Monday, July 19, 2010

Back In Business

I am so happy. I visited my gastroenterologist again since my colonoscopy and endoscopy last month, and I finally got a more concrete diagnosis. As I mentioned earlier, sessions with my various doctors haven't been going too well since about December. Each visit was similar: I would try to explain all of my symptoms in the minute they gave me to speak, but I felt I could barely get the words out. When I mentioned that my stomach area is incredibly sensitive to the touch, they had me lie back on the bed and each would thrust their fingers as deep and as hard into my stomach as they could. I would gasp and try to move away from the pressure, but that was often met with "Oh....hmmmm." My regular doctor, who did this first, touched my stomach and then pulled her hand back and looked at me with saddened eyes and said, "Oh, ouch, that's your tummy." But every other doctor shoved their hand beneath my ribs as if they were looking for buried treasure. It was kind of like a date from Hell . . . they'd talk the whole time, prod a hyper-sensitive spot they know hurts, say something that didn't make sense, throw a box of pills at me, and leave. When I'd start to ask questions when they would try to leave, they would do a fast-paced version of the Hustle between the middle of the room and the door.

On Tuesday I went to see my GI doctor guns blazing. I'd had it. I didn't want to eat any more bland food, didn't want to be given another strange diagnosis that didn't fit me (like acid reflux) and wasn't ready to be poked and prodded and run out on. Fortunately, she broke the routine. After discussing my previous illnesses and looking at the pictures from my procedure, she told me that my gastritis is gone. I did a mini cartwheel in my head. However, she did inform me that I have upper GI IBS. Irritable Bowel Syndrome was not exactly something I was hoping for. Honestly, I'd take Celiac disease at this point. It's much simpler than the diet I have to follow, and even though it doesn't have to be as extreme anymore, it's still cumbersome.

Dairy and gluten are still my arch nemeses. Through trial and error (or a very evil craving) I've discovered that they still cause just as much pain as I thought they did. Both are totally out. Red meat is difficult to digest, so that's on severe restriction. Lean meats and protein are still the best, like turkey, chicken, fish, and seafood. The other day I was about to scream if I had to eat another piece of chicken, but the thing I have to remember is to mix it up. Vegetables are still better steamed than raw, and broccoli and cabbage still create a lot of gas. I've had a little bit of broccoli and been fine, but I've been trying to avoid it lately. I don't need any extra gas.

My doctor said that I can start to incorporate different things into my diet, but to be careful about it. That's the best I can hope for right now. She said not to eat anything too greasy or spicy however, since those two can cause the most pain. It's essentially up to me to figure out what does and doesn't work for my digestive system. As always, I have to pay attention to the foods that hurt and the foods that make me feel great. And so far, I've been closer to great.

The worst part is how I contracted this. I think that most doctors can't exactly pinpoint the problem, but they have a general idea of the culprit. And it's my favorite pastime, the thing I've loved most my whole life.

Traveling to India. I grew up following a religious belief that began in India, and my parents began traveling there on pilgrimage when my mother was three months pregnant with me. We didn't go again until I was seven, and we went for five weeks. I couldn't tell you when it happened precisely, but I fell in love. India is a very chaotic and complicated country that has its fair share of problems, but deep down the people are kind and caring, the food is amazing, and the countryside is beautiful. I have always felt that I was born with an Indian heart, and it has always been the place I most consider my home.

But, there are problems. When I was young, my parents and I would trade off on who was sick. When I was eight, it was me. When I was nine, it was my dad. When I was ten, it was my mom. But then my immune system stayed low and it was me nearly every time. It was just colds at first, since my parents were very strict about where I ate and what water I drank.

But in 2003 I decided to do volunteer work at the pilgrimage site for two months during the summer. The first month I had gastroenteritis. The second month I got parasites, and I believe that they didn't go away for about a year, long after I'd come home. In 2005, during a six-week stay, I developed an intestinal infection from eating out and accidentally drinking unpurified water. There were also times when I thought my body had acclimated to India, so I was not nearly as careful as I should have been.

As a result, my doctor believes that I have developed bad bacteria in my stomach, and that is the cause of my woes. I now have to take Protonix and Probiotics daily and take Tums or Mylanta as needed. I have to build the good bacteria in my stomach, and she told me that in ten years I MIGHT be normal again. However, I have no regrets. I still look back at all of my experiences and meals in India fondly, and I do not resent the illnesses I endured while being there. They were each learning experiences that taught me about myself and the people who helped me recover from them. They are experiences I would not trade. But I do know now what to do to avoid them in the future.

In the time that I thought I had gastritis, I was, however, not as productive as I would have hoped. Nearly everything I ate hurt, and if it didn't hurt, it was incredibly bland. These are the only two dishes I had (other than simply cooked eggs or plain chicken) that are worth passing on.

Mangoes and Mint Tea became two staples for me. Mangoes are in season right now, and they're one of my favorite fruits. Mint Tea is a good alternative to water, and if you don't let it steep too long, it's easy on the stomach, plus it doesn't have caffeine.

Breakfast Tacos were also quite good. I originally made them this way, with chopped bacon, but the grease from the bacon did hurt. I tried the eggs scrambled with cheddar Rice Cheez and topped with avocado, but it was too much of the same consistency and texture. The fruit was a good addition, and the tortillas added some diversity.


e.m.b. said...

Exactly! Listen to your gut and huzzah for feeling better! I have Celiac, but this winter, after continuing problems, was pegged as "IBS" and "gastritis."

After many more doctors, it turned out to be a flora imbalance, so now I am pumping LOTS of probiotics and healthy bacteria in, and feeling better!

Good luck on your continued journey....keep listening to your gut. :)

Kajora Lovely said...

Thank You! It's always encouraging to know that I'm not the only one who deals with continuous and inexplicable stomach problems. I'm glad that you've found a remedy and are on your way to recovery!

Anonymous said...

i know it sounds strange, but have you considered breast milk? infant's don't have all the intestinal bacteria they need, and get it from their mothers in breast milk. it's sugars bind to harmful things and help them pass through without staying in the baby. if your problem is with the proper intestinal bacteria, you may be able to re-introduce it through breast milk. i would suggest further research before actually doing it, though.