Lucas' Gut Story

Lucas' Gut Story

My name is Lucas, and I suffer from stomach problems. For many people, their gut issues are a mystery, and they only find the root cause after many trials and tribulations. For me, it was always pretty clear where my problems stemmed from.

I developed bulimia when I was 15 years old. In my head, it started as an excuse to eat more. At least that was the rationalization I gave myself at the time. I could eat my favorite foods… and once I got full, I could essentially hit a “restart button,” allowing me to fully enjoy that food again, gorging out endlessly with “no consequences.”

As things progressed, the rationalization became less and less about eating foods I liked, and more and more about eating without the repercussions of gaining weight. Mind you, I’ve always been very self-conscious about my weight, and have almost never been satisfied with it. In addition to bulimia, I also suffer from body dysmorphia, which means that when I look in the mirror, I always feel like I should be skinnier than I am. In some ways, I deeply, but falsely, believed that people would probably like me better if I was skinnier. And, full disclosure, I thought I’d like me better too. By the time I was 17, it had become pretty clear this wasn’t a “life hack.” I was definitely dealing with something that was compulsive, and I had no control over. I was aware of bulimia through movies and TV but didn’t know anyone who actually had it… or who I could talk to about it. Also, eating disorders are gendered… right? I had never heard of a man experiencing an eating disorder. This isn’t very surprising considering very few studies on eating disorders include men and, statistically, men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “women's diseases.” Fortunately, I matured past high school and eventually came to understand that judging anything based on the perception of it “being gendered” is dangerously ignorant. But as a teenager, that was exactly how I thought about it. What would my friends think? Would they think less of me or be disgusted? So, naturally, I did what any 17-year-old would do, I hid it completely – from my friends, family, and even my doctor.

I ended up living with bulimia for over 10 years. It became an escape. When I binged on food, I felt a brief reprieve from the weight of the world around me. However, after I’d eaten, the feeling of being full or the fear that I’d eaten too much would consume me. This feeling would manifest as an immense psychological and bodily discomfort. It’s a hard thing to explain, but when it would happen, I’d be overcome with an obsessive need to release. A sensation that I just couldn’t sit with or get out of my head once it started. Like a pressure building in me, making it uncomfortable to be in my own skin until I did something to finally relieve that pressure: purge. Eventually, my rationalization for not telling people evolved into “if i tell someone, they might take this away from me.” Binging and purging had become essential to my psychological survival. But as it worsened over the years, a residual effect occurred: I started having massive stomach and esophageal issues. I developed the need to carry antacids everywhere I went because, at that point, stomach acid had regularly made a home for itself in my esophagus. I was essentially self-inducing acid reflux every time I engaged in my bulimia, creating an awful gastric cycle. As a result, I developed a hiatal hernia as well as GERD. GERD is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease which is a condition that can basically be described as chronic acid reflux. Due to my years of binging and purging, the mechanisms in my body meant to keep gastric acid in my stomach no longer function properly. I began having constant heartburn, even when I wasn’t purging. At the time, I accepted this side effect as a necessary evil of my coping strategy: it was the cost I’d have to pay to not gain weight and maintain peace of mind.

Eventually, it got so bad that I started having to go to the hospital due to crippling, unbearable digestive pains. I told the doctor that I had no idea what was causing it… but come on, who are we kidding? At that point, I couldn’t fool myself anymore. It was clear that I was dealing with an unmanageable problem so I began to promise myself that I’d stop my bulimia altogether. After all, it shouldn’t be so difficult, right? All I have to do is NOT throw up– something most people do effortlessly on a daily basis. The only issue was, the compulsion and obsessive thinking had grown far too strong, stronger than my own willpower. I’d wake up and promise myself I wouldn't do it, but that same day I’d find myself in the bathroom asking, “How did this happen… again?!” At 25 years old, I found myself getting into a relationship with someone really special. I was right about her being special by the way… that person is now my wife. I felt like I could be my truest, most vulnerable self with her, and yet I still felt that I needed to hide my bulimia. I started making excuses about why I had to go to the bathroom during and after every meal. I even found myself wiping down toilet seats in public restaurants with tissue paper, so no one would suspect anything. Bulimia had truly taken over my life. I had hit rock bottom.

I finally built up the courage and told my then-girlfriend (now wife) the truth. She made me promise her that I’d start taking action toward recovery, and make a real effort to stop for good. She also convinced me to tell my doctor. So I did. I got into a twelve-step program, started meeting with a therapist, and got honest about it with my friends and family, as well as my GI.

And guess what? No one I told was disgusted or thought less of me. They weren’t necessarily thrilled about what I had been doing to myself, but they loved me and wanted me to get better. So over the course of the next year, I worked really hard, writing in journals, meeting with my sponsor, and staying accountable with my support system. I’m happy to say that I have fully recovered. It wasn’t perfect – and admittedly there were relapses – but eventually, I made it through. As of today, it’s been almost a decade since I last engaged in bulimia.

