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  • Ongoing stomach issues - 5 months and still battling it

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    Old 01-17-2022, 07:27 AM   #1
    Robinseashanty's Avatar
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    Ongoing stomach issues - 5 months and still battling it

    Hi everyone. As a founding member of The Steepholmers sea shanty band from Weston-super-Mare, I was very much involved in helping to organise and run the Weston-super-Mare sea shanty festival which was held in early August last year. My role was to organise the festival office and so that's where I found myself on the Friday of the festival (6th August 2021). Before then I was, and hopefully will be again, fairly fit and healthy for my age (55). However, on that Friday, for lunch, my partner brought me a sandwich from a local shop (a local business, not a chain). It was a salad sandwich with mayonnaise. Shortly after eating it (about an hour to an hour an half I think), I began to feel odd - clammy, a bit wobbly, nauseous. This feeling increased until the early evening when The Steepholmers were called upon to join Weston's Mayor on the main stage for the opening ceremony. I managed to attend this, but didn't feel well at all. Fortunately, one of our singers is a retired GP, so I had a word with him about it. After the opening ceremony, we were due to perform at a local pub, but by that time I felt so ill, I had to go home and go to bed, leaving the other guys to perform without me.

    I started to recover the following day, and was back on my feet again by Saturday lunchtime. Thinking about this incident, I came to believe that I had had a bout of food poisoning. However, apparently, at that same time there was an odd stomach bug going around the community, so it may also have been that. Or something else.

    On the 16th September I started keeping a food diary, which, along with various other things, i.e. peppermint tea and various tests makes me suspect I had some repetitions of similar feelings, but the first entry on that date recalls that on the 15th September, I had similar symptoms, except this time not quite so bad as the first attack: "suffered nausea, no vomiting, feeling hot and clammy and had diarrhoea". A recommendation from a friend for stomach issues was to drink peppermint tea, and I improved steadily from 16:13 on the 16th. On the 17th, that evening we were supposed to be travelling down to Cornwall to participate in the Port Isaac sea shanty festival. At 9.30 I attended a local surgery and a GP said I had had a test for coeliac disease and it had come back negative. At 13.08 I managed to eat a jacket potato and by the evening felt well enough to travel down to Cornwall. On the way, we stopped off at a fish and chip shop. I took one bite of a battered piece of cod and realised I couldn't eat it, as it immeditely provoked a reaction. By the time we reached Port Isaac, I was again feeling hot, clammy, wobbly and nauseous. However, I tried to fight it and went to Port Isaac with the other guys and my partner, but on reaching the main arena felt sufficiently ill to make me want to go and see the paramedics. One of them listened to my stomach through a stethoscope, told me my bowel movements were normal and suggested I get some lemonade from the bar, as that apparently can ease stomach unrest. This seemed to work, and I became well enough to perform on the stage that night.

    I had another occurrence of these symptoms on 18th September, after trying to eat some Weetabix in our guest house dining room. So I retired to our bedroom and had a rest. I felt better after about 20 minutes but I had brought some packet nuts with me that weekend, just in case, and eat only those, plus drinking lemonade, until Saturday evening when I managed to eat a cheese pasty. On Sunday 19th September, I felt much better and managed to eat a cream tea.

    Back in Weston, on 21st September, (broccoli, rice and salmon for evening meal on the 20th btw), I noticed my stool when going to the loo was floating greenish-yellow, which apparently indicates gaseousness and something up with the digestive system.

    The next attack was on 5th October, when I foolishly drank a whole bottle of wine (although I've managed that before (i.e. before August that year) and not fell ill (apart from a bit drunk of course). This time it was again, less severe than the previous attack (the one in Port Isaac) my food diary records "Just feel ‘offish’ – slightly nauseous, slight belly rumble". I didn't eat much of my food on the evening of Wednesday 6th October, but fell well enough to join a performance for the Mayors Annual Dinner. On the 7th October, I contacted the surgery and they suggested I take a stool test. I still felt a bit off on Saturday 9th October, but we went for a coffee and that seemed to perk me up, probably the caffeine.

    15th - 17th October, Mevagissey sea shanty festival. No occurrences at all during this weekend and was able to perform well. On our return, several of us came down with a cold, including me. My entry for Friday 22nd October records that another stool sample test - for hidden blood - came back normal. So apparent sign of any bowel cancer or anything likely to produce blood in stools.

    Stomach gurgling and diarrhoea on Sunday 24th October and again on Monday 25th October - so got some Immodium and Diorlyte to replace lost salts, plus soup, as I felt I couldn't handle a large meal of solid food.

    Friday 29th October - again experienced a reluctance to eat, but did so anyway - broccoli, salmon and some rice - brief 'offish' feeling with slight nausea and wobbliness, it lasted about 15 minutes and then went away. Queasy again on Sunday 31st at about 6.30 am.

    Another visit to Milton Surgery resulted in a referral to Weston hospital for an ultrasound scan (results received 12th November). This showed pancreas fine, kidneys fine, but some fatty liver (hepatic steatosis), and so I have now given up drinking alcohol. On that same day, I was told that all my blood tests "all normal, including showing normal liver function. However, have had 2-3 days of yellow clayey stools. I mentioned this to Milton Surgery and Dr responded:

    “Thanks for your message. It is very reassuring that your liver function tests were normal. If there was an issue with your biliary system causing the pale stools, I would have expected an abnormality in the liver function tests (namely a raised bilirubin and ALP). There is one more test we could do to further investigate if your pancreas is functioning correctly - this is called a faecal elastase test. Please could you drop in a stool sample at your convenience and we will send this off for testing.
    If the pale stools persist, and in particularly if you also notice dark urine and any yellowing of the skin, you must get in contact with us straight away.

