My Digestion: Getting Serious
I started to get this terrible nausea every few weekends - usually Saturdays. An hour or more after I'd eaten breakfast. Sometimes after lunch. Then I started to get it every weekend. And then sometimes on a Sunday. And then it started to extend into the week. And I started to drink Gaviscon (which didn't do anything). I felt like my body was not digesting my food - it was just sitting there and making me feel pretty full and uncomfortable but mostly just nauseous. I thought, about a week before flying home for a holiday I'd saved my entire year's leave for, that I'm probably just stressed (even if I didn't know it because I didn't...) and when I'm on holiday I'll start to feel better and if not I'll go to the doctor when I'm back. Besides, I didn't want to take yet more time from work as I'd already been taking time to go see my myofascial physiotherapist ($$$) and didn't want to have to bring this topic up with my boss, or take time off work my last week when there was so much to do. So I did nothing and hoped for the best.
During my first week home my symptoms broadened and became more frequent. I was just constantly nauseous. By then I'd lost about 3 kgs in the last month. Then it got worse. And then better for about four days, and then worse the day before flying back to NZ. That week I made an appointment with a functional medicine practitioner and nutritionist for the sum of a million billion dollars...
For the first appointment, which fell on the 9th February, I gave a urine sample on which was run something called an Indican test. Following the appointment I did a blood test to check for autoimmune markers and a stool test to check for helicobacter pylori. I was put on a veeeeeery sad (obviously not like the Standard American Diet sad) diet. Meaning very strict. No dairy. No sugar of any form. No booze. No fruit. No gluten. Not too many starches. No processed food. Limited caffeine. And I was given many natural supplements to take which I will go into later. After 3 months, the 11th May, I was told that I could take everything from my limited foods list and now eat more or less freely and from my NONE list I could eat a limited amount - stuff I generally wouldn't choose to consume anyway, like Coca cola and chocolates and chips. Highly processed foods.
During the first 3 months I felt mostly disgusting. Sometimes I just felt crap. And rarely (just enough for a brief moment of hope!!) I felt okay but not good. Depicted below.
A pie for a pie
I'm trying to be witty with the title of my chart by making a joke of the fact that I'd mistreated my body and now it had turned the tables on me. Not that I ate a lot of pie but it is just meant to be a metaphor, you know - for whatever stressors you expose your body to - in my case the pie was actually a chemical (Ro-accutane) and emotional stressor (lots of stuff). And a pie is type of chart. So HA ha...
To give more of a chronological overview, the line graph below shows my state of digestive health over the last 3-4 months (with 0 = feeling really sick):
My tummy progress
I certainly feel better now than four months ago, however my perception of this gets a bit blurred sometimes when my stomach starts to get queasy, my throat tightens up, or my food takes up seemingly permanent residence in my tummy and I think I might explode. However, thinking back I used to just either go to bed or wish I could go to bed whereas now I can keep going without too much thought of how sick I feel so I must be feeling a lot better. I'd say with the progress being so slow your 'normal' shifts slowly, so your frame of reference for how you are feeling now vs then is constantly changing. It's hard to explain. I'm feeling better but because the improvement has been so slow it has not been an obvious improvement. Not obvious as it would have been if I was feeling terrible week one and great week two. Instead it has just been very incremental but very much 1 step forward, half a step back. I'm still not 100% or even 80% but I'm happy again which is possibly my most accurate measure of improvement. Maybe another was that my appetite started to increase after about 2 months. The cravings were not nearly as tough as I expected...in the beginning. Month 3 (when my appetite started to return and a few sips of water didn't make me feel like I'd just eaten a four course meal) was the toughest. I started to think about brownies and ice-cream (things I don't even used to really eat!). I would literally salivate just thinking about how yummy a croissant would taste. I felt like Pavlov's dogs!! This worried me a bit, however the doctor said it was a sign my stomach acidity had increased (that's good) as I was getting hungrier sooner after eating.
Some other things I noticed was:
- My joint pain had gone at the very start: no more sore knees and hips.
- This discoloration under my armpit that had been around on and off (off only when using topical antibiotics) for about 4 years just disappeared - poof!
