Lately, I’ve been having heartburn, stomach pain and vomiting. It started last year on Thanksgiving but wasn’t frequent, until February and March of this year. But the stomach pain and vomiting have become more and more frequent and my wife insisted I go to a doctor last week. I am glad I listened to her advice.

The doctor determined that I have gastritis (胃炎 i-en in Japanese, 위염 uiyeom in Korean). This means that the inside of my stomach is inflamed and irritated. It’s very likely caused by stress he said, and certain foods just make it worse, including all the spicy food and coffee I drink. But the origin of gastritis for me was stress.

The second-half of 2011 was extremely stressful for me. A lot of stress was from pressure from work, but also a lot of stress came from the JLPT N2 exam, which I spent all of last year studying for. Since I only get 1 chance a year, I didn’t want to fail, even when work became very intense during the Holidays. I believe that the combination of work + JLPT is why I got gastritis.

The good news is that gastritis is very treatable, and not that serious. If I leave it alone though, it will eventually become something worse like an ulcer. So, for the next 45 days, the doctor has asked me to avoid spicy foods, limit myself to 1 cup of coffee a day, and also find some ways to relax and relieve stress.

Plus, I now have to take a prescription-strength antacid every morning.

I remember the famous monk and teacher, Ajahn Brahm, once gave an online sermon that said “Don’t rush to your grave“. My gastritis and its cause remind me that Ajahn Brahm was right: we have to balance work and study with time to relax.

I didn’t even realize how tired I was. I slept 3 nights in a row for about 10-11 hours. I guess I’ve been pushing myself longer than I thought. Also, the day I met the doctor, I meditated that night for 10 minutes, and my stomach pain went away until the next morning. Although I wasn’t aware of my stress, apparently my body was responding to it.

I am not stopping the blog, but I might continue to slow down the pace for a while. Also, replies will continue to be a little slow.

Thanks everyone and take care of yourselves!

P.S. If you’re having stomach problems or heartburn for days/weeks, don’t try to treat it yourself. Go see a doctor. I waited months, thinking I could treat it myself, and now wish I had seen him sooner.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

8 thoughts on “Heartburn”

  1. Get well soon. I am glad to hear that you visited doctor. And listen to his advices… If you change your food menu/list you will see everything would be better… I lived problem with my stomach last year and I almost changed my food habits, or culture… and I am fine now… Take care, with my love, nia


  2. Stress can really be devastating for your body. Some years ago my stepfather went through a really stressfull period and developed a mysterious skin disease that made his skin slowly tear apart. He’s all fine now, but back then he had to be hospitalised, and while no definitive reason for his condition was ever discovered the doctors tought it was caused by stress.

    So yeah, get well and take care of yourself.


  3. Hi Everyone,

    lijiun: Welcome and thank you!

    niasunset: Thanks very much. I am glad you’re doing better now. I probably will have to change eating habits, but I don’t want to. Quitting coffee is good, but I like spicy foods a lot. :-/

    Jan: Wow, that’s a really scary story. I do get stress “blisters” sometimes when I am stressed. They appear as tiny, itchy bumps on my hands, and eventually go away, but your step-father had something more serious.


  4. Get well soon mate!

    Some words from the Buddha:

    “A sick person endowed with five qualities is easy to tend to: he does what is amenable to his cure; he knows the proper amount in things amenable to his cure; he takes his medicine; he tells his symptoms, as they actually are present, to the nurse desiring his welfare, saying that they are worse when they are worse, improving when they are improving, or remaining the same when they are remaining the same; and he is the type who can endure bodily feelings that are painful, fierce, sharp, wracking, repellent, disagreeable, life-threatening. A sick person endowed with these five qualities is easy to tend to.”



  5. Hello Doug! I am new to the blog – just stumbled upon it. My mother is Japanese, but I was raised in America (as AN AMERICAN – I wish a had a wacky flag waving icon to insert here) however I have a lot of problems with American values, thus escaped to England for 8 years! Oh well I have been back in the good old USA for a very long time now. I am writing to you after reading your entry on your gastritis. I just wanted to put my 2 cents in, as everyone does when it come to health matters. Firstly, Japanese medicine can be, well….ifffy. The Japanese (diet + genetics) have a higher rate of esophagogastric cancer than Americans. Please be careful and get a second opinion. As you may know some ulcers are caused by H. Pylori (a bacteria) and thus cured with antibiotics. Another treatment, the Rx Proton Pump Inhibitors, type medications, can cause osteoporosis if taken for a long time. So do not let this go on too long.
    Lastly, who does not have stress! But there are different kinds! (read Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (author’s name? Zapolsky?), a great read on the biochemical nature of STRESS.
    Good luck, by for now!


    1. Hi Bonnie and welcome to the JKLLR!

      Thanks very much for the advice. I am happy to report (in a follow-up post) that my heartburn problems have improved quite a bit lately mainly by adjusting my diet a bit (dairy and deep-fried foods are no good), and finding some simple ways to manage stress.

      True, we all live with stress, but how we deal with it is just as important as what causes it. I wasn’t managing it well, and was suffering as a result.

      Thanks again and take care.


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