Monday, July 18, 2011

In Which I Talk about Gastroparesis

So remember all those medical problems I've been having? It all started last June. I was in the ER last year four times with tachychardia, which the doctors attributed to acid reflux, which they blamed on anxiety. I started seeing a nutritionist because I lost so much weight (all told: 30 pounds), went to a cardiologist (wore a heart monitor twice, and was given beta blockers which I never took), saw my family doctor a few times between ER visits (and was put on a proton pump inhibitor for the reflux), started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist (who put me on anxiety medication), and then finally started seeing a gastroenterologist, who gave me an endoscopy and a gastric emptying scan. I changed my diet once I was diagnosed with acid reflux, and changed it back (partly, anyway) when I went on meds. All told, it's been 13 months, lots of tests and medications (most of which I haven't even touched), and A LOT of time spent in waiting rooms.

The results of all of my tests were exactly the same: everything is fine, no one knows what the problem is, here's a possible medication to help, go see another doctor... until the gastric emptying scan. My doctor called me a week and a half ago and said, "The results from your gastric emptying scan were very, very abnormal. It takes you 239 minutes to digest food, and it takes a normal person 90-120 minutes. You'll have to come in for another appointment - we'll meet and discuss a specific diet for you, as well as medication options."

I was floored. I wasn't expecting to hear that. I had assumed we'd gotten to the bottom of the problem - I was stressed out and anxious, and it was messing with my digestive system, and dealing with my anxiety would get rid of my acid reflux. But instead, it was something completely different - gastroparesis is ideopathic, which basically just means that doctors have no idea what causes it.

Anyway, I'll back up a little here - after I got off the phone with my doctor, I called his front desk to make an appointment. The soonest he can see me is September 9th. Oi vey! So I went online and did some searching on Google, which was how I found out more details about gastroparesis - which is actually what my nutritionist has thought I've had all along. So I looked at all the dietary restrictions and decided I'd start as soon as possible. I had an appointment coming up with my nutritionist anyway, so I got a head start on everything.

By the time I met with my nutritionist, I was already feeling better. Much of the problem was being caused by two things: foods I was eating that were high in fat (ice cream, chocolate, regular hamburgers, etc) and foods that were high in fiber (fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and things like nuts and granola). Well, you'll never be able to guess what most of my diet was before this all happened. Let me give you a list:

breakfast - yogurt with granola and a banana
lunch - some sort of sandwich (usually with cheese) and some trail mix that I make myself (almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, wasabi soybeans, and dried cranberries)
dinner - usually something breaded (chicken fingers and tater tots) or high in fat (hamburgers or hot dogs) with a vegetable (usually broccoli)
dessert - ice cream or something equally fattening

Now, in all fairness, I did cut out a lot of high-fat foods - I don't eat cheesecake at all anymore, and I try to avoid stuff that's excessively high in fat. But I didn't realize that so many things I was eating - like fruits, vegetables, and nuts - were hurting me! It's no wonder I was always in pain and bloated. Here I was thinking that I was helping my acid reflux, when all I was doing was making it worse!

On Friday, armed with my new list from my nutritionist, I went to the grocery store to pick up all Nicole-friendly foods. The key is that the foods must be 5g of fat or less and 4g of fiber or less. One of the most difficult things to find was butter, because even some of the low fat sticks and the 'I can't believe it's not' stuff was high in fat. It was also tough finding anything to eat sandwiches on that isn't just straight up white bread (which I don't mind). So, now, my diet has changed considerably:

breakfast - smoothie (Starbucks Vivannos, but I just got a blender today, so I'm going to start making my own!)
snack - crackers or yogurt, or crackers and yogurt
lunch - sandwich (today it was tuna fish with low fat mayonnaise on a bagel flat or thin or whatever they're called)
snack - crackers or yogurt, or crackers and yogurt, or crackers and a Laughing Cow wedge
dinner - rice with frozen veggies, or stir fry I make myself, or lean burgers with baked french fries, or pasta, or baked chicken (just made some awesome baked chicken the other night!)
snack - Skinny Cow

Let me just say that Skinny Cow stuff is AMAZING. I bought the cookies 'n cream ice cream sandwiches, and holy CRAP. They're delicious! They're low in fat, fiber, and calories, and they taste like heaven. They're especially awesome in this hot hot heat!

So, the goal right now is to stick to this new diet and see how everything works out. After a month doing this, hopefully we'll be able to tell whether or not this is really what I have, and if it's helping the problem. My nutritionist thinks that I lost all the weight because my body wasn't digesting the food and I wasn't getting the nutrients, so this should stop my weight loss, which has still been going down. And I'm trying to get in some regular exercise to regulate everything - I just bought Just Dance for the Wii, which I blame on my sister, since I was playing the sequel to it at her house. It's SO fun!

So that's my update! Lots more is going on, but I wanted to write about all that health stuff. If anyone wants to see a copy of my diet, feel free to email me or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter or just leave a comment here and I'd be glad to share it. The one majorly bad thing is that I can't have popcorn, which is like on my top 5 list of favorite foods! But it's just too hard for my body to break it down, and it explains why I've been having such horrible pain every time I eat it. So looks like reduced fat Cheez-Its at the movie theater for me!

Hopefully more tomorrow. Much turtle love <3


GHill said...

Nik. That is just crazy but glad your are doing better. If I find a decent low fat cheese I will be sure to let you know. Frigio light string cheese isn't bad though. Do u eat Chobani? Those are my favorite. Nature valley fruit and nut are low in fat but those damn sweet and salty might kill ya. Hang in there. I will never understand why we have to wait months to see specialists. Its nuts!

the nicole kline experience said...

I haven't had Chobani! I usually just get whatever yogurt is on sale at Superfresh. I will keep a lookout for it though, for sure! The Laughing Cow cheese is actually pretty good - I'm enjoying that and the Skinny Cow ice cream, too! Haha. I might be getting an earlier appt with my doc so I'll let you know!