One of my previous posts, “bad breath”, was so well received that I am emboldened to deal briefly with another important, if politically incorrect, topic; Constipation.
I have anemia, and take regular IRON, which produces constipation. A high fiber diet solved it. My bones have also been thinning over the years into Osteopenia, a deficiency of Calcium. I Increased my calcium intake with some CALCIUM citrate powder, and developed one of the worst episodes of Constipation I have ever had, in spite of my high fiber diet.
Stopping the Calcium leaves me with the osteopenia worry, but was a great relief. Many other medications can cause constipation. Ask your Pharmacist for a list.` Hypothyroidism, and a variety of autoimmune, intestinal and neurological conditions have constipation as a symptom.
As I struggled with something that should be automatic, I worried about possibly pushing out a hernia, ballooning out one of my colonic diverticula, or developing hemorrhoids. These are all complications of constipation, not to mention the big waste of time. Regularity is much to be desired.
If you have regular SLEEP and EXERCISE a low Calorie density, high fiber diet, and are not taking a lot of drugs and supplements, you most likely don’t have constipation. If you have constipation, you might consider examining your sleep, diet, exercise and medications. If you don’t want to change your habits and medication, try METAMUCIL and drink lots of WATER.
One of my nurses who was usually in good health developed chronic complaints. She felt tired all the time and had a variety of aches and pains. She has been going through menopause for a long time but this set of problems seem different. Then she broke her arm after sustaining a minor fall. An investigation was in order. I should order some tests, but which ones?
Anemia would explain the fatigue so a CBC was a no brainer. With the surprise fracture, I wanted to cast the net wider, so I ordered a comprehensive metabolic panel.
This is an automated test that was a good value for the amount of information provided, I thought.
Nobody was more surprised than I when the test provided results that were the key to her very rare diagnosis. Her serum CALCIUM was very high, and her alkaline phosphatase was also elevated.
Further evaluation showed her diagnosis to be PRIMARY HYPERPARATHYROIDISM.
Removal of her abnormal parathyroid gland was curative. I have been a big fan of the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel ever since.
The Panel of 14 tests includes:
Glucose – an essential test to check in Diabetes, Seizures and Coma.
Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, and CO2 and the associated Anion Gap – can be abnormal in a variety of accidents, and other conditions.
BUN and Creatinine – cleared by the kidneys, and become elevated in Renal, or Kidney conditions.
Calcium and alkaline phosphatase – reflect bone metabolism, and are sensitive to Vitamin D and parathyroid hormone, as in my nurses case.
Albumin and Globulin – important blood proteins. Globulins contain the important immunoglobulins. A variety of conditions will influence their values.
AST (SGOT) and ALT – elevated in liver disease
Type in “Comprehensive Metabolic Panel” in google, and choose from the variety of “hits” to get more information about this “ Sherlock Holmes’ Magnifying Glass” for Physicians.
I have been having Heartburn for more than 40 years. The cause of Heartburn is leakage of acid from the stomach, where tissues have evolved to tolerate the highly acidic conditions, into the esophagus, where they haven’t.
The young body has an efficient, functional gate, or sphincter, keeping the food, once swallowed into the stomach, from coming back up. As you eat, you chew your food well to aid digestion. Your taste buds, sensing chemicals in the delicious food, activate saliva.
The salivary enzymes start the digestion of the carbohydrates in the food. If you eat slowly enough, you may be able to appreciate the digestion of tasteless starch, like in bread, into sweet sugar, right in your mouth.
You then swallow the food, which slips past another gate, called the epiglottis, diverting the bolus of food past your windpipe. This gate sometimes does not shut tight, and you choke on the food or drink. The food is then conducted into the highly acidic environment of the stomach.
The stomach evolved to be an acidic, “fiery pit”, inhospitable to any bacteria that came in with the food, thus protecting the stomach from infection. In the old days, there were a lot of bacteria, and the acidity of the stomach was useful, and evolutionarily conserved.
These days, the “fiery pit” tends to be a problem. As you get older, the gate that keeps food in the stomach gets more floppy and relaxed, and allows food to come back up into the esophagus, and sometimes, most often at night when you would rather be sleeping, all the way up to your throat, and is inhaled into your windpipe and lungs in what is called “gastroesophageal reflux”, or GERD.
Even if the food, and acid, doesn’t make it all the way up, and stops at the esophagus, which has not evolved to tolerate acid, you will have “heart burn”. Of course it is not the heart that is burning, but the esophagus, which runs right past the back of the heart as it goes all the way from the throat to the stomach.
When I first developed Heartburn, all that was available was the flavored chalk, Calcium Carbonate, sold as Tums. It works right away, and is a source of Calcium, but can cause trouble, like kidney stones, if you take too much. The relief didn’t last long enough for me, and I had to take more in the middle of the night.
My next medicine was Xantac, a medication that blocks histamine from stimulating acid production in the stomach. The H2 blockers have recently been recalled because of NDMA contamination. I sometimes used H2 blockers like Xantac when my patients would get a bad allergic reaction. In such cases BOTH an H1 blocker like Benadryl, and an H2 blocker are called for.
Zantac was not strong enough for me, and I soon graduated to Prilosec,which directly blocks the secretion of acid in the stomach.
Prilosec was then very expensive, but now is available as the inexpensive GENERIC Medication, Omeprazole. It seems that no medication is without side effects.
Omeprazole, by reducing stomach acid, makes stomach and GI infections more likely, and interferes with the absorption of B12, and Calcium.
If you have had a lot of heartburn over a long period of time, you should check with a Gastroenterologist, who may scope you to rule out Barritt’s esophagus, which can lead to Cancer.
It is interesting that the antacid Tums in excess can cause too MUCH Calcium in the body, and can cause kidney stones and other kidney problems like MAS, and Omeprazole, by interfering with absorption can cause too LITTLE absorption of Calcium, leading to OSTEOPOROSIS.
The best rule is to take as low a dose of ANY medication as possible, preferably none, to understand the possible side effects, and compensate for them if you can.
Empowering Patients Through Education And Telemedicine