Stomach Issues
July 11, 2004 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Frusterating condition filter, for the past say, 3 weeks I've had these weird stomach problems. Been to the doctor, prescribed Zantac, sort of helped but now not anymore, going again within the next few days. I'm looking more of the "Yeah I had that, no big deal", because diagnosing oneself by typing in symptoms is scaring the hell out of me.

Ok well about three weeks ago I would get this sick feeling in the afternoon. I could only describe it as a "nervous stomach". It would happen at the end of the work day so I shrugged it off as being tired or staring at the computer too long. Then it began to hit me during my morning class and it got to the point where I had to take off work and lie down. I never had to throw up but had a bad nervous stomach.

So I called the doctor and he said that it was probably stress related acid reflux and prescribed Zantac. He said to call back if it's not better in two weeks. I started taking it and at the end of the first week things started to feel better, to the point of being almost back to normal (way, way above the having to lay down and stay home). Okay so this weekend I had to do a one day business trip thing and at the same time I was planning this, my teacher decides that several questions on my test I answered in a way that was "too advanced for what I should know" and counted me wrong, even though the answer itself was right the method was apparently not. The point I'm making is that during the trip it started to go bad again and when I got back I woke up around 5 with that "Oh shit going to puke" feeling and ran to the bathroom. Try as I might nothing could come up. The Maalox kicked in and I made it back to bed. Now I'm sitting here, after eating only one meal today and feeling full, not hungry at all. It also feels as if there's a lump in the back of my throat, kind of. Not like a real lump but just a "full lump".

I also have this terrible "can't belch but I feel as if I have to, then I'll belch for a while and it'll feel better" thing going on.

The reason I'm so detailed is because the symptoms oddly changed. Except for the whole "not feeling like I have to eat thing" I'm way better than when I had to go see the doctor. Anyone else experience this? What should I expect when I go to the doctor (the Internet goes on about sending a tube down my throat, hospital visits to test acidity all kinds of stuff that I'd rather not to do)? Anyone else want to help me out by saying that I'm just under a lot of stress and that in a month I'll be fine? The correlation between this and stress is strong, but I'm afraid that it may be coincidental.
posted by geoff. to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Response by poster: Or possibly I had an ulcer and the Zantac is curing it and this is to be expected? I have had absolutely not "burning chest pain" associated with this and haven't had anything like this ever before. This is what's worrying an Internet MD like myself.

And I'll reiterate that nothing here will be taken as medical advice blah blah blah, just something I may mention to my doctor and help settle my nerves in the meantime.
posted by geoff. at 5:12 PM on July 11, 2004

You should go to another doctor. Zantac is one of the more useless drugs I've ever tried (it's over the counter in Canada). It does nothing for me when I have stomach problems. My doctor gives me Nexium, which works perfectly--stops the production of stomach acid for about 18 hours. I would have serious doubts about any doctor who recommended Zantac for symptoms as severe as you're describing.
posted by dobbs at 5:15 PM on July 11, 2004

You might find some of the responses in my pre-Nexium thread to be useful.
posted by dobbs at 5:21 PM on July 11, 2004

I had two doctors prescribe me Nexium and some other proton-pump inhibiting super antacid, totally misreading my condition.

If the doctors you are seeing are interested in running tests, and you can afford them, I'd take them up on it. For a mystery condition, gathering data and making a diagnosis seems like a much better course of action than just making a guess off of patient symptom descriptions.

I second the get a second opinion opinion, though.
posted by weston at 5:25 PM on July 11, 2004

I've had symptoms similar to yours, and I found that if I take fiber pills right after every meal, they don't happen.

You should definitely go to another doctor (if you can), stomach problems usually have many different possible causes, so the more opinions you can get, the better.
posted by cmonkey at 5:29 PM on July 11, 2004

A friend of mine was diagnosed with acid indigestion at the emergency room. Three months later they finally figured out he'd had a heart attack. He wasn't even forty yet.

Go to a doc and FIND OUT what this is. (Check your gall bladder while you are at it. One of my symptoms of that was feeling like I had to belch and being totally unable to.)
posted by konolia at 6:17 PM on July 11, 2004

Man, this sounds familiar. My wife had many of the same symptoms you describe and went down a similar path. Zantac didn't work for her but nexium did. She was on it for perhaps a month and having no symptoms. Now the doctor is taking her off it, at the moment she is at every other day. Basically, trying to find out if it was a temporary condition or if there is something more permanent. If she stops taking nexium and has no symptoms then they're going to call her fine.

It probably would not have taken this long to diagnose (there was 3 or 4 weeks of badness before she went to a doctor), but, well, we all thought she was pregnant (she wasn't). She lost a lot of weight and is still putting it back on (she needs it).

