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.
Margaret @ youngandrungry says
I’m so happy that you finally have answers even if they aren’t optimal! You sound exactly like my cousin and unfortunately it might be something you deal with forever, but you are taking such great strides towards improvement! I couldn’t agree more that traditional medicine is so important and we obviously need it, but it’s not the only answer and I think more tests would have lead down an empty road. This was a great read although I’m so sorry you’ve been in so much pain!
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Kerri Mcgrail says
So sorry to hear you are having stomach issues. As a fellow celiac, I know how stomach issues can be frustrating and come on at inconvenient times. I’m all about holistic health and alternative medicine, so I am interested to read your next post on how you are moving forward. I hope that you are healing well and your stomach pains diminish!
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Ashley @ Fit Mitten Kitchen says
Wow Emily! The human body is cuhrayzee. And everyone is so different. A couple of my coworkers have been dealing with some stomach pains, and I keep meaning to show them the FODMAP guidelines. Hope you’re finding what works for you!
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Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie says
That is so good that you are finally getting answers to your issues even if they aren’t ideally what you want to hear. I am really interested in part 2 and the holistic measures you’ll be taking. I totally agree that conventional medicine has a place, but it definitely should not be the end all be all.
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Lindsay @ A Runnaroundd Life says
TWINS. A few weeks ago I also had an upper endoscopy and have a pretty big ulcer as well. Unfortunately, the meds they’re giving me aren’t doing much. I’ll probably have to go for that stomach emptying test as well. Happy you’re getting answers! It’s seriously a pain (and literally a pain) when you just don’t know what’s going on in there.
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Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday says
Ahh. I could have written 99% of this myself. Without too much detail, I’ve also done low-FODMAP (so hard!), had an upper endoscopy, been on steroids, cut out gluten and dairy separately and together, and had a gastric emptying test. Aaaand the conclusion is that there’s no conclusion. It’s super frustrating and it definitely has an impact on my daily life, but without any answers, I kind of just go with it. I’m interested in your new plan and I hope you find some relief!
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Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
I wish I knew all this sooner! I have been on a roller coaster this last year with my GI problems. I do have horrid reflux and have been on meds for years (even before my celiac diagnosis), but I just recently got another endoscopy and colonoscopy and they found some weird stuff, but I’m thinking a lot of the problems right now are yes, severe IBS and the FODMAPS problem as well as some other stuff. I know that eating certain foods kills me…but I still do..(apples and potatoes). So I’m still getting tested and going through everything right now too :(
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I’m SO sorry you’ve been having to go through all of this but WOW can I relate. I’ve been having stomach issues and bad pain for over a year and a half now. I’ve been to so many doctors, done so many blood tests, tried FODMAPs, got tested for celiac (I think I told you about that on here), had x-rays done, etc. I’ve gotten no answers from any of the conventional methods and most of the things that all of those doctors tried were to help with the symptoms rather than figure out the cause of the problem. I have an appt with a functional medicine doc in two weeks and I’m really hoping that that gets me somewhere. I can’t wait to hear about your plan for the future for this and what ideas you have!!
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Amanda @ ExploringLifeAndThings says
Ahh I’m sorry to hear all about this! That does not sound like a fun thing to experience in your last semester of college, let alone at all. I hope everything is improving and I’ll be interested to read part 2!
Amanda @ ExploringLifeAndThings recently posted…So I cooked with kale…
It is so wonderful you are getting answers. All of the tests totally stink, but it’s so much better to know! I love that you’re sharing your experience as well. I have had struggles with GI-gunk forever and had the barium and that kind of test ran. No fun, but it needs to be talked about because so many of us healthy people have something going on!
I can’t wait to read your approach to everything tomorrow!!
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Alyssa @ renaissancerunnergirl says
I am so sorry you had to go through this, but actually have been experiencing something similar, albeit with a much more wishy-washy diagnosis, and I am about to start looking into more holistic/naturopathy remedies as well, so I am really interested to see what you’ve found.
