Wednesday, July 23, 2008

April 2008 - Gastroparesis or Hypochlorhydria?

In April, I sat down with the gastroenterologist to discuss my experiences with the treatment and how I was feeling.

The truth was that I wasn’t feeling that much better. My stomach still did not feel well or normal. We decided it would be best to go ahead and do an endoscopy right away and see if she could discover what was going on. Plus, at the same time, she would confirm whether the H. Pylori had been completely eradicated and whether I was having any Celiac disease issues. The endoscopy was scheduled for that same week.

I went in for the procedure and as soon as I came out of it, sick to my stomach and groggy from the sedatives, Michael informed me that the doctor had told him that I had gastroparesis because she had discovered food in my stomach during the procedure (and there shouldn’t have been any), and that I needed to start a low fiber diet. Gastroparesis is a condition where your stomach does not properly digest the food and the food sits in there too long, eventually causing other problems. Gastroparesis is most typically associated with people who are diabetic; of which I am not.

They had handed my husband some generic paper with lists of foods that I should and should not eat and an appointment card dated a couple of weeks away for me to come have a follow up appointment and discussion about the procedure and results.

I was flabbergasted! How had I gone from a slight case of gastritis, to a terrible case of H. Pylori bacteria, to then being diagnosed with gastroparesis?! And the doctor didn’t seem to be concerned as to WHY I had gastroparesis, just that now I needed to eat a low fiber diet. And then surely in the future she would also be the one to tell me that I had also gotten colon cancer since I hadn’t been able to eat enough fiber. Ugh!

I was totally confused and became quite depressed about the diagnosis for the first few days. The refined diet seemed a horrible thing to me and even more terrible because I had no reasons WHY I was having this problem and good enough reason to eat that way. I am the type of person that likes to get to the root of the matter—treating health symptoms is idiotic! That will never heal anyone; it will only make things worse in the long run.

I began my own research. Thank GOD! for the internet resources that are available to us these days. I researched gastroparesis and read and read. As I read, I didn’t seem to really connect with symptoms and issues that were related to gastroparesis. It just did not seem right at all. I joined a gastroparesis yahoo group and I couldn’t believe how much worse most of the people on there had it compared to me. These people had severe gastroparesis issues—in comparison with them, I had nothing; I was healthy. But I was led to join that group for one email that would spur my search in another direction. Someone mentioned about the fact that often times people who are told they have too much acid production and are given acid reducers are actually suffering from too LITTLE acid production. The symptoms are practically identical to each other.

I switched tracks and pursued learning more about too little acid production, hypochlorhydria. Did I find a wealth of information! Amazing! As I began reading the symptoms of hypochlorydria, I could actually truly relate with them and all that was being said about it. I became SO excited and filled with hope! I sensed that I had hit the jack pot—the root of my stomach problems! H. Pylori, improper digestion of food, stomach pains, etc. all went right along with too little acid production.

Yahooo!!! On to where that search led me and where I am today…

March 2008 - Killing H. Pylori

During the six weeks of waiting I continued taking the Protonix every day. All remained the same; no acid reflux, occasional lumping in the throat, stomach pains mostly had disappeared. But at least a couple of times, I had some chest pains after the evening meal. That greatly concerned me.

It was finally the day of my long awaited appointment with the gastroenterologist. We chatted about what had been happening with my stomach for the last couple of months and the H. Pylori results.

She said that I would need to be put on two different antibiotics at the same time along with taking two doses of Protonix a day in order to eradicate the H. Pylori. I mentioned to her that I was quite concerned about taking the Protonix for any extended amount of time because of the calcium absorption problem and she poo-pooed my concern. She told me, not in these exact words but her point was clear, that my concerns were unfounded and that there would still be enough acid in my stomach to absorb the calcium as acid levels fluctuated throughout the day. She also said that I would need to remain on Protonix probably for the rest of my life. What?! Yikes! I didn’t like the sound of any of that at all. Not to mention I was quite concerned about being on such high doses of antibiotics due to the awful antibiotic induced colitis I experienced in 2003. I’ll blog about that experience and what valuable things I learned from it some other time.

I went home with my prescriptions and began taking the 2,000 mg. prescribed daily (bear in mind I only weighed around 100 lbs.) and taking a dose of Protonix in morning and evening. It was a gross process at first. I had intestinal issues and one of the antibiotics constantly made my mouth taste terrible. I continuously felt the fumes (best way to describe it) of the antibiotic and the dying bacteria coming up my throat for the first few days. It was intense. One night, I became really frightened. I even debated whether to go to emergency room because it almost felt like I was having a heart attack. It was after the dinner meal, and I felt like a huge lump was in my chest which made my chest hurt and feel pressed on. I figured it was my dinner not staying in my stomach and traveling up my esophagus. Just as I was about to really panic, the pain ebbed and settled down.

