It all started right after I returned to England from my seminary year in Eretz Yisrael. No sooner had I landed than my stomachaches began; it seemed like I had brought them home with me. At first, it was just annoying. I’d eat and my stomach would hurt. But I was at a busy and exciting stage in my life, just starting my first job. So I simply got used to it.
I visited my regular doctor and she ran some blood tests. But everything came out fine. So while I didn’t think there was anything majorly wrong with me, I still wanted to do something about my stomachaches if I could.
As the stomachaches continued, it became very annoying to be repeatedly told that what I was experiencing was the result of stress. That’s what they always tell teenagers! After all, we’re basically young and healthy, and teenage health issues are often related to stress because of the changes in our lives as we shift from being kids to adults.
I tried to get opinions from two or three more doctors after my general practitioner couldn’t offer me any guidance. But despite undergoing additional tests, everyone agreed that everything looked normal.
It was time to see a specialist. My next step was to be seen by a gastroenterologist. Maybe I had developed a food intolerance. That’s pretty common, right? He ran all kinds of tests, but there didn’t seem to be any triggers.
Whenever you take any kind of medical test, there’s always some nervousness before receiving the results. So every time the results came back clear, as much as my parents and I wanted to find what was making my stomach hurt, we also felt relief that the problem wasn’t whatever big thing I’d just been tested for.
At a subsequent visit, when yet another round of tests showed nothing abnormal, the gastroenterologist put an endoscope down my throat to see what was going on inside. It was then that I received the first validation that something was wrong. He could see that the inside of my stomach was irritated and there was some kind of infection. He took a sample of some tissue and was able to rule out celiac disease, but he didn’t know the source of the irritation and just called it IBS, irritable bowel syndrome. He gave me some antacids to help with my reflux and sent me home.
People who suffer from acid reflux have too much stomach acid, and antacids are supposed to be a simple solution. I was frequently waking up at night choking on the reflux, and the antacids definitely helped with that in the beginning. But they didn’t do much for the stomach pain, and after a while they stopped helping with the reflux too. I went back to the doctor, and he gave me a bigger dose. I went from 20 milligrams to 40 milligrams, and when that stopped working, I found a new doctor.
“Forty milligrams?” he asked. “That’s not enough.” He insisted that I take 160 milligrams!
That helped for a little while longer, but even that eventually stopped working. And whenever an increased dosage stopped working the reflux would also get worse, leaving a really bad taste in my mouth. I was chewing gum and brushing my teeth all day long to get rid of it. And my stomachaches weren’t getting any better.