- The buzzing in my right ear that had also been around on and off for about 4 years became less frequent (but my ear was particularly sensitive for about two months which I found interesting. Any changes in air pressure, any door slamming, music, voices and laughter at a certain pitch - ouch!).
- My eyes got worse. Super dry and scratchy - this is the gift of the Ro-accutane. Hashtag not worth it...(sorry I don't know how to use hashtags...).
- I stopped feeling like I was about to fall asleep
- at my desk
- at the wheel
- in front of the tv.
- Still got a sore throat and the feeling that I couldn't swallow properly.
- Sorry but must mention - I could poop again!
- My brain started to sharpen and clear up a bit.
- My abdominal area was still quite sensitive to the touch. I never really felt very bloated but I started to give myself massages on the various intestinal valves and it was really painful when pressed on. Now that pain is gone, I can press on it and there are no bubbles, noises, tightness or pain. And I'm not bruised post-massage.
- The nausea was still there every morning and mostly continued into the day.
- I started to wake up with a clear head and actually felt more awake on rising.
- My focus was back and I could actually tackle some thinking intensive work.
- I started to get interested again in some of my hobbies (outside of just researching this issue) and could get satisfaction out of
- cooking, piano, singing, reading fiction, tv, gardening, exercise.
- I was pooping more! Phew!
- I was able to go back to sleeping on one pillow!!! A biggy I think. It was not fun being two heads higher than my husband in bed. When he went to kiss me goodnight in the dark he usually ended up kissing the second pillow...No more nausea from sleeping flat and my neck thanked me.
- This also meant I could actually start to do the physio and yoga that I was meant to be doing for my stupid shoulder pain (couldn't lie horizontal as it would always make me feel worse) that I'm starting to doubt I'll ever be rid of...(I'd been seeing my senior expert physio for almost a year and just a month ago we mutually ended the treatment as I am now a stage where I need to just manage it myself).
- My hair started to fall out again (but I was told that as the adrenals recover the thyroid can take up to a year to normalise).
- My throat doesn't get that constricted, tight, or sore feeling as frequently
- Aaah, the belching is gone!!! This is also a big one. One of the common symptoms when my stomach was not well was a feeling of fullness, stagnation, generally yucky queesiness and...BURPING. Either I just was burping or I needed to burp to get some sense of relief.
- My body temperature has gone up. This one I find extremely interesting. I'm obviously not a doctor and don't know if this is related to improvement in my thyroid function but I definitely have been hotter. I'm am chronically cold. My hands and feet and bones just freeze. I'm constantly told there's something wrong with me when others in the office remove the jackets and I turn the heat up on the heater that mans my side. Fingers so stiff I can't type, a heatback behind my back. I can wear my fuzziest socks inside my ugg boots all night, take them off, jump in bed and catapult my husband out of bed as my feet come into contact with his lovely warm skin. Sometimes I put my feet near him just to get that heat that radiates off his body. How is he so warm and I'm so cold?? Anyway, I've been taking my jacket off at work, even OPENING MY WINDOW, when everyone else's is shut to get some cool and fresh air in. Last night I took my uggs off and walked barefoot around the house. My husband couldn't believe it. He said "Monkey, where are your shoes!!" to which I replied: "I don't need them; my feet are hot". And hours later they were STILL hot. This is just so out of character for my body. Anyway...
I might mention that in spite of all the effort I put into figuring out what foods were problematic I still can't say for certain that there was a food that triggered symptoms. My problems almost always got worse after eating, but when I was feeling better, it really didn't seem to make a difference what I was eating, then, nek minnit, I'd eat some soup and - oh no - here we go again! So it seemed to me that the indigestion wasn't so much that I was reacting to a food or not dealing well with a food, but just that my stomach was in a better place to digest, and then it wasn't and then it was and then it wasn't and so forth. It is and was overwhelming, confusing, frustrating and the type of thing that could make a person obsess...and I did!
I'll stop this blog here. I just wanted to give a sense of how I'd improved and what the outlook might be for someone with similar issues if steps are taken to address it. In the next blog I'll talk about the supplements that I was taking and what they were for.
Thanks for reading my blog!