain anymore, and others graced with such rapid detoxification systems that they can keep throwing things in.

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