Unfortunately, I can’t say my digestive system had the same happy ending. Even though I had quit binging and purging, my body had wrought a lot of damage over the course of my eating disorder. In the years following recovery, I found myself frequently at the Gastroenterologist’s office because I just couldn’t get rid of my heartburn. Per their recommendations, I started relying on medications like Zantac and name-brand antacids to manage my symptoms on a daily basis – becoming one of the 33 million Americans purchasing antacids on a regular basis to alleviate my symptoms. Soon taking a Zantac or two in the morning and always having antacids in my pocket would become the norm. I tried almost every type of alternative remedy, holistic treatment, and supplement. I also tried adjusting my lifestyle: taking out caffeine, trigger foods, sleeping with an elevated upper body, etc., but heartburn always seemed to rear its head. Cut to 2020. The pandemic hits. Things are pretty stressful. And as anyone who suffers from heartburn knows, stress is a big trigger. I found myself using more and more of my daily heartburn medication until April 2020, when a news story came out that the manufacturers of Zantac had recalled their product because it contained a chemical called N-Nitrosodimethylamine which can elevate the risk of a person getting cancer. So initially I panicked. I immediately threw out all of my Zantac bottles which led me to realize that I had never taken a close look at the ingredients that went into my other digestive health medications. After taking a closer look, I started to see ingredients that weren’t integral to the effectiveness of the medication itself, and that I personally didn’t want to put into my body.

So I started looking for new alternatives that had the credibility of pharmaceutical products and used ingredients that matched my personal values. I found one product and used it for a while but unfortunately, it tasted a lot like dirt and mold. And like many of you, those aren’t flavors I particularly enjoy. I asked myself: if no one else is willing to make what I want, can I figure out how to make it, or find someone who can? So I started doing some research. I had three very defined goals. I wanted something that used clean ingredients, is just as effective as the antacids I relied on, and had a taste I can enjoy. Usually, when a product lands in the “natural” section of a store it means there’s a compromise. Either it's not as effective or it tastes bad. I wasn’t willing to settle for that. That’s when I teamed up with my brother, and quit my job. We spent months researching, calling pharmaceutical scientists and ingredient suppliers. We were fortunate enough to find some unbelievably smart and highly regarded people early on, who also shared our vision. So, with the help of our amazing team, pharmaceutical experts, and top gastroenterologists, we successfully developed a flavorful, pharmaceutical-grade antacid, using the same active ingredient as several of the leading brands and inactive ingredients that are free from talc, dyes, artificial sweeteners, parabens, can be NON-GMO Project Verified and Clean Label Project Certified. To top it all off, we realized in the process that for all of the corporations that talk about fighting climate change and limiting pollution, it didn’t feel like many of the major players in the pharmaceutical industry were meeting the challenge. That’s why we packaged our OTC digestive health medication in metal, recyclable packaging, to reduce the use of plastic.

I’m happy to say, as I’m sitting here writing this, that I’m fully recovered from bulimia and have launched my dream product. My 15-year-old self would have never believed that my darkest moments would somehow lead to some of my brightest. Getting here could only have been achieved by leaning on my support system and utilizing the tools that I’ve cultivated throughout recovery. That’s why Wonderbelly is so focused on educating and starting conversations around topics related to things we typically find to be uncomfortable. Whether it’s talking about having diarrhea or something as difficult as an eating disorder, speaking up is important. Only by speaking up can we get the help we need and the more informed we are, the better chance we have at finding the right solutions to what we might be struggling with. The stigma around bulimia kept me silent for 10 years but once I spoke up, I was able to get on a path to recovery. I would have never imagined I would ever be able to or want to, share my story and do it proudly. I hope I can help anyone out there struggling to do the same. And I hope you’ll join us on this journey.


Lucas Kraft

If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder, there are many resources that can provide support. Below are a few options:

𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗘𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗶𝘀𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗔𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗜𝗻𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗥𝗲𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗿𝗮𝗹 𝗛𝗲𝗹𝗽𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲
NEDA’s helpline is a free and confidential service. Volunteers have extensive training and are prepared to help you find information, support, and treatment options.

  • Call: 1-800-931-2237
  • Crisis Text Line: text “NEDA” to 741741

𝗢𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗔𝗻𝗼𝗻𝘆𝗺𝗼𝘂𝘀
Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is a community of people who are recovering or have recovered from unhealthy relationships with food and body image. OA is not exclusive to overeating but addresses all types of disordered eating including anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating.

𝗖𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗗𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗙𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗦𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁 𝗚𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗽𝘀
Center for Discovery as well as Discovery Mood & Anxiety offer free online support groups for anyone who has been impacted by an eating disorder or mental health. Visit their site linked below to find the support group that’s right for you.

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