I finished all my medicines after ten days and went back to taking the Protonix only once a day. I also decided to try using it only every other day and that seemed to be okay too.

Now I waited until my follow up appointment with gastroenterologist that was scheduled for April…

January 2008 - Gastritis and H. Pylori

Somehow I made it through the holidays; every day cramping terribly after any meal other than breakfast. I barely ate anything, preferring to go hungry than to suffer with the pain. Homemade oatmeal seemed to be one of the best things that I could handle without hurting too much. As long as I ate very small amounts I did better than if I tried to eat full meals. It was like my stomach was just plain tired of working on digesting food.

The day after New Year’s I called the doctor’s office and went in to see him. After describing all my symptoms and experiences he told me that I probably had a slight case of “gastritis”. Gastritis simply means an inflammation of the stomach lining. He didn’t offer any clues or suggestions WHY I may have it. But he was quick to give me ten days of samples of Protonix. Protonix is a proton pump inhibitor which works in your stomach to shut down acid production. The makers of this drug also boast about its abilities to heal the stomach. Before sending me on my way, the doctor gave me a few suggestions on dietary changes until my stomach was better, although these things I had already been implementing on my own. He sent me off for some general blood work and an ultrasound on my gallbladder. I got the tests all done, and the doctor’s office did not call me to tell me that anything was out of order in any of the testing.

I began taking the Protonix and immediately felt an improvement. I certainly wasn’t having the stomach pains as severely. However, I did notice that some times after eating, it felt like the food was in my throat. But I was not having any acid reflux; just that funny feeling in my throat. I was elated to be eating again since I had quickly (as I usually do) lost quite a few pounds in just that one week.

My ten days of samples ran out, and I still wasn’t feeling all that great. My stomach was still giving me some trouble and things just did not feel like they were taken care of. So I went back to the doctor again. He suggested that he could send me to a gastroenterologist, and we agreed that we would allow my stomach one more week and see if it improved any. He sent me home with more days of Protonix samples. I took them all but still everything remained the same. I did not get acid reflux, occasionally felt the food in my throat, and my stomach still seemed to be struggling and giving me some pains.

To my great fortune, at the end of January, I had an appointment to go see my favorite nurse practitioner whom I visit for my womanly issues and exams. Immediately, she was very concerned about my weight loss since the last time I had seen her. I proceeded to explain to her what had been happening with my stomach. She began to offer various possibilities on WHY this could be happening; whether it could be food allergies, etc. She also discussed various tests we could have run to try to discover the reason for my problem. In the discussion she asked me if my doctor had run a Helicobacter Pylori test. I told her I was pretty certain he had not because I had looked at the blood work order and everything was just normal stuff. She also recommended to me the name of a gastroenterologist she liked and gave me a full prescription for more Protonix to carry me through until I could see the gastroenterologist. They drew my blood right there in the office and sent it off to the lab to be tested for H. Pylori. H. Pylori is a terrible bacteria which makes its home in your stomach and then proceeds to take over. It is the cause of a lot of people suffering from gastritis and ulcers.

A couple of days later the nurse practitioner called and told me that I most definitely was suffering from H. Pylori. A positive count was anything above 1.0. My count was over 8.0! No wonder my stomach was shutting down and I was suffering from gastritis. I called immediately to make an appointment with the referred gastroenterologist and was given an appointment six weeks away.

Anxiously waiting to be able to kill this stuff…

December 2007 - Stomach Pains

Finally, I begin a historical backtracking account on what drove me to creating this blog.

On Christmas Day 2007, after having our Christmas meal, I proceeded to get a terrible stomach ache. It was the kind of painful ache that I sometimes get when I eat some things I am “allergic” to. However, I had not eaten any of those things that day. I endured the pain for hours and was sure that it would pass and all would be well the next day. I was wrong.

My stomach aches continued every single day for the rest of the week. After the breakfast meal, I would be fine. But after eating lunch, the pain would slowly begin. And after eating dinner, I was in full blown agony doubled over and laying on the bed wanting to pass out into oblivion.

Prior to that week of stomach cramping, I had been struggling a great deal with acid reflux/heartburn. In fact, I had probably been having a serious problem with it for the previous year and a half or maybe longer (it’s so easy to lose track of time). I had been trying to help the acid problem with some homeopathic pills; but it wasn’t helping much. However, I did not want to get on any acid reducing medicines because of my fear of not being able to absorb calcium and getting osteoporosis.

But this problem would be ignored no longer…