[email protected] is Sweet says
I actually had a stomach emptying test in December after being sick on and off for 10 months and was diagnosed with gastroparesis. I had originally been diagnosed with a pre-ulcer in Feb/March (from Advil overdose) but when I had an endoscopy In August it came up clean. I totally understand what you’re going through! It’s so frustrating because sometimes I can’t imagine being normal again. I’m curious to see what you’re doing, but I’m still taking omeprozole and have changed my diet to more half meals and lots of soup, and I’ve so far been able to keep things under control pretty well! (When I actually stick to it..that’s another issue entirely).
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Pragati // Simple Medicine says
I’m looking forward to hearing about your new plan and I’m happy you have answers.
Rebecca @ Vitamin OH! says
Wow – I’m sorry to hear about your issues, even though you got a solution! Lots of people who go into public accounting get ulcers (and those same people wondered why I took a different path!), so I’ve heard a lot about how incredibly painful they are. I hope what you’re trying helps.
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[email protected] says
Gosh! This is heart breaking, Em! I feel frustrated FOR you! It’s so hard not having answers and being told a bunch of different diagnoses all at once. I am sorry you haven’t found a straight forward answer yet, but hopefully you will soon. In the meantime, stay positive and be gentle with yourself. :)
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Wow! I am so happy that you chose to write about this. Oddly enough, I’ve been having similar issues that have caused me to be in and out of the hospital since mid-November. I haven’t blogged or even really left my house, but I am thinking about doing a post about my situation eventually. After seeing multiple doctors, I still haven’t gotten a solid answer for what’s up, but I’m so happy you were able to get some answers. Maybe I will suggest the egg and toast test next!
Best of luck on your journey through recovery. <3
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Eep! Lots of luck moving forward – my son has GI issues (different from yours), but I’m interested to hear about the holistic ideas you have!
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Thanks, Jenn. Hope your son finds relief soon. I know it must take a toll on the whole family.
Susie @ SuzLyfe says
Thank you for sharing this with the world! So few people know what any of this means, and how any of these things can affect your life. Most people don’t even think that they deserve to, or even can, feel better! Thank you for fighting–and you know that if you need to talk to anyone about this, or get any other clarity on what you are going through, you can email me and I can ask my husband (he is going into GI). Let me know how I can help support you!
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Thank YOU for your kind words. Although it’s not exactly the same, I have re-read some of your Crohn’s posts for inspiration and assurance. Have a blast in Mexico (I just left and they are awaiting your arrival :))
Will the ulcer just heal? Do they usually go away? Do you have to do a diet change?
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The medicine he prescribed me helped to heal the ulcer (neutralize the acid). It takes 6-8 weeks to heal. Mine probably wasn’t diet related as the things they mention cause it are excess alcohol and tobacco (neither of which I use). Most likely it was stress related or my doc said because I have celiac I’m more susceptible to these type of things.
WOW all i can say for you is all this sucks! i feel for you and glad you shared. the egg sandwich thing is something i have never seen. but i would be like you with my own toaster in hand! i am totally with you and “modern” medicine. sometimes i think there are these tests to give results that then there is nothing you can do with it. so your stomach empties slower than “normal”. who’s “normal” ? and what do you do about it ? is it weird that when i first read this i thought that was a good thing ? no ? you want your stomach to empty fast ? shows what i know ! though i guess i didnt realize apples were high fodmap. about 2 years ago i noticed that green apples gave me what i thought was heartburn so i stopped eating them and stuck with more sweet apples like fuji. now i just dont eat a ton because a while back i was suspecting they were contributing to bloated feeling. and i was thinking WTF apples are making me bloated ? all of a sudden ? apples? but maybe you explained why above. i really hope you can find a good way to feel better. you know your body best i’m sure which can make it all the more frustrating when your body acts weird out of the blue.
Thanks for your comment, Tara. Right- it’s weird that I’d want my stomach to empty faster, but it makes sense when I think about it. You don’t want it to empty too fast or too slow, somewhere in the middle. Yes, apples are one of the biggest culprits. I’m ok if I eat them occasionally but not every day. Wednesday I’m talking more about holistic measures I’m taking!