Thursday, June 11, 2009

April 2008 To The Present Day

I have been sick with some terrible cold or flu thing for the past week and have some extra time on my hands so I am attempting to finish the log of what happened to me last year with regards to my stomach problems. If you are reading this post and have not yet read the entries that come prior to this one, please go to my blog archive here on the right and read the entries from 2008. I am also feeling quite prodded to get my story finished because I have had a couple of people recently contact me after reading this blog and asking me for more information about acid reflux and my experiences.

As I wrote in my last post (July 2008) about my personal story, I ended up switching tracks from the path the doctors were leading me on and pursued getting more information regarding low stomach acid conditions.

I had looked up the Gastroparesis disease, researched the internet, found a yahoo discussion group for people with Gastroparesis, cried tears over the low fiber diet I was instructed to follow because it went against what I considered healthy eating, and felt that in a few years the doctor would probably also be telling me I had colon cancer because I had not been able to have enough fiber! As I reviewed the Gastroparesis discussion loop posts and searched and looked at Gastroparesis in general, it did not really match me—it was not quite right. Then one post came through that sparked my change in direction. Someone mentioned that there are times when doctors are telling people they have too much stomach acid when in actuality they have too little and how the symptoms are the same for both conditions.

The reason the symptoms are the same is because if you have too little stomach acid, your stomach cannot properly break down your food or the natural occurring food acids and, therefore, the food acids (not your stomach acids) are coming right back up into your esophagus causing acid reflux.

I began following that lead and there were some at home tests spoken of on the internet which one can perform to see if the stomach has too much acid or too little. I tried one of those tests having to do with drinking some baking soda water first thing in the morning, and it seemed a little inconclusive to me, but also led me to believe I did have too little acid.

I had immediately stopped taking Protonix as soon as I had begun researching the low stomach acid thing. The same day I was making the greatest discoveries on hypochlorhydria and had also tried the home test, I “just happened” to be talking to a dear friend and telling her that I was so excited because I believed I was really unto something about what was truly wrong with my stomach. I told her how I had read that a person actually needs to add hydrochloric acid to get better and that it is easy to obtain them at a health food store. God SO ordained and orchestrated that moment as she said to me, "Oh Mary Ann, I have some of those pills right here; an unopened bottle". She had bought some to try with her daughter, but she had not ever used the pills. And so she handed me my first bottle of Betaine HCl. I would have been too shy in my initial discoveries to go ahead and invest my money in buying my own bottle of pills; but here they were being handed to me! I went home with them and immediately began trying them with my next meal. I was so afraid of my experimentation and would only take one pill at first, then increased to two pills, and so on. I did okay with those dosages and my acid reflux did not worsen. The pills did not worsen my acid reflux which indicated to me that I surely did not have a too much acid problem.

I discovered information regarding something called a Heidelberg test and decided that I wanted this test performed on me to see about the acid levels in my stomach. I contacted my gastroenterologist doctor’s office and left messages saying that I felt I was onto the real cause of my troubles, what I believed them to be, and that I wanted to pursue getting this Heidelberg test performed. They gave me a week’s run around on the phone playing ridiculous phone tag with me, and when I finally was able to speak to the doctor’s assistant she said they didn’t know anything about this test and that I should just go back to see my primary care physician because they couldn’t (more like wouldn’t) help me. They didn’t want anything to do with me at this point because I wasn’t being a “good little, obedient” patient. They didn’t even bother to want to find out about the Heidelberg test. They wrote me off. They didn't want anything to do with me anymore because I was messing with their comfort zone and what they were comfortable doing.

Along the way of my search I found out about a book called Why Stomach Acid is Good for You. I got the book from our local library and began to read. When I read the book I became furious with the mainstream doctors and the pharmaceutical companies!!

I contacted my primary physician’s office and over the phone explained a bit of my situation and about the Heidelberg test and if they could help me with it. They called me back saying that the doctor wanted to see me and also that he had looked up the test to find out about it because he didn’t know anything of it. (At least he looked it up!) However, when I went to see him in person and told him what I believed was wrong with my stomach, he gave me this look like, "Poor girl, she doesn't really know what she's talking about". He told me exactly these words: "Not sure what to tell you?", and went on to say that he could send me to the university in our city for them to try to figure out why I had Gastroparesis!! Argh! Even though I had just told him that it seemed I had Gastroparesis because my stomach acids were not digesting my food because they weren't there, he didn’t listen. He encouraged me to go back to the gastroenterologist assuring me she was a good doctor. I told him I didn’t plan on it. I left there knowing none of these doctors were going to help me in my healing and that I was on my own with God’s direction leading the way.

I decided to stop being shy with the Betaine HCl supplementation. While the pills were not making my acid reflux worse, I was still having acid reflux with some of the evening meals, especially heavier ones. I added more pills with my meals; the bigger the meal, the more the pills I took.

