Maybe this is the “getting older sucks” part of my life. How does one rank their health symptoms? Unless one is a doctor, how do you know where to start, what symptoms are related or what kind of doctor you need?
My symptoms are random and growing in numbers. Let me give you a little background here. My tummy has always been sensitive. About 5 years ago I had some sort of weird episode while on vacation and later was told by my doctor that I have a hiatal hernia. For more info on that, here is a link. Then a few months ago my gyn prescribed me a high dose birth control pill. Long story short, I ended up in the ER with a “toxic reaction”, severe dehydration and a UTI. I was so sick for days! Vomiting, diarrhea, chills, panic and this burning sensation that started in my tummy and quickly spread throughout my body. I was pissed! What the hec is wrong with me? I can’t even take bcp’s? Anyhow, fast forward to a few weeks ago when I visited my GI. After an exam and several questions, he asked if I have ever had my gallbladder examined. I said no. He was shocked! He then scheduled me for a blood test, and ultrasound and another test I can’t pronounce. Naturally, as soon as we got home I did my gallbladder research. I am going to share what I have learned because if my symptoms sound familiar to any of you, this info might save you some pain and time. I am not a doctor! Please do not view my findings as anything other than amateur research. The info I am sharing is a combination of many websites I ran across, including one called Gallbladderattack.com.
The liver makes the body’s supply of bile. Bile helps break down fats during food digestion. Not all bile is needed at one time so excess is stored within the gallbladder. In gallbladder disease, bile in the gallbladder becomes concentrated and thickens. Gallstones are born out of this sludge from cholesterol and bile salts. (Apparently, bile is no match for cholesterol) The end result of the disease process is inflammation (cholecystitis) or stones (cholelithiasis). A gallbladder attack occurs when the gallstone blocks the flow of bile from the gallbladder and is manifested as a pain in the right side (sometimes perceived in the right shoulder because of referred pain) as severe as the excruciating pain of a heart attack). Some of the symptoms of a gallbladder attack are:
- nausea and vomiting
- yellowing of the eyes and skin
- severe abdominal pain
- feeling of fullness
- diarrhea or constipation
- fatty stools
- burping with regurgitation of bitter fluid
- shortness of breath
I have every single one of those symptoms. The shortness of breath only occurs due to the panic I experience. One symptom I have that is not listed anywhere I can see is the burning sensation I mentioned earlier. It is just as random as the other symptoms. It starts just under my ribs in the center and quickly spreads to the rest of my tummy, my neck and my arms. I am fairly certain it is related to my tummy problems because once I “void my tummy” the burning stops. Actually, it stops shortly before I begin vomiting, It takes all of my will and prayer to keep this burning sensation from turning into a full panic attack at this point, especially once it spreads! This is where the priority and management comes in. Is my panic causing me to vomit? Or the other way around? I haven’t had panic in years! It only returned (at least in full force like this) the night I took that damn high dose birth control pill. I haven’t been well since that night and have been fighting a panic attack every day since. Now allow me to share what I read about the causes of gallbladder disease!
- Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disease
- Low stomach acid
- Food Sensitivities or Allergies
- Gluten Intolerance
- Brain degeneration
- Rapid weight loss
- Lack of exercise
- Pregnancy (due to excess hormones)
- Estrogen intake and birth control pills(estrogen increases the concentration of cholesterol in the bile)
- Chronic Heartburn
- Frequent use of Antacids and PPIs
- Atkin’s Diet
- Over age 40 and increase in risk as one ages
- Female especially those who have had children
- Ethnicity (Pima Indians and Mexican-Americans)
- High triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol, decreased HDL cholesterol,
- Alcohol intake
- Family history of gallbladder disease (Heredity)
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs, immunosuppressive drugs
- Antidepressants which slow down gallbladder contractions
- Very Low Calorie Diets
- Diet high in saturated fats
- Diet high in refined foods and sugars
- Diet low in fiber (which is what the refined diets are) and not enough vegetables
- Non-fat diets
- Low-fat diets
- Insulin Resistance
- Diseases such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease, Chron’s disease (ulcerative colitis is controversial) Hemolytic anemias, PCOS
I fall into at least 10 of those categories! And that’s not counting rapid weight loss because that isn’t my symptom, that is what has resulted from my symptoms. (can’t complain about that one though, 20lbs and counting.) And did you notice the bold and italic cause? Why didn’t anyone tell me that????? I am printing that page out to take to my next gyn appointment. She was just as shocked as I was about my “toxic reaction” to the pills. What about the HORRIBLE reaction I had to the Metformin when they thought I had PCOS? Was it my gallbladder that made that med so hard for me to take?
Do I dare be a little excited about this? I pray it is a gallbladder problem. That is not a life threatening organ. I can live without it. Could it really be that simple though? Well, after what I have been through, simple doesn’t sound like the right word. Either way, it would explain a lot! I am excited to possibly have an answer, finally!
How do others cope with multiple health issues? I haven’t updated anyone on my endometriosis because I have been focusing on this tummy crap. So, again I ask, how do you juggle multiple symptoms? Is that what a primary care doctor is for? I mean, do you go to one doctor first and then let him/her send you in the right direction? I didn’t grow up with the resources I have now, so I have never had a PCP in the past. I have one now but I’m starting to think I do not use her properly. So far she is great! Wonderful beside manner, polite, and I always leave feeling like I was heard. I guess that may be what a pcp is for. A ring leader of sorts. Our insurance doesn’t require referrals but maybe there is a good reason for getting your pcp to give you one. They are the educated ones, they can steer you in the right direction. They can hear your symptoms, help you categorize them and make an educated guess as far as your next move.
Anyhow, I hope this information is helpful to someone. I can’t believe no one warned me about the risks. Every one of my doctors is aware of my tummy problems. Why didn’t anyone put 2 and 2 together? I guess this situation is a great example of being your own advocate! Always educate yourself! Even if your doctors are as amazing as mine. They do not live in our bodies and we (as patients) aren’t usually able to connect the necessary dots for them. Between my own research and my health journal, I will get answers!
Much Love To All!