Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Battle of the Bellyache

About two days after my last post announcing Un Verano de Mexico, I woke up with extreme stomach pains. This hasn't happened for about two months, and I've been feeling very fortunate. Before that, my stomach aches and pains have persisted since last August.

My stomach pain started as typical nausea, which I'm unfortunately used to at this point. This was before I went gluten free, so I ate only fiber filled crackers and lots of bread. Not shockingly, the pain didn't go away, and days would go by where I simply didn't eat. My weight dropped a fair amount, which was nice, but I would have rather not dealt with the pain.

I got into a regular routine of eating a lot of wheat, especially pancakes. The pain wasn't as bad but my weight started to quickly climb up, and I had a lot of gas and discomfort, which nothing relieved. I started reading up on gluten and dairy intolerances, and many of the symptoms of celiac disease sounded familiar, so I stopped eating gluten. My stomach kept gurgling, so I stopped eating dairy. Four days later my entire body felt better.

I went to the doctor in December to get tested for celiac disease and found out I'd gained twenty pounds since August. My test came back negative.

After a week of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation in February, I went to urgent care. I spent six hours there as they ran tests and gave me an IV of fluids (I also took this picture of myself). I even went back the next day to get tested for H. pilori. Every test came back negative. The doctors kept telling me I had acid reflux and to take Prilosec, first every day for two weeks, and then whenever I felt stomach pain from acid.

I missed work, ate nothing but chicken stock with dry toast some days, and simply took Pepto Bismol and Prilosec every time my stomach hurt. But after a month, even that didn't stop the pain. So I went back to my doctor.

She gave me a double dose of Protonix and a referral to a gastroenterologist. The GI doctor confirmed my doctor's diagnosis of IBS but suggested I get a colonoscopy and endoscopy first to rule out any other possibilities. I had the procedure at the beginning of June, and the doctor I saw informed me afterward that everything looked normal. He told me that I do not have celiac disease, but that if I still felt pain whenever I eat gluten (which I do) then I shouldn't eat it.

He gave me a packet with pictures of the interior of my stomach and colon, and the paper said that I have non-erosive gastritis. When I went back to urgent care last week, the doctor I saw informed me that I do have gastritis. He said that I can't have anything with caffeine, like chocolate, and that I have to eat bland foods. That was the last thing I wanted to hear.

I've been upset about the diagnosis, but I've tried to let myself grieve the end of my healthy and pain-free two months. Now I begin to hiccup when I'm hungry, and I know I need to eat when my stomach feels like it's separating from the rest of my organs.

But bland food....that's what's killing me. I began this blog to share recipes for people like myself, people who need more flavor than average to find a meal truly satisfying. I just decided to launch my Mexican Summer theme of recipes only to find out I can't eat any of the dishes. I thought about eating bland food regularly but still cook Mexican dishes while I only had enough to taste each dish.

But then I thought about everyone else out there who is like me. My mind was already swimming with possible new recipes that relied on herbs and the genuine flavor of simple ingredients instead of spices or chili peppers. I realized that this would truly test my ability as a cook and as an adaptable person (at least that's how I like to think of myself). I also realized that if I don't listen to my body's needs, this might not go away any time soon, and the last thing I want is more stomach problems.

So I have decided to push back Un Verano de Mexico until I am well. I will definitely still be doing Oaxacan Cuisine for Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten Free in November, since I should be feeling much better by then. While I am sick, however, I will be posting gastritis-friendly recipes along with tips and personal stories. I would like to inspire hope in this time of weakness and see what possibilities remain within limited resources. I would also love to hear from you. If you have gastritis or know anyone who has had it and have any tips or thoughts, I would appreciate all of them.

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