At the present time, I usually take 3 pills with breakfast, 4 with lunch, and 6-7 with dinner. These amounts may vary depending on the amount I eat and how heavy the foods are. During the evening meal, it is best if I space out the taking of the pills since it is such a large quantity and taking them all at once tends to give me a slight stomach ache for about five minutes. As soon as I begin to eat my meal, I take 2 pills and then eat more bites and take two more pills, until the point when I am all done with the meal and I take last two pills. I take Betaine HCl with everything I eat. If I eat a snack I usually take 2 pills, but all depends on the snack. One meal I most definitely cannot skip taking the pills is dinner, or I will surely get awful acid reflux.

In July 2008 I went in for a bone density scan, although I was only 40 years old. I was going in for a mammogram and my primary care physician had been asking me to get a bone scan done for quite some time as during some x-rays he had done in 2007 for some other reasons he had noticed a thinning of my bones. I decided to go ahead and have the bone density scan at the same time as the mammogram. As soon as the test began the two ladies in the room performing the test began talking and whispering and saying things about my bones. As soon as the test was complete, one of them sat down with me and told me that I had Osteporosis and Osteopenia and should go see my doctor to discuss these results. I can’t say I was shocked, but I was disappointed. Here I was at 40 years old and with Osteoporosis; already? I also felt certain that it probably had a lot to do with my stomach issues because if a person doesn’t have enough stomach acid they cannot possibly absorb calcium properly or Vitamin D along with it. I had the results sent to my primary doctor and also to my female nurse practitioner whom I spoke of before that really listens to her patients. Her office contacted me within a couple of weeks and had me schedule an appointment to see her to discuss the bone density results.

I went to see her and she spoke with me. She asked about my stomach and how that was going and I gave her a quick review of what happened and where my own research had led me. When I mentioned about the hypochlorhydria, she gave me this blank look, but at least it was not a demeaning one and said, “Well, these days one has to also do one’s own research too, right?” and she went on to talk about the Osteoporosis. She was extremely concerned for my situation and my age and began discussing my options. She brought up the modern medicines currently prescribed to treat the condition and did say that they were not stomach friendly medicines, but that she could give me two month’s samples (2 pills) of Boniva to try and see what I thought. She said she wasn’t going to “force” me to take them, but highly recommended it along with exercise (she loves to promote that to me every time I see her!). I told her I didn’t think I would take the pills, but did take the samples and said maybe I’d give them a try.

Then I came home and looked up information on those types of medications. I got about a dozen different books from the library on Osteoporosis and natural therapy for it and about the medications usually prescribed, etc. It didn’t take me very long to become completely certain that I wanted nothing to do with those medications. Briefly, I will explain this much about medications such as Boniva. Bones are constantly undergoing a rebuilding process. There are cells called osteoclasts that remove old bone and cells called osteoblasts that replace what has been removed with new, healthy bone. (You can read a brief overview of this at Dummies.com.) The Osteoporosis medications work by killing off the osteoclast cells in order that they will not remove any bone. What ends up happening is that, yes, your bones become denser, but not with new healthy bone. You are actually being left with old, brittle, unhealthy bones, although they will be dense because none has been removed.

I decided that I did not want to start building up a bunch of old bone at 40. I looked at diet options, found an excellent bone building/calcium/Vitamin D supplement and tried to exercise. My favorite thing to do was take afternoon walks around the neighborhood, but my lower back began to hurt a lot so I stopped. (I’ve later figured out this had to do with my feet and needing better arch support.) I also tried going to the gym to do weight bearing exercise, but it is so hard to leave my house in the middle of the day with the kids and homeschooling that I soon gave that up too. Then, many months later, I read in the newspaper of my local health food store about this “flamingo” therapy. The article spoke of a therapy a doctor prescribed to patients who were older and at a stage in life of losing bone density. The therapy requires a person to stand on one foot for one minute and then alternate to the other foot for one minute, doing this three times per day. Doing this therapy will actually begin to build bone density because of the stress that is put upon the bones by standing on one foot. I CAN do this!! You can read more about it at the Denver Naturopathic link.

I haven’t been as consistent with doing the flamingo therapy as I would like to be. It’s easy for me to forget to do it three times each day. I am absolutely consistent with taking my Betaine HCl pills. But I still have to be very careful with my stomach. The valve from my stomach to my esophagus has been damaged (maybe from the H. Pylori?) and remains open at all times. Therefore, I cannot eat within two hours of bedtime nor do any bending over or extremely active activities after eating because my food will slosh back up into my esophagus. I sleep on my left side a lot because this really keeps that from happening with any food or liquid that may still be in there when I lay down. I’ve turned into a “left sided horse”. Ha! And I do have my pillow slightly propped up with another pillow so my head is not laying flat. If there are any times my stomach starts to feel sour or my esophagus acidy, I use a natural herbal Yogi brand tea called "Stomach Ease". It works WONDERFULLY! It relieves any problem right away. I also love to drink Kombucha fermented cold tea. My favorite brand is the Synergy Kombucha because it tastes the best to me without added sugars; only sweetened with organic fruit. Kombucha is a wonderful drink good for the body all around and it also helps me with my heavier meals.

