Fair Warning: TMI (Or, Waiter, There's Gun Powder in My Sag Paneer)

How come most of the time I eat out nowadays–especially if there’s a steam table involved–I have to make sure I’m home within a half an hour, sometimes less?

This obviously doesn’t happen to everyone. Why are my innards so sensitive? And I do mean sensitive; it can be very violent and very sudden. I’m talking the cold sweat, doubled over, hand-of-god in the gut excrutiating cramps, and subsequent fear of blasting off the porcelain and hitting my head on the ceiling. And sudden? I’ve seen lettuce leave emerge barely wilted.

And then it’s over.

Does this happen to anyone else?

I’ve had this happen for years with spicy, greasy food (chili is a good one, as is pepperoni pizza with jalapenos). The human digestive tract is supposed to have a transit time of 12-18 hours, IIRC, but sometimes within twenty minutes I get a volcanic blast from the lower vent that is unquestionably comprised of what I just injested.

And it BURNS…

How DOES this happen?

Sounds like me if I have anything with milk or cream in it. Maybe you’ve suddenly become lactose intolerant?

And, of course, by this I mean: How do I manage to spell “ingested” with a J?

Nope, that’s not it. Never happens at home, no matter how cheesy or creamy; almost always happens out. At least at fast food joints and buffets; rarely at a realy sit down place. I’m convinced it’s micro-beasties, but why me?

Ah, the good old gastrocolic reflex! It’s a neurally-modulated reaction that occurs when contents from the stomach hit the small intestine. This stimulates colonic contraction. Sometimes quite vigorously!

As far as I can tell, noone is quite sure why some people seem to have this triggered by specific foods, or even cuisines, yet are untroubled by it at other times. There are theories that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (do not confuse this with Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is a case of gastro-colic reflex run amok. I think that may be part of the answer, but it probably involves some other factors too.

Best bet? Avoid the foods or cuisines that trigger the reaction in you. Or, if you just can’t give up that chicken tikka masala, or whatever, make sure the restaurant has a nice lavatory.


The most consistent factor, I’d thought, has been the steam table: I guess I’d associated it with food left uncovered and warm for longish periods of time. But it’s true that the steam tables I frequent are more likely to be Indian and Mexican than anything else, so maybe it’s the cumin or the cilantro. I don’t think so, since I use those spices at home too, but I’ll pay closer attention. I’ll keep a diarrhea diary. a "Dear Diarrhee . . . "

Oh but wait, the crispy lettuce leaf that spent less than 15 minutes in the dark came from a Cobb salad. The turkey breast was carved to order, under a heat light. So again, I’m wondering if it’s bugs. There’s not a lot of ingredients both unique and common to Sag Paneer, Pork Molé, and Cobb Salad. The common factor, I’m still thinking, is being about the temperature of spit, in the open air, in a public space, for long enough to culture some beasties.

Possibility? would that be ruled out by the fact that it seems to affect me more than my fellow partakers? Or do individual sensitivities vary? Can I have lost some resistance, some immune response, to such bugs?

This isn’t it for me, either. I can do dairy just fine. For me, it’s mostly a combination of grease and capsaicin. Throw in some sulfur-generating materials, and I’m an instant Fountain of Poop.

My worst experience: stuffing a three egg omelette with habanero-laced three-bean pepperoni-infused chili in a 3am I’ve-had-too-many-beers-and-need-food orgy of self-destruction.

I spent the rest of the night feeling like I was giving birth.

It was FAST, and it was HOT, and it was EXPLOSIVE. It went through me like a Maserati. On fire.

Nuclear fire.

My WAG (pun intended) is this: if certain foods or spices can cause a reaction in some people, maybe certain bacteria can too. That is, it’s not that your immune system is less able to deal with them; the bugs themselves aren’t actually making you sick. It’s just that your body reacts to their presence in your gut the same way other’s bodies react to cheese or capsaicin. Whatever it is, it happens to me too, but less predictably. Often I think it just comes from overeating. Do you tend to overeat at a buffet? I know I do.

