Taraji P. Henson Had to Address Her Health After a Stomach Illness Caused Her to Vomit Uncontrollably

Doctors warned the Hidden Figures star that her health problems could lead to stomach ulcers, and then stomach cancer, if her she didn’t make a change

Taraji P. Henson Women's Health
Taraji P. Henson. Photo: Marcus Smith for Women’s Health

Taraji P. Henson has a renewed focus on her health after dealing with a frustrating stomach illness that left her vomiting uncontrollably — and after overindulging during the pandemic.

The Hidden Figures star, 51, struggled with stomach problems for more than two decades, and would have episodes where she would start vomiting uncontrollably, she told Women's Health for their November cover. She was initially prescribed a proton-pump inhibitor, a medication to treat acid reflux that stopped the vomiting but didn't fix her underlying condition, one that doctors were unsure how to treat.

In 2015 and 2017, the vomiting returned, despite the medicine, and she was rushed to the hospital, where her doctor warned Henson that she needed to make a change.

"He said, 'If you don't correct what's going on inside of you, you're going to develop stomach ulcers, which can lead to stomach cancer,' " she told the magazine.

Frustrated, Henson decided to see a holistic doctor who determined that she had SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and moved her to a plant-based diet with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fermented foods to regrow the good bacteria in her stomach. Along with breaks in the diet for her grandmother's home cooking — "Everything in moderation," Henson said — she immediately improved.

"Western medicine saves lives," she said. "But it wasn't helping in my situation."

Taraji P. Henson Women's Health
Taraji P. Henson. Marcus Smith for Women’s Health

Henson stuck to that diet for about a year and a half, but like so many others during the pandemic, she gave herself a break.

"I was like, 'Well, ain't nobody going nowhere, so I might as well eat,' " she said, and would enjoy cake and an old-fashioned, made by a friend staying with her, as she floated in her pool.

But one morning, after waking up with a Cheeto on her face, Henson realized that she needed to make a change again, for her physical and mental health.

"I was like, 'This can sink me,'" she said. "The older you get, the harder it is to get in shape. I didn't want to be climbing out of a hole."

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Henson, who has been open about her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, "realized I had to do everything I could to feel good, or that depression thing was going to get the best of me."

The Empire star started doing cardio- and weightlifting-focused workouts with a trainer five days a week, and found that "when I get those endorphins going, I'm like a whole different girl," she said.

Taraji P. Henson Women's Health
Taraji P. Henson. Marcus Smith for Women’s Health

And Henson, who is now working on her first album, a longtime dream, wants other people to know that they, too, can make a change at any time.

"I want people to know that it's never too late for anything," she said. "You can get your health together and live out your wildest dreams."

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