Uh-Oh

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

You know you’re in trouble when you wake up in the middle of the night and say to yourself, “I’m going to be sick.” I’m not talking about over indulgence and a spinning bed after a New Year’s celebration.  I learned a new word for such debauchery. Crapulous comes from Latin and Greek for drunkenness and hangover. Some words are so descriptive.

My thoughts of “Uh-Oh” quickly shifted to wishful thinking. “Maybe if I lie here quietly the nausea will pass.” Unfortunately, it frequently doesn’t, and then it’s a race to the bathroom, and the undignified decision of which way to face the loo. With my recent GIs (gastrointestinal affliction) I resorted to the sitting position with a trash can on my lap. This is preferable to mopping the floor, and seems more acceptable than the kneeling position and staring into a toilet bowl. I’ve discovered that trash can stains and odors don’t help settle a stomach. In college we called hanging onto the toilet bowl, “driving the bus.”

Holidays are a time of friends, parties and togetherness. People crisscross the country in cramped airplanes breathing miasmic air and sharing germs from East to West Coasts. And there’s considerable trust and risk involving party food, shaking hands and politely hugging folks with Holiday bonhomie. Europeans greet each other with kisses on the cheeks. I’m not sure that’s wise during the influenza season or with a stomach bug in the community.

Americans eat out more than they used to, and despite stringent guidelines for food care, food poisoning is always a possibility. Actually, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often than it does. You’re probably safer preparing your own food, but this does not protect you against a tainted onion such as caused big problems for patrons some years ago in the O’Charley’s restaurant chain.

My grandson Oakley loves chocolate milk which we prepare by adding a little chocolate syrup to his milk. Children trust their parents and grandparents so it never occurred to the little guy to question the snack we’d given him. We knew something was wrong when Oakley told us there was “too much chocolate in this milk.” It was then we discovered that the milk was curdled! Our error was rewarded with Oakley vomiting on the floor.

Our gut is designed to reject noxious or tainted foods and infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria. It may not be a pleasant experience to see chocolate milk coming back up, but the gut is designed to purge itself when necessary. Similar evacuations are the modus operandi of our southern reaches as well.

The stomach produces up to two quarts of hydrochloric acid each twenty-four hours. The acid aids in digestion by breaking down protein bonds and suppresses bacterial overgrowth. I’m amazed that this potent acid doesn’t damage the stomach. Prostaglandins regulate blood flow and physiology in the stomach, suppressing acid production and maintaining the protective alkaline mucous layer which neutralizes surface acid. Remember, NSAIDs (non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin, Motrin and Aleve inhibit prostaglandin production and are associated with peptic ulcer disease.

I think you appreciate good health more when it returns after an illness. One of my axioms is “misery makes one thankful for its passage.” As the “GI bug” struck one after the other in our family (despite quarantine efforts) I waited and hoped I would escape its misery. I didn’t. I’m sure I got it caring for my sick granddaughter, and I told my similarly afflicted daughter that this is the price of love. Unfortunately, there’s not a vaccine for the usual infectious GI bugs like there is to prevent influenza. There is a vaccination for kids to prevent the particularly tasty GI Rotavirus. There are also vaccines for cholera and bacterial dysentery (salmonella). However, for adults not traveling to third world countries it’s best to just be careful what you eat and who you kiss on the cheek.

Perhaps it’s good to occasionally be humbled. Brother Paul argued we should be “thankful in all things.” Philosophically that may be true, but watching supper come back up and out your nose tests the notion of thankfulness. Paul goes on to say suffering brings perseverance, builds character and produces hope (Romans 5). I don’t think he was referring to vomiting and diarrhea.

Though I’m less of an optimist than my angelic wife Becky, I spend most of my time in the sphere of thankfulness. Unfortunately, this dissipates like all energy systems of the universe – a process known as entropy. Spirituality dissipates unless it is nurtured and fed with “daily bread.” Hans and Frans from SNL would say you’ve got to “pump it up!”

Adversity and illness often takes me to the other “T,” trust. There’s an old hymn that goes, “trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy, in Jesus you must trust and obey.” Admittedly, it is difficult, but sages down through the ages and across cultures have come to the same conclusion. Trust in a greater power than man, his science or his wisdom of the moment is integral to happiness.

As I pen this essay we are approaching the January 20 inauguration, and I am sickened by the reaction of certain Democrats and liberal-progressives. There is a term called the “ugly American.” An example is an American in a French bistro who demands a cheeseburger and for the serenading violinist to play Rocky Top. Apparently, some of these disrespectful Americans have come home. While a recent poll found that 57% of Democrats wanted Trump to succeed, there are those who so cling to their ideology, power and position that they would subvert the Constitution, the orderly transfer of power and drown us all in their own misery. We have seen the utter hypocrisy and depravity of those who label themselves as “tolerant,” yet savaged singer Jennifer Holliday. These deplorables then turned on Nicole Kidman who dared to say she believed in democracy, the Constitution and we should support the election process.

I recently wrote an essay focusing on Micah 6:8. Read it. The current politic challenges me with justice versus mercy. Perhaps the Bard said it best in The Merchant of Venice: “Earthly power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice.” Maybe I’ll get there in the weeks to come, but the “deplorables” in Hollywood, Congress and CNN threaten to take all the Christian out of me.

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