It’s not bacteria. Generally bacteria will take some time to provoke a response (traveller’s diarrhea, for example, mostly happens around the third day of a trip).

Some foods just rev up the system. I drink coffee every day. And every day about fifteen minutes after I finish my coffee, I’ve got to run to the bathroom so whatever is in me can leave. I’ve got a list of other foods that trigger it in me- from fake chicken patties to nachos to my best spiced potatoes- no common thread whatsoever. One thing to look into is grease. Restraunts (who care only about how the food tastes) use more butter and oil than we’d ever dream of using at home. We’d blanch at adding half a stick of butter to an entree, but a restraunt will do and we’ll eat it with no worries.

Luckly, mine isn’t painful so I just figure I shouldn’t wander away from civilization until my food has had some time to do it’s thing.

But don’t some bacteria produce chemical toxins?

Not all bacteria make you sick by their presense alone. Those bacteria that make you sick “directly” can be killed through cooking. But some bacteria that attack meat, though they’re killed in the cooking, they leave behind toxins that are the real culprits.

I don’t remember the specifics, but my mom once had to get certified in food handling; she was managing a hospital kitchen. I vaguely remember she had to learn this distinction: which kind of “bad” can be cooked out of a piece of meat, and which kind can’t.

Now, I’m not saying that every time this has happened to me there’s been bad-meat-toxin in my food. I only wonder if there are other kinds of bacteria, say bacteria that lives on spit-warm food on steam tables, that excretes toxins that might engender an immediate reaction when ingested.

It still sounds like gastrocolic reflex to me. Those food-poisoning bacterial toxins are nasty, and usually result in severe debilitation for a few days, especially intractable vomiting along with the diarrhea. And it usually takes a few hours to kick in after ingestion.

But who knows? You could ask your physician for a stool kit to test for ova and parasites, and enteric pathogens. Collect a sample during the acute phase of your illness, turn it in, and wait for results.

Is there any possibility that it’s a reaction to MSG? I know several people who have strong reactions to it (mostly headaches, though). That’s the only possible common thread I see here, since it isn’t likely that you use it at home, but it’s VERY likely that it gets used in fast food and buffets.

Ok Qadgop is there anything that can be used to reduce gastrocolic reflex and its effects (short of an inflatable butt plug).

Not a doctor, but I live with the same symptom the OP reports. On top of that, I am more or less lactose intolerant, but still eat lots o’ dairy. Needless to say, I’m not picky about where I use the loo.

Now then. I have found that taking a dose or a dose and a half of your favorite pink anti-diarrheal medecine before eating Indian buffet, Mexican food, ice cream, etc. can give me significantly more lead time before the eventual evacuation. Maybe it’s a placebo, but it helps me.

lissener, as your mom may have told you, food that is held between 40 and 140 degrees F is on its way to bacterial growth. Take a food thermometer to the restaurants that have been giving you trouble. If the food is in this range, don’t go there any more. If the board of health catches them at it, they’ll cite them for it, or close them down.

bordelond, you can get lactase pills at any drug store. It’s the enzyme your body no longer makes, and its absence makes you lactose intolerant. I take three for a meal with a cream sauce or a lot of cheese. If it’s swimming in cheese, such as pizza, I take four.

I know … I’ve taken those before. But I’m a forgetful sort … I’ve just learned to deal. Besides, from what I can tell, other lactose-intolerant folks are worse off than me, sympom-wise.

I would expect loperamide (imodium) to reduce the gastrocolic reflex. The bowel will be less responsive to neural stimuli while under the influence of that med.

On the other hand, loperamide won’t do s**t for most bacterial toxin diarrheas, IIRC.

So there’s your answer, Bippy. :smiley:

Ahh, all this talk of gastrointestinal distress reminds me of the time I bought that habanero beef jerky… Some like it hot.