Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pancreatitis...and what I've learned/am learning

I ran into some health issues this winter, although it's not the first time I've experienced some of this. However, this is the first time it's ever sent me to the ER! Back in my mid to late 20's I suffered some terrible stomach pain and being young (as well as broke!) I tried to suffer through it. Doubled up in pain wasn't pleasant, but you tell yourself "this too shall pass". After the third spell of trying to suffer through I gave up and went to a doctor. Now mind you, no tests were done, blood work, ect. just symptoms related and I was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, given some medicine, told not to eat spicy food, or lift more than 5 pounds. The food script I could manage, the lifting I could not. I had two kids, some livestock, and was home through the week by myself while hubs worked in the city and only came home on weekends, but I did the best I could in trying to follow doctor's orders. I had several spells off and on over the next few years, some mild, some not so mild, but I took the medicine (which had no effect on it btw!) and just did the best I could.

Fast forward to about 25 years ago and our move to this area. Somewhere along the line I quit frying food, or at least fried it rarely. Fish still remained fried and on the occasions I could get my hands on shrimp, that also was fried, but most everything else was either grilled, baked, or crock-potted! One reason for this was because once I was back in the country I wanted to get back to some "old ways". I also had a sick child that nothing the doctors recommended seemed to be helping, so I started on my own search and research. I got into herbals, growing and using my own, back to eating  farm raised meat and eggs, canning my own produce, and just generally eating healthy. Guess what? My issues disappeared! I would rarely, if ever have a "stomach spell" as I came to call them and I'm talking few times in the course of many years for stomach or bowel either one. Now fast forward about 2 years ago.

I've gotten lazy in my older age!! Okay, maybe not so much lazy as I am just TIRED!! :) But the last couple of years I've taken on a little more work load that computes into hours after the regular job, making me later getting home, why fix supper just pick something up type of mind set. We have seriously eaten more fast food/pizza/premade junk in the last two years than we've consumed in our entire married lifetime and guess what??? Stomach spells returned with a vengeance!

I had a little sick stomach going into this past November, but it came and went..I blamed it on my sinus drainage. Then during our Christmas break from school I began to really become much in fact I couldn't eat. I literally lived on toast and water for a week! I thought I had the flu and it was just "hanging on". Back to work I go, still feeling under the weather and with my upper stomach starting to have some light pain. Long story short...I was at work when I had some extremely sharp pain and thought I was having a heart attack, which landed me in the ER. Blood work, x-rays, showed everything as fine...heart was good, pain was still there. I asked about gall bladder...welllll, ummm....this was bantered back and forth with no real answers being given so I went home and contacted my own doctor. After reviewing everything he sent me immediately to have a CT scan once again, with more blood work. The scan showed calcification on the pancreas which he believed was caused from chronic episodes...there was no hiatal hernia. My enzymes levels were way up as well as my white count. I then went for a HIDA scan to see if the gall bladder was causing the pancreatic problems...gall bladder was working as it should be.

Now then, most chronic pancreatitis is brought on by alcohol consumption...something I don't do. Some is genetic...could be possible? And some is idiopathic...meaning they just don't know why! Something I have learned and that is the genetic aspect tends to start in the early 20's...hmmm? My grandmother and my dad both suffered with "stomach" issues and again, back in the day when you didn't run to a doctor you treated yourself. I remember words like ulcers, bleeding ulcers, ect. but I don't think any of these were diagnosed, let alone CORRECTLY diagnosed! My grandmother also suffered a gall bladder rupture up in her older years and survived it at almost 80 years old and I have to wonder just how much of all this was tied to the pancreas. My dad drank and had spells grandmother did not and had spells now and then. Both of them drank buttermilk during these "spells" (think probiotics here!) to lesson the pain and get rid of it.

Hind sight is always 20/20 and I've been slowing adding things up. Stomach issues have always seemed to be a "Stevenson" trait and perhaps this is why! My sister has problems and was told years ago she had a spastic colon....maybe? My son also suffers with various stomach problems, including a bout of h pi lori with chronic Epstein Barr when he was younger that is possibly tied to a malfunctioning pancreas...I'm leaning toward genetics here!

With all this in mind I have done a major change of diet. I've thrown out soda completely (and I truly LOVED my Dr. Pepper!), nothing fried (which I rarely do anyway!) and NO FAST FOOD (miss those fries!!). I've cut my coffee intake way back and doing half-caff to wean myself off. I'm piling on the fresh veggies, especially the dark greens, fresh fruit (what I can afford!) and no red meat (at least not yet!). Turkey burger, chicken, baked fish (which I hate btw!!!) and pork loin are on my nightly menus. No vegetable fats (read: olive oil, red palm oil or real butter), farm raised eggs (which I already had), and hopefully full time raw milk (if I can get the supplier on the boot!). Water or herbal tea are now my drinks of choice and I'm also working on my intake of milk kefir (that's for another post!) for the probiotics. I intend to only allow what I make that I can control to pass my lips and it's not near as hard as it may seem! I've already discovered an improvement in my bowel, as well as the loss of about 5 lbs. and so far the stomach is pain, no nauseousness! I was never a "big" eater, but I keep my portions smaller than my normal and snibble in between times when I can.

Will this heal my pancreas with no future problems involved? I don't know...what I do know is that it will certainly take a lot of strain off of my already problematic one and common sense tells me that will only help toward the goal of healing. I continue to read and research and try new things in the dietary department. Since I like to cook anyway, playing with new recipes has actually been fun for me! Including natural enzymes means mine won't have to work so hard to produce it's own and again...that has to be beneficial. Where it all will end I have no clue, hopefully many years down the road when the body just wears out naturally, but having chronic pancreatitis also makes you a candidate for pancreatic cancer and I want to do everything I can to avoid that health issue if at all possible.'s to happy eating!! :)


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