Among the many health issues that I have to deal with post Levaquin adverse reaction are gastro-intestinal issues. My gastro-intestinal issues have run the gamut from IBS symptoms to total food intolerances. For a very long time one of my major complaints was pain.
Not the burning pain associated with ulcers or IBS but generalized pain that was always located in the stomach area. It was if my stomach would get a “headache” that would last for several hours to several days. Sometimes, the pain could often be alleviated or lessened with a heating pad that was doubled up and placed right in the pit of my stomach.
For a long time the source of my pain eluded my gastroenterologist and me. I had over six endoscopes performed and the result was usually the same; mild gastritis usually in the fundal area of the stomach and sometimes in the duodenum. The doctor had me on a regimen of Prevacid™, which for the most part did not help the pain at all.
Enter the neurological damage. Everyone that deals with FQ toxicity for anytime knows that most victims have neurological damage. As a matter of fact, I rarely ever correspond with an FQ sufferer that does not have some sort neurological damage. Even the folks who initially have muscular-tendon issues usually always develop some sort of neurological symptoms.
Autonomic nervous system damage affects the gastro-intestinal tract. The symptoms of the damage can be varied and present themselves in a whole host of symptoms. One of the results of nervous system damage to the gastro-intestinal tract is gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is a complex term for delayed stomach emptying. Basically the food is held in the stomach longer than it should be. Gastroparesis can be caused by diabetes, side effects of medication, or other conditions that affect nerve signals to the brain. My case, and many other FQ victims, fall into the “other” category since the gastroparesis is caused by the autonomic nervous system damage done by the fluoroquinolones.
Gastroparesis is easy to diagnose with a noninvasive test call a “gastric emptying study”. This involves eating a small meal in a hospital setting with a radio-isotope in the food and tracking its progress through your body. The time it takes for the food to empty out of your stomach is calculated and the resulting delay is quantified. Gastroparesis can run the gamut from very mild to very severe and your doctor can explain the test results. The test itself is very safe. I know many FQ sufferers that have been diagnosed with gastroparesis this way.
One of the main symptoms of gastroparesis is pain. Relentless generalized pain in the stomach area. For a long time I suffered with this pain that would keep me up at night and double me up during the day. The pain would be flare regardless of bowel functioning. In other words, my intestines would be performing just fine and I would still have stomach pain.
Because gastroparesis causes the stomach to hold onto food too long, food that is hard to digest causes the pain. For instance, if I each something with a lot of heavy cheese, dense meat such as beef jerky, or too much fresh vegetables look out! I know that I am in for a bout of pain. The bout of pain can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It is as if the stomach gets “mad” and stays that way for while since mine will continue to hurt even though there is no food present.
Why the stomach generates the pain is still a mystery to me, but like I said before its cause is rooted in the autonomic system damage. I first thought that the pain was caused by gastritis but I now know it is not my case. Don’t get me wrong, I still get bouts of gastritis but that pain is much different from the other generalized pain and it is usually secondary to the gastroparesis pain.
There are medications that gastroenterologists prescribe for gastroparesis. Whether you choose to use these medications is up to you and your doctor. I chose to avoid the prescriptions medications because, first, many of them can have neurological side effects that can be serious and second, many only have temporary or limited benefit.
I have not cured my gastroparesis but I have learned to effectively manage it. After much experimentation, and pain, I have found a personal regimen that helps my gastroparesis tremendously when I have a flare up.
1. I limit that amount of hard-to-digest food that I eat during any given meal. So far, for me that is dense cheeses, dense meats, and too many fresh vegetables and beans. Obviously the amount and what type of food bothers you must come from experimentation. If I have a flare of gastroparesis I do not eat three full meals a day but instead spread the food out throughout the day similar to a hypoglycemic diet.
2. I use gamma oryzanol. Although this safe supplement is not a cure-all, it does seem to help my stomach in areas of gastritis and motility. This supplement has successfully been used in studies to help individuals with gastritis and it seems to work by enhancing stomach motility.
3. I use liquid magnesium. I normally place the liquid magnesium in a glass of fluid and drink it before I go to bed. If for some reason I have an attack of gastroparesis pain, especially in the middle of the night, I will make a magnesium mixture and drink it. It usually provides me with some instant relief. Magnesium, which is essential in over 300 bodily functions, can help soothe the stomach and ease nerves. I use magnesium regularly even when not suffering from gastro pain. Caution, too much magnesium can be toxic so discuss proper amounts with your trusted medical provider.
4. I use a product called Enzymatic Therapy, Acid-Ease, Digestion Formula. Acid-Ease contains Marshmallow (Althaea Officinalis) Root Extract 3.5:1, Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra) Bark, Pure Plant Enzymes (amylase, lipase, and cellulose) & Gamma-Oryzanol (from rice bran). I take two capsules of this product when I have a flare up which coats the digestive tract and contains gentle enzymes to east digestion.
5. I use a product called Garden of Life, Acid Defense. This excellent product is a powder that you mix with water or juice and drink. It helps neutralize and nourish your stomach. I only use this product before bed if I am having a flare. On a side note, for those who suffer from heartburn I have been told that this does a great job of safely relieve heartburn.
I have learned to manage my gastroparesis through much trial and error. I know that illness management is a very individual process and what works for one person will not work for another. It is possible to learn positive management techniques from each other that can be modified to suit our own condition. Have unexplained stomach pain? It could be gastroparesis.