I’ve hinted about it a few times in earlier posts but now I have enough information to fully explain something that’s been going on behind-the-scenes. I feel like I’ve been so dramatic about having this “secret” issue, and while it isn’t anything serious, I do have a lot to say on the topic. That’s a forewarning that this is a wordy post. Also, if GI issues gross you out, I’d suggest skipping this one. This is not a “woe is me” post (because people have it much worse), but I think it helps put things into context.
I’m going to break this up into two posts. Today I will cover the issue and what I’ve done about it so far. Next week I will address my new plan.
Since August I’ve had daily stomach problems ranging from sharp pains to bloating and gas…so bad that it interfered with my life. Basically, IBS symptoms. As stomach problems are very normal for me (I have a history of constipation and bloating, and I obviously have celiac) I dismissed everything as “readjusting back to school” pains and upped the Miralax and Tums. I assumed some of the pains were related to stress from post-graduation thoughts, but thought I was doing a good job at staying relaxed. When things didn’t get better after a month I started to get worried.
I know that eating too much of certain foods (mainly fruits and vegetables) can cause stomach pains, so at the end of September I started following a low FODMAP diet.
A brief description about FODMAPs: “The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria….The fermentation and osmosis caused by these undigested sugars are a cause of major IBS symptoms such as gas, pain, and diarrhea.” (Source)
In English: certain foods are harder to digest and eliminating them might ease my symptoms.
The funny (not funny) thing about a low FODMAP diet is that some of the foods you are supposed to limit are VERY healthy foods. Foods that I regularly eat such as apples, watermelon, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli and dried fruit are all “banned.” Other things off-limits? Dairy, garlic, onion, beans, gluten (duh), and certain nuts. I was so desperate at this point that I gave it a shot. I went one month on a low FODMAP diet. That’s right, I didn’t eat an apple or a single piece of watermelon for a month. That is decades in Emily-land. Anyone who knows me knows those are two of my favorite foods!
When that still didn’t help I went to see a GI (Gastroenterologist). I described how my symptoms had worsened to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed for a few days and had to skip class because I was in so much pain. He ordered a bunch of blood work and scheduled me for an endoscopy.
The test result? A peptic ulcer.
I was (oddly) incredibly happy to have that diagnosis. I wasn’t exaggerating my pain and now there was something I could take to cure it. He put me on a rather high dose of omeprazole (a PPI). If only that was the end of it.
After a few weeks the pain and discomfort didn’t decrease at all so I went back for more tests. First I had an MR Enterography of my abdomen and pelvis, which required me to drink what felt like gallons of barium (gross). Thankfully there weren’t any serious issues with my organs. The next test was what I liked to call the “eggs and toast test.” The real name is Gastric Emptying Test. I had to eat an egg white sandwich made with radioactive material. Then, every 30ish minutes I had a picture taken of my stomach so they could see the digestion process.
I brought my own toaster, GF bread and jam (because the hospital technician had no idea what gluten was…) and ate the sandwich. The worst part was staying at the hospital for 4+ hours because of the picture-taking. The test concluded that I have “delayed gastric emptying” or gastroparesis. 4 hours after eating there was still about 25% of the food in my stomach. There should have been less than 10%.
I was thrilled to have more “answers” until the GI told me that there wasn’t a concrete answer to gastroparesis. He wanted me to increase my dosage of omeprazole, go on more medicine and then get MORE tests. This would have meant more money, more time away from school and probably more frustration. Not quite what I wanted during my last semester of college. I fully believe that there is a fundamental and necessary need for conventional medicine, however, I don’t think it is the end-all-be-all of health. Holistic/alternative approaches can be just as good, and maybe more effective in certain cases. So I did some research, talked to some people I trust and decided to take a new route.
The next post will address the holistic measures and dietary changes I am implementing.