Symptoms: Know When to Walk Away or When to Run.

Do you have symptoms for which you do not know the underlying cause? Do not ignore them.

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run.
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done.”

The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

I met Kenny Rogers in 2007 at the USC Aiken Convocation Center.  He was the star of the opening concert which was held to celebrate the long process of developing and then building this facility.  I was directly responsible for the bid process that concluded in obtaining our management company for the building.  The “dealin’ was done” on my part of the operation of that facility that night.  

Or so I thought.

I started to “count my money while sitting at the table”.  I thought all of my problems were over after that night.   Because I also had supervisory and budgetary responsibility for the management contract, some of my problems were just beginning.  I won’t recount those problems in this article, just know that there were some huge issues that would occur in future months and years.  

Health Problems and Gambling

I also assumed all of my health problems were over in mid-2008 when I discovered food sensitivities were the primary cause of my pain. Instead this was just the start of a healing process. I went to many different practitioners over the years and had many different treatments.  I eliminated many different foods and took multiple different supplements.  It all increasingly began working to reduce symptoms and improve my health.

Until it did not work any more. 

This winter I began having intestinal pains on a regular basis.  I also had alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea over the course of each week.  After most meals I felt bloated and my stomach was huge, even though I had only eaten a small amount of food.  Something was wrong and I could no longer ignore it. 

God designed our bodies in a magnificent way so that when it is working perfectly there are no symptoms. We are not supposed to have headaches or intestinal pains.  Constipation or diarrhea, bloating or gas should be rare occurrences. We are designed to feel some hunger as a signal to eat. Our body should also have a feeling of slight fullness after a meal as a signal to stop eating.  When we are eating the proper amounts and types of foods for our bodies, our weight should be in the normal range.  

Any physical symptom other than slight hunger before meals and fullness afterwards is a signal that something is wrong.  Likewise, any blood markers that are outside the normal range are also signals that something is wrong.  

Do Not Ignore Symptoms

Many people ignore the symptoms that they have, especially if they are minor, for years.  Culture and media encourages us to take Tylenol or Advil for a headache or body aches.  Many people consume Tums, Malox, or Prilosec on a daily basis to quell their acid reflux symptoms.  Instead, I encourage people to ask why they are having symptoms.  What has happened in the body to be causing symptoms? 

If you have a cold or minor sore throat, you will have symptoms that will go away after a week or so without your doing anything.  Likewise, if you eat a meal and occasionally have some intestinal symptoms, that is also not a problem.  But any symptoms that continue on a regular basis, especially if it is daily, are your body’s signal to you to “run”.  

Find the underlying cause of the symptom.  Do not mask it with medications.

My husband’s symptoms

Several months ago my husband began having a number of intestinal symptoms.  He felt fullness and sometimes pain in his upper abdomen. He had occasional acid reflux. After these continued for a few months I encouraged him to go to the doctor.  After running a number of tests, including both lower and upper GI scopes, the doctor determined that he had Barrett’s Esophagus with high grade dysplasia. 

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that causes a wearing away of the esophageal lining.  Doctors believe that it is caused after a long period of acid reflux, although most people with acid reflux do not progress to Barrett’s. In some people the cells change to be precancerous and, if ignored, it can eventually progress to esophageal cancer. 

We are so thankful that we did not ignore these symptoms.  We have an acquaintance who did not realize that he had esophageal cancer.  Once it was finally diagnosed, he died within two weeks.  His death happened just as we found out that my husband had the precancerous cells, so we were understandably extra shaken.  

He is now being treated at MUSC and they have removed the Barrett’s tissue via an ablation procedure. He will have to go every three months and have an endoscopy and further ablation and biopsies as needed.  With this vigilant monitoring and treatment it is unlikely that cancer will occur in him. 

 We praise God that his doctor found this condition.  Many times doctors just prescribe acid reducing medications to patients without having an endoscopy or discovering the underlying cause. 

My Symptoms and Diagnosis

As I continued having intestinal symptoms I did research and also went to the doctor.  After a number of tests, the doctors found no significant problems.  I remembered that I had an intestinal infection several months prior to my symptoms starting. I assume it could have been food poisoning, although I am still not sure.  From my research I learned that as many as 80% of people with IBS (which I have) also have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth(SIBO).  This often occurs as a residual of a short term infection. 

I had SIBO.  Fortunately, SIBO can be treated with anti-bacterial prescription drugs.  SIBO can also be treated with anti-microbial herbal products.  I have finished treatment with the herbal products and feel 95% better.  There are also recommended temporary dietary changes, especially eliminating certain carbohydrates which feed the bacteria.  I am continuing with this diet and am confident I will soon be 100%.  

What should you do?

Do you have any continuing symptoms for which you do not know the underlying cause?  Do not ignore them.  Investigate them with competent medical professionals and do not stop until you discover the cause.  Then treat the cause to heal it.  

In the words of Kenny Rogers, “know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

If you need help in identifying the diet or lifestyle changes that you may need to implement to handle your symptoms, please contact me for a free 20-minute nutrition consultation.

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