Dyspepsia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms such as burping, stomach aches, bloating, feeling uncomfortably full after eating, nausea, heartburn and other stomach discomfort. Most people have experienced some sort of dyspepsia in their life. Unfortunately when it becomes regular, it can be a sign of something more.
I had stomach aches most of my life. It started mostly in the evening. My stomach just hurt. I didn’t feel like I needed to throw up, but when I was young, I was scared I would. It continued through my life until I was diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and Barrett’s Espophagus (BE). GERD is basically chronic heartburn. BE is damage to the esophagus that predisposes a person to esophageal cancer. Scary. The answer in the traditional medical world is to go on PPIs (Proton-pump inhibitors). PPIs, work to inhibit the ability to produce stomach acid, thereby lowering the acid in the stomach.
Unfortunately new science is showing that among other drugs, NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)and PPIs can cause or increase dyspepsia,so what was prescribed to me actually was making it worse.
A side note on NSAIDs, one of which is Advil. Most of my life I lived on NSAIDS for 2-3 days every 24-26 days. My cramping during my period was so bad I would easily take a minimum of 8 a day just to survive. I did not know that NSAIDs are one of the worst drugs for causing stomach problems. At the time, even if I had known I am not sure I would have cared, since I just wanted to survive those few days a month.
When taking these drugs, the lining of the stomach and intestines can be irritated causing permeability. It actually is causing microscopic holes in the stomach lining. This allows things that should not pass through, to pass through causing inflammation. The drugs also can cause an imbalance in your gut microbiome. You have “good” and “bad” bacteria in your intestinal tract. Many of the 10 Trillion bacteria in your body are located here. The balance of bacteria is critical to keeping your system functioning properly and you remaining healthy.
What I have come to realize is that the source of the discomfort is critical to find and heal. NSAIDs and PPIs were attempting to treat the symptoms not the cause of my discomfort. I was having hormonal imbalance, I had food sensitivities, and I was eating a poor diet that was causing imbalance of my microbiome. Those things together caused a downward spiral of discomfort and illness. My body was trying to tell me that something was wrong. What did I do….try to silence the cries with drugs. I wasn’t helping it heal. I did try several doctors who told me all my tests were normal, so there was nothing wrong. It was frustrating, and I let myself believe there was nothing I could do.
Then I started experiencing what felt like something stuck in my throat. The only time it felt ok was when I was eating. I was told it was a throat infection, sinus infection and nothing wrong, until it got so bad I was sent in to have a scope inserted to see what was going on. No one told me that the feeling of something in your throat, as well as a bad taste in your mouth (which I had for many years), could be signs of acid reflux problems.
When I was diagnosed with GERD and BE in 2011 I knew I didn’t want to stay on drugs for the rest of my life. (Did you know that PPI packages state that it should not be taken for more the 2 or 3 weeks, yet I was told I would be on it for the rest of my life. Makes you thing?)
I went on a mission to figure out what was causing it.
Over the course of a couple of years I discovered and worked with my food sensitivities. I cleaned up my diet…I continue to work on that one. I reduced my intake of sugar and processed foods. I worked on my sleep. Slowly my body healed and my GERD went away. 18 months after being diagnosed with BE I had a scope procedure done again and found I didn’t have BE. Keep in mind I was told that once you have BE you can’t get rid of it. When asked why I no longer had it, I was told that it must have been misdiagnosed. Now if it was misdiagnosed that makes me angry since I was put on PPIs for the rest of my life to help control it so it wouldn’t get worse or develop into Esophageal Cancer, but it causes other side effects. I truly believe the changes I made healed my body.
Along with those improvements, my hormonal imbalances improved such that I no longer need to take NSAIDs every month. I do use essential oils to control the minor pain I sometimes still feel. I don’t think I have taken one Advil this entire year. That is huge.
I continually am working on my health. Learning more and feeling better. I do back slide. No health journey is a continual upward hill. I know that when I do and eat things I shouldn’t, I will experience some signs from my body not to do that. But that is all part of my journey. I just know that if I hadn’t taken control of my own health and start making changes 4+ years ago I would be on PPIs and feeling horrible. I believe I would even be worse off because I would still be creating an environment in my body to continue to deteriorate, so I would be feeling so much worse than I did back then.
My question to you is: are you experience some type of dyspepsia? Do you have some type of stomach or intestinal issues at least once a week? If so, isn’t it time to figure out what your body is trying to tell you? If you continue to let it go…If you continue to mask the symptoms with some type of drug…If you continue to treat your body the way you are…you are headed toward chronic illness. Our bodies are all different. Our genetics are different. The food we eat is different. Therefore, the problems all manifest in a different way.
Find a physician that will help you, (preferably a functional or integrative physician). Find a nurse practitioner. Find a health coach. Find someone to help you. Remember you are responsible for your own health. It is not someone else’s job to figure it out, but you can seek assistance. Now is the time to start paying attention to your body. Learn what it might be telling you. Make changes. Try and make adjustments. You can feel better. But you must take control because if you don’t, who will?
Finally if you know someone who experiences dyspepsia symptoms, send them to this post to read. Let them know there are things that can be changed in order to feel better and tackle the cause instead of the symptoms. Let others know that a feeling of something stuck in your throat can be a sign of GERD. We need to educate ourselves and others in order to improve our health.
Note: If you are on PPIs, please don’t stop taking them without talking to your doctor. Getting off the reliance of acid inhibitors or blockers is difficult and can cause discomfort and even pain. You may need to do it slowly as you make changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Note: I am not a physician and like everything on this blog, the information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is for informational purposes only. See my full disclaimer.