First of all I’d like to dedicate this post to these two Nobel Prize winners, who carried out the research that resulted in an effective course of treatment for the condition I’m going to describe, and who may even have saved my life and that of untold others.
For reasons I’ll go into at another time, it was difficult for me to sit down and eat a meal normally until I was in my mid-twenties. Since then I’ve never had a proper, regular diet, and often had to rely on supplements. Three or four years ago my stomach started feeling terrible. Bloated, gassy, all that stuff. I thought it might have something to do with drinking beer so I stopped that for a while. I got back into exercising, started taking probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements and it got better for a while but before long the symptoms came back.
I would also feel very acid-y after eating certain types of food. I cut them out. I even managed to quit smoking (for a while). Again my stomach gradually started feeling better, and again the symptoms returned. I cut out dairy products. The symptoms subsided and then returned, often dragging in their mates with them. Heartburn. Acid reflux.
My energy levels got worse. I was prone to getting colds & flu. My GP did some tests. He gave me a sick cert for gastritis. I rested up and took some proton-pump inhibitors. The first one didn’t work, the second one was a lot better. It definitely gave some relief, but the symptoms started gradually creeping back in again. The GP did some more tests. A stool sample to confirm whether or not I had the beginnings of an ulcer, or perhaps a helicobacter pylori infection.
The test was negative for h. pylori. He referred me for an endoscopy. I dreaded it, but after a conversation with someone who’d had the same problems as me, I decided it was time to bite the bullet. Or rather, to swallow the plastic tube with the camera and the biopsy tweezers in it. I brought along a friend for moral support.
Even though I was dreading the procedure I opted not to take the sedative. The endoscopy wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience, but it was over quickly. I sat up and celebrated with a long satisfying burp. The doctor came in for a chat and confirmed that I actually did have helicobacter, and some kind of inflammation that was going to turn into an ulcer (and maybe even worse) if it wasn’t zapped.
That was just over two weeks ago. As I write I’m in the middle of a serious course of medication: a proton pump inhibitor (pantoprazole), and two antibiotics (amoxycillin and clarythromycin). A total of eight pills a day.
There have been some minor side effects. A bit of dizziness, itching and strange memory lapses. Lowering of libido and general weakness, which has kind of interfered with my current (light) exercise regimen.
I asked the specialist if it was okay to drink alcohol while taking these. He said it was okay in moderation. Not being from this area, he obviously didn’t realise that what’s considered ‘moderate drinking’ here is probably pathological drinking in the rest of the world. I was planning to cut out drinking beer for the duration of the treatment anyway. No great loss. I had brief recourse to certain (ahem) herbal supplements of questionable legality but once those ran out I kind of wanted to stay clear-headed for the duration.
I also had some probiotic pills to balance out the bacteria but after a day or two it wasn’t really working out. They didn’t interact well with the pantoprazole and I figure it was better to leave the acidophilus/lactobacillus until after the treatment, when they can go back in and replace the good bacteria that have been flushed out along with the pathogens.
Thursday night I went out to a gig. Earlier I’d consulted with the doc and he said it was okay to have a drink as long as it was no more than 4 units, which is 2 pints of Guinness in anybody’s money. It was a good night but I found I couldn’t even finish a pint of beer. I felt a bit wobbly and had to get a taxi home. It was by no means an unpleasant sensation, but one I don’t care to experience again. Cheap thrills!
I’ll be finished on the antibiotics in a couple of days, and then two more weeks of the pantoprazole. At the moment I’m feeling a bit better. That sensation of carrying a bowling ball strapped to my gut that I’ve felt for the past couple of years seems to be gradually abating. I’m still kind of weak and woozy but I guess that means the stuff is working.
The way I see it, I’ll still be “in recovery” for the next month or two. Bringing back exercise, trying to get back to normal eating and maybe, after a few weeks, the occasional pint or two. Then, hopefully, these pathogens in my gut that have made my life miserable for the last few years will be gone for good.
My blogging has been intermittent of late, chiefly because I’ve had nothing much to write about. I’ve got a lot of information about this kind of treatment online, and read plenty of accounts of similar experiences. Now I’m writing this so that anyone curious can follow the tags and read about my own experience of the ‘triple treatment’ usually prescribed for h. pylori infections. This course of treatment is relatively new and it doesn’t always work for everybody.
When I get a chance I’ll post some more relevant links. If anyone else arrives here after searching for info about this treatment, they’re welcome to leave a comment and discuss their own experiences.
One is not out of the woods yet. To be continued…