I continue to be extremely deficient in Vitamin D, which is also critical in having good bone mass. I am convinced I am having some kind of absorption issue with my oral Vitamin D supplementation. So now that it is not winter anymore, I try to get out on my deck when the sun is nice and hot at high noon and expose as much skin as I can to the sun for 25 minutes. And of course, NO sunscreen allowed! Can’t make Vitamin D if you are blocking the UVB rays out. Twenty-five minutes is plenty of time to make a good dosing of Vitamin D, tan nicely, and absolutely not burn. You don’t want to be out there much longer, as then the UVA rays will start breaking down the Vitamin D you just made. UVB are helpful rays, UVA are destructive rays. UVB rays cannot go through windows but UVA rays do! I think I will probably have to look into joining tanning in a salon for the upcoming winter if my D levels do not improve very quickly. I live where we are wearing longs sleeves most of the year and so we do not get enough sun exposure.

It is almost July again, and I must go get another bone scan and see how my bones are doing now since I have been taking care of my stomach issues and supplementing with D and calcium.

Recently, I tried an orange peel extract treatment to see if it would heal my valve, but I don’t think it helped. Although, I have been told that it does wonders for people who experience acid reflux in healing their stomach. The box I purchased of orange peel extract came with 10 pills. The instructions were to take one pill every other day. The pill was very hard on my sensitive stomach if it was empty so I followed the secondary instructions telling me I could also take it one hour after dinner. That worked well. However, from the way my stomach feels, my valve remains the same. There is plenty on the internet about orange peel extract and acid reflux, so check it out for yourself and see if it may be helpful to you.

Here is an at home test to check for low acid (this is not the same one I had found or tried last year):

This is the vinegar or lemon juice test - if you notice indigestion after a meal, swallow a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (not regular vinegar) or lemon juice. If it makes you feel better, it is likely that you are low in stomach acid. If it makes you feel worse, then low stomach acid is probably not your problem, and you shouldn't take any supplemental Betaine HCl. (If the vinegar or lemon juice leaves you feeling uncomfortable, drink a large glass of water to dilute the acid, or neutralize the acid with ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water.)

You can also check out more information at the Mercola.com about acid reflux and too little acid.

Please keep in mind that mainstream doctors will not applaud or encourage anyone to pursue this path with regards to acid reflux. They will discourage you and keep pumping you with more and more acid reducing drugs. There are times when I use doctor services and need to, but there are other times when I follow my own research and discovery and end up in a much better health situation. This hasn't been the first time this has happened (but that is another story). Note that while the acid reducers seem to make someone with too low or no stomach acid feel better, those drugs are only compounding the problem that exists in the stomach.

While my stomach was in a terrible state, and I could hardly eat anything because it hurt so much to try to digest, I made myself this special soup from The Maker's Diet book by Jordan Rubin. It is a soup made with a whole chicken and some veggies and other good things. I would puree whatever portion I was going to eat and eat the soup pureed. My stomach loved it! It was the one thing I could eat easily and although I would be hungry again soon, I knew I was able to handle digesting it. I would only eat little bits at a time because that was all I could handle. When my stomach was really bad, prior to my seeing any doctors, I ate fresh papaya. It really helped as papaya is great for digestion.

Well, this is it for now regarding my stomach and acid reflux…I will continue to post healthy things on here and more updates as I walk the journey…I’m also still desperately searching to resolve my painful back issues and tendonitis…but that’s another long story…

In the future, I will also share the story of when a few years ago I came down with a terrible case of colitis two times in the span of six weeks (each time lasting 10 days) and the doctors were not the resolution to that problem either...God’s leading me to a couple of wonderful probiotics was the resolution permanently.

(There is an added note to this post "April 2008 To The Present Day, Added Note")

4 comments:

  1. You can have your valve repaired with Nissen Fundoplication.

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    1. Thank you! I will check into that. I had not heard of it before and the gastroenterologist never mentioned it.

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  2. I have just discovered your blog and am learning much useful information that I will soon be putting to use as I try to wean off of ppi's. I have had gastroparesis (mild) for over 4 years and recently the ppi connection has been brought to my attention. I will be using your Home test for low acid to be sure before I get started to determine which catagory I am in.
    Just as a precaution, Nissen Fundoplication is thought to be the cause of gastroparesis for many who suffer with it. (although I'm sure you will research thoroughly)
    Thank you so much for sharing this information and your experiences with us.

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  3. I'm glad you've found my experiences and ideas helpful. I have SO MUCH more to write about and share and hope one day I'll be granted the time and energy.

    I had not come across the fundoplication info about it leading to gastroparesis. But I have no researched it so much yet because I haven't wanted to pursue that route. So thank you for the heads up! I'll be sure to look for that.

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