If possible, get a second opinion, get examined more closely, get blood tests done, whatever. I don't know what kind of doctor you went to but see a GI specialist if possible.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:44 PM on July 11, 2004

Hiatal hernia?
posted by pieoverdone at 8:29 PM on July 11, 2004

Your symptoms sound like they might be anxiety-related. I've dealt with severe anxiety/anxiety attacks my entire life, and I've experienced symptoms such as you've mentioned. Even when I wasn't necessarily feeling overwhelmed mentally, I would often get the lump in the throat, the nausea with vomiting, the nervous stomach, etc. Anxiety and stress can manifest in the body in strong, unpredictable ways, and what you're describing sounds like similar.

Either way, you should definitely rule out any other medical causes, but since your symptoms jump around and morph, I would pin it on stress. While you're waiting to go to the doctor, you might want to try purifying your diet as much as possible (no processed/packaged/junk food; fruits, veggies, lots of water, etc.) and getting at least 20 minutes of excercise (just walking would be fine) a day. When I was at my most stressed and scared out of mind because I was experiencing the symptoms you've described, I found the diet and excercise really helped to calm my nerves and balance my body. (Plus, getting your mind to focus on something else -- like planning meals and excercise times -- is a nice distraction.)

Also, it doesn't sound like you have ulcer symptoms, but if you do think you might have one, it can be diagnosed without the scary tube down the throat, or at least mine was.

I hope you start to feel better soon.
posted by Zosia Blue at 8:43 PM on July 11, 2004

er, that should be nausea WITHOUT vomiting.
posted by Zosia Blue at 8:45 PM on July 11, 2004

Let me second konolia's gall bladder guess. I am not a doctor, but I had a bum gall bladder and the first symptom was feeling as if I needed to belch but being unable to do so. Typically with gall bladder problems, though, the pain is so intense you seek an immediate remedy. However, as I understand it, a sphincter muscle on one's gall bladder can "fail mildly," releasing bile into the diaphragm and causing a varying amount of what feels like gastrointestinal pain depending upon how much bile is released. If the gall bladder fails all the way or develops a stone, though, you'll know it by the hellacious hurt.

It's probably not likely, but I would ask the doc to rule it out.
posted by samuelad at 9:09 PM on July 11, 2004

Zantac is a good drug. The fact it is over-the-counter suggests its rather safe, not that its ineffective. It was prescription for years before this. Neither Zantac nor any other "superantacid" will "cure" ulcers (but will reduce the symptoms).

Another over-the-counter remedy is a good thing to try, and it is strange to me this doctor you saw didn't recommend it WITH the Zantac. That is Gaviscon tablets. These are chewed well and MUST be taken with water. They are especially effective in getting that burp out. Buy those individually wraped, not the bottle. They get stale.

You may also wish to consider your use of coffee. The all day cup-at-your-elbow habit simply is incompatible with cranky stomach.
posted by Goofyy at 10:56 PM on July 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

Here's my two cents regarding related experiences/symptoms; of course, I second everyone's suggestion to press your doctor for more info (and/or to see a gastroenterologist ASAP).

- My frequent moderate-to-severe nausea/stomachache (for several years) has largely disappeared in the past year after a) I gave up coffee, b) used therapy/yoga specifically to reduce my near-constant state of low-level anxiety, and c) started to take fiber supplements every morning and night. My gastro thinks I still probably have a mild tendency towards IBS, but those three things have contributed to about a 90% improvement. (Just giving up the coffee had pretty dramatic results within a week.)

- A lump in the throat can also be indicative of a swollen thyroid or lump on the thryoid itself (usually benign). Thyroid problems can also come with a host of digestive problems, though the degree stomach distress you're describing does sound unlikely to be thyroid-related.

- Extreme worst-case-scenario (related to Konolia's anecdote above): aortic anyeurisms and dissections can also be misdiagnosed as acid indigestion. It's extremely unlikely that you have a aortic dissection, given how long you've actually lived with this; I say it more to stress that, given the fact you haven't gotten much relief from the Zantac, you want your doctor doing some legwork to get a proper diagnosis for you -- even if this means running some tests to rule out all the serious things it probably isn't.

Good luck. I hope you feel better soon!
posted by scody at 12:14 AM on July 12, 2004 [1 favorite]

Of course you should see a doc to rule out any other problems, but to second what Zosia Blue said, this could very well be anxiety-related. Anxiety disorders can be difficult to track down, as they can be brought about by stressful situations, a chemical imbalance, or a combination of both. In any case if you don't get a quick answer, be patient.

Also, this sounds similar to something my wife went through last year. It was so worrisome for her that I took her to the emergency room. I should note that she's not wussie at all when it comes to medical things, and would prefer to duct tape her arm back on if it was falling off rather than see a doc. Anyway, they ran a bunch of tests which came back negative and speculated it was a wicked bad case of indigestion. The meds she was prescribed didn't help a whole bunch, but it seemed to clear up after a couple of weeks. The ER doc applauded her decision to get immediate attention, as these types of symptoms can be indicators of heart problems.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:10 AM on July 12, 2004

Missed this thread, but also research Irritable Bowel Syndrome and it's affiliated conditions...
posted by baylink at 5:54 PM on July 17, 2004

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