Conquering Conference Gut

I have struggled with the momentum-killing effects of ulcerative colitis for 25 years, but never is it so bothersome as when I’m trying to attend writer’s events. I’ve not-so-affectionately renamed my flare-ups “Conference Gut,” because of the four conferences I’ve attended and the two I’ve run, I have never been able to attend a single one of these without the painful, exhausting, and stressful symptoms of my ailing gut rearing their heads. As I prepare to attend this year’s Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’sconference (a last minute decision, because those are always supportive of digestive health!) my symptoms are getting a solid head start.

Frankly, I’ve had enough.

We went out to enjoy some sunshine at the lake on Sunday afternoon, as I’ve been feeling extremely sunshine-deprived this summer, due to my work schedule and my self-imposed butt-in-chair time as I press toward finishing The Risen Age Archive. My stomach has been up and down for the past few days, so I tried to choose reasonably digestible foods—or so I thought—for the trip.

Well, apparently, I chose poorly, because by the time we were schlepping our stuff back to the car, I was having a full blown intestinal spasm. In times like that, I just pray to be able to get to the comfort of my own home before disaster strikes.

On the drive home, in addition to trying very hard not to writhe in pain like Luke Skywalker being Force Lightning-ed by the Emperor, I suddenly broke out in hives. Hives? What the heck? That has never happened to me before. Was it something I ate? My sunscreen? Was it the probiotic powder I took on Saturday having some kind of weird interaction with the sun? It didn’t matter, it was the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. The flipper of some kind of ticked-off switch in my psyche.

I’m sick of being sick. I don’t want to plan everything at this weekend’s conference around having a swift exit, in case my gut stages a revolt. I’ve got stuff to do, and my flare-ups are getting in the way.

So, this week, I’m combining a very bland diet/semi fast with the elimination of some things from my diet, to include:
  • Soda: I quit this periodically, and routinely fall off the wagon. There’s no justifiable reason to drink Coke. I can admit this. The quitting is hard, though. I was raised in the late 70’s/80’s. If we weren’t drinking Coke it was Kool-Aid. Plain water is still a struggle for me.
  • Caffeine in general: This is going to be interesting (pronounced: miserable), given my fatigue issues that are also a battle in the health war. I expect my productivity at work may suffer this week. Thankfully, the crush of my very busy season is over. I can make no guarantee about the quality of conversation any of my coworkers will get from me. I will probably be napping during my lunch.
  • Gluten: There are people in my life who have been leaning hard on me to cut out gluten and “just see if it helps” for a long time. I will admit—I love bread. I will be very sad if it turns out eliminating gluten proves to make a huge difference. But I will also be happy to have some control over what my digestive system is doing.

So, I’ll probably be living on vegetables, rice, and water this week, while hunting around for some form of protein that isn’t Frankenfood.

If all goes well, I will have a quieted gut for this coming weekend, and I will be lucid and well-armed for my dastardly plans of:
  •  recruiting accomplices for the next Realm Makers conference,
  •  making a good impression with my art portfolio,
  •  and maybe getting some professional advice on how to reboot my writing endeavors.

Because you can’t do any of that stuff curled in bed, cursing the Alfredo sauce you know you shouldn’t have eaten.

Here’s to better health for me down the road—because ultimately, I want to serve my readers and other writers, and being healthy is a significant piece of that puzzle.


  1. Chicken broth made with bones is very nourishing to a battered gut! I just make it with onions, a bit of boullion, and chicken legs.

    1. Homemade broth is SO much better than packaged. I should really make a big batch about once a month to keep on hand. It's not like it's hard. :)

  2. Well, I hope you figure out a diet that solves your issues, and that you have a wonderful time at the conference! I can totally relate to food problems. Milk gives me horrible sinus headaches and makes me puffy all over. Peanuts bother my gut and make me break out. Dark chocolate actually causes depression in me. I had to cut back on coffee (fortunately not give it up completely) because two large cups a day was tearing my stomach up. (I tried the no wheat thing, and it didn't do anything for me, so I went back.)

    I assume you've been tracking what you eat and when the issues happen to see what kind of pattern there is? Have you tried giving up milk in case it's lactose intolerance?

    Was one of those "easily digestible" foods you chose over the weekend something you haven't eaten in a while? I found that peanuts only bothered my gut at first, but after not eating them for a while, then trying again, they added skin breakouts. Sigh.

    Anyway, I know this is really frustrating! I pray you find the culprit soon!

    1. Thanks for the support, Kat...I have definitely been trying to keep an eye on food patterns, and I have a pretty good idea of what my trigger foods are. (I haven't drunk milk straight since I was about 13, actually!) But I think I'm going to have to go the next step and actually journal my foods from here, because sometimes there are subtleties you don't see until they're on paper, you know?

      I get what you mean about coffee. I have been drinking it to offset fatigue, but because I prefer it light and sweet, that's probably adding to its gut-tearing qualities. No caffeine this week has been hard--I'm in a fog.

      Lord willing, I'll get to the bottom of some stuff this week and be able to comfortably enjoy the conference--even if it means forgetting about the meals I purchased with my registration and running off campus to find "safe" foods.


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