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Stomach Flu, Indigestion & The Healer

How a Witch Doctor healed me from El Empacho

In the early 1990s, my family moved to Honduras for several years to immerse the children with the language and culture. My mother wanted us to know how to properly speak, write, and read Spanish for our future careers. During our time there I was exposed to some illnesses I had never experienced. In the following paragraphs, I will further explain the experience I had with El Empacho and how a native healer healed me. In some places, they would refer to her as a witch doctor.

In the United States, when a child gets the stomach flu their general symptoms, according to the Medical News Today, are; diarrhea, stomach cramps, pain, nausea, vomiting, minor headaches, sometimes body ache, and low-grade fever. The treatment can usually consist of ibuprofen – to lower the fever, antiemetic – for nausea, antidiarrheal – to help comfort the stomach and diarrhea, and the typical plenty of fluids. Yet, in Latin America, there is this illness referred to as El Empacho (Means: discomfort in the GI), which has many of the similar symptoms but isn’t considered to be the viral stomach flu. The common side effects are indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, & vomiting and are said to be contracted by undigested food stuck in the intestines, overeating, eating at the wrong time, or poorly prepared food.

On a cool fall evening, my family and I were hanging out watching TV in the living room. I was having a slight stomach ache that afternoon and decided to skip dinner. That evening I began feeling nauseous with continuous pain in my stomach. I told my mother I didn’t feel well and went to lay down. After some time of sleeping, I woke up with a severe attack of diarrhea and vomiting. My mom was nursing me all night and day thinking it was just a temporary stomach flu and that her home remedies would heal me. However, It didn’t matter what she gave me, I wasn’t able to hold anything down not even water.

On the 3rd day, when my symptoms got worse and my mother realized I wasn’t getting better, she contacted my uncle to ask for a doctor’s recommendation. The symptoms progressed to a fever, slight headache, body ache, and felt weakness in my muscles. My uncle convinced my mother to bring me to his house right away. He lived near the mountains in a house that was structured like a stilt elevated beach house. His Kitchen was on the first floor and the rest of the home was set up on the second floor. As we arrived, my uncle waited by the entrance to help carry me onto a bed he had prepared on the open bottom floor. I was shivering from the high fever and could barely see what was happening because of the migraine.

A barefooted, wild hair with a scarf wrapped around the head, dark skin lady wearing a long flowing skirt and tank top, came to see me. She brought a bush of dried herbs she gathered, amongst a bag with a few items. She looked like she was glowing, I wasn’t sure if I was delusional or if she was real. She had a youthful glow to her skin, but I couldn’t describe her facial features. The only thing I remember is having a raw egg rubbed on my stomach as she explained that I had bumps under my skin that were causing me to feel sick. The healer stated the only way to heal me is to allow her to rub those bumps out. She warned me that it would be extremely painful but at that point, I didn’t care. All I wanted was to feel better.

Sobadores: People that have been trained to heal illnesses through massage therapy.

The healer scooped vapor rub with her fingers and began rubbing my arms. At first, it felt soothing but after some time it began feeling like an intense carpet burn. The agonizing pain filled the air with screams as I cried with the little energy I had left. I have flashing visions of her presence and her hands roughly pressing against my body. After she finished, my body lied there exhausted from the session, throbbing all over from the pain as if I had a drastic sunburn. My family sat me up and made me drink a tea the healer had recommended. She lit the bush of herbs on fire and went around me as she said a prayer. After my uncle carried me upstairs to a bed and I slept for several hours.

When I woke up, I felt a slight burst of energy, which was enough to get me downstairs, even though I still had a tiny migraine. The main thing I noticed was the massive hunger I felt. I sat down and ate with my family and an hour later I was running around with my cousins playing hide and seek. For a moment I was in disbelief of what had happened and prayed I would never have to go through that again. As an American child, this was beyond my ability to understand.

After doing some investigation and research, I found out that there are other ways to deal with Empacho. Depending on the severity, besides massaging and egg rub, you can drink some bowel movement teas, baking soda with water, or medicines that break down the bad foods stuck in your intestines. There have also been other remedies used, which I will not mention because of the high lead content. Many countries throughout Latin America, if not all, know about El Empacho and deal with it in their own manner using the common cures mentioned above. My aunt once shared with me of some people who were given the wrong remedies and died. The medical facilities, at one point, weren’t properly educated on how to handle this illness. It was something more discovered through the native healers.

I had forgotten about this experience until I was 30 years old and decided to get off of all western medications. I was at the point of not feeling any healing of the issues I was having with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and constant heartburns. I felt as if all the medicines I was given was only coating the issue, not healing. I went to an ayurvedic doctor that was from China, and he helped me detox from all the medications I was on. From there, I began incorporating a healthy diet (Thank you Medical Medium), physical and mental exercises and was recommended natural supplements. Since I started applying all these modifications I am in control (not the medications), feel stronger and mentally clearer.

I am grateful for the encounter with the healer. Although I had prayed to never go through that experience again, it is a route I would take if needed and available. I have helped to inspire many people to find an alternative route to healing by sharing my experiences. I have nothing against Western Medication because it is necessary for many issues, like surgery, etc.. It was a form of temporary healing that I needed when I had forgotten the natural ways of my ancestors. It taught me to look for more answers in everything I do and not just settle for one way of dealing with issues in life.

What are some ways you found healing? I am curious to know others’ experiences.

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