    That stool test also came back normal.

    By Wednesday 1st December, I had, on the advice of my retired GP friend, switched to a gluten-free diet.

    My entry for 1st December reads:

    "Yesterday (30th November) around 12.30, I eat some ham sandwiches in gluten-free bread. Shortly after I felt wobbly (like hypoglycemia). At dinnertime, I felt a reluctance to eat the chicken and rice dinner, but managed about half of it and put the rest in the fridge. Despite having a large cup of peppermint tea, with two bags, I felt offish (including slight nausea). I woke up this morning still feeling unwell. Around 9.15 am, my body tried to vomit, but nothing came up but some slight phlegm/saliva."

    15th December (Christmas approaching rapidly)

    "Gluten and wheat-free diet largely seems to be working. However, the last two days I’ve had faint repetitions of symptoms. This may be down to eating Quality Street chocolates, even though Quality Street claims its products are gluten free. Nothing more than some slight discomfort, which is encouraging, stools are walnut to chestnut brown. Evening – felt sick, went to bed early not being able to eat dinner, Steepholmers gig abandoned. Started to feel better after an hour of rest but stayed in bed reading"

    16th December - felt better

    On 31st December, I woke up feeling a bit nauseous - two evenings previously, I had tripped on the top stair and knocked my head against the door frame. Subsequent calls to both 111 and my GP came back with "not really something to worry about" as no blackouts, dizziness, speech or vision problems, no headaches even just some mild throbbing in my head, so this nausea was probably my stomach issues again.

    On 14th January I ordered the York Test, which I've now completed and sent back today. I've seen some good reviews of this, and my retired GP friend recommended it, as his wife and some of his patients previously have had good experiences of it.

    Summing up - the gluten free diet appears to be helping. However, on 10th January (a week ago), I drunk a bottle of zero/low alcohol beer, from a pack that my partner had bought me. That might have had wheat in it, as I had several occurrences of symptoms last week, including one severe enough to send me to bed at 5.30.

    In general though, I seem to be eating better now and the occurrences of these symptoms are much less severe than the attacks I experienced in August and September. This makes me think I am making some progress, but even so, several occurrences of yellow clayey stools, and I also noticed an incidence of suspected oral thrush last week which I am also now treating (indicative of possible candida overgrowth perhaps?).

    Nevertheless, I've been trying to fight this for five months now, and although less severe than it was (no clamminess, wobbliness, nausea less severe, fewer occurrences of diarrhoea and I am able to eat - my partner now serves stuff up in portions and I take what I want from each, sort of tapas style, basically being cautious - everything gluten free), I still haven't beaten it entirely yet.

    Sometimes this has interfered with my work. I also know that it is sometimes a strain on my partner and it also sometimes affected me emotionally - yes I have shed tears over this, because prior to August I was, I thought generally fit and healthy and I do not like relying on other people if I can help it.

    It may be gluten/wheat, but I am still not certain of that for sure. I am also starting cut down on cheese and chocolate in case it's lactose intolerance (been drinking soya milk for a while anyway). Other than that, I have no idea what is causing this, and sometimes it does drag me down. I have an HbA1C test booked for tomorrow (take a longer term look at possible diabetes) and I will take another stool test for inflammatory bowel in February (I took an antacid a few days ago so have to wait six weeks for that to pass by), although the doctor doesn't think I have any symptoms of that.

    Apart from those two, and whatever results the York Test comes back with, I am running out of options with regard to trying to find out what on Earth is causing this.

    Any ideas anybody?

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    Old 01-17-2022, 10:43 AM   #2
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    Re: Ongoing stomach issues - 5 months and still battling it

    Hi...I feel for you...i went through similar bs and ultimately diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis 2.5 years later.

    I suggest an MRI (MRCP for biliary) or CT upper endoscopy and colonoscopy soon, considering this has been going on so long.

    Have you been checked for H. Pylori?

    It's all a matter of perspective!
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    Old 01-18-2022, 05:45 AM   #3
    Robinseashanty's Avatar
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    Re: Ongoing stomach issues - 5 months and still battling it

    Hi Quincy, thanks. I think one of the reasons it's been going on so long is that it seems to be food intolerance related rather than something specifically to do with, medically wise, the condition of my internal organs. I did ask last week for a colonoscopy, but it carries the risk of a perforated bowel given the inflexible tube that is used to carry it out, and on that basis the GP at my surgery said it was a bad idea at present, and my retired GP friend has agreed. Also, because there are no signs of blood in my poop, the possibility of bowel cancer or something like that is unlikely, so the GPs in the UK would only consider a colonoscopy if there was a visible presence of blood in my poop.

    Also my ultrascan that was carried out at Weston hospital showed my pancreas, kidneys, spleen and liver to be all just fine, with no sign of any suspicious lumps or anything. And no cancer markers have appeared in any blood tests I've had, so they've all come back normal.

    I read all that as meaning that it's something food related that is causing it. It's probably gluten, given that my gluten-free diet that I adopted in December has improved things, but I need to be really careful with my diet now I suspect, and if it's not gluten/wheat, then I face a process of trial and error trying to pinpoint what it else it might be.

    A friend of mine said just before Christmas that gluten can stay in the system for up to six months, which if true means that potentially I may have a few months yet in which any gluten still in my system might cause symptoms.

    I'd be interested in hearing from anyone else who has had problems with gluten or other food intolerances which have caused symptoms mirroring mine. Another friend said it was probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but I think that is unlikely because apparently IBS sufferers often suddenly find they have to rush off to the loo at short notice, and that is something I've not experienced.

    I had an HbA1C blood test taken this morning, which takes a longer (40 days) look for signs of diabetes, but I don't think it's that, although always good idea to check.

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