A Gnawing Feeling In My Stomach
Of late, I have overwhelmingly been experiencing this. It feels a bit better when I am curled up into a ball, but that's hardly conducive to getting work done. It's like being hungry because it feels empty like that, but I'm aware that it's not hunger.
From past experience I know it's stress, although why it's chosen to suddenly manifest itself so strongly in the last couple of days, I'm not sure - it's not due to any sudden change in situation. While I've got some things on the back burner that niggle away, I'm not spending a lot of unproductive time dwelling on them or worrying about them, yet I find myself reverting back to habits that I have when under extreme stress. That's been going on for at least a month: eating badly, feeling dead tired, grinding my teeth at night (I've had my front teeth fixed three times in the last year because of that and gag when I wear a mouthguard at night), irrationally feeling compelled to stay up late but doing nothing, buying comfort stuff I don't need or that's silly (like celeb gossip magazines or makeup items or treats), procrastinating etc. This stomach thing is just the clincher.
Does anyone have some ideas for how you overcome those feelings? Fortunately, I do have people to talk about that kind of stuff with, so it's not just boiling around inside with no way to get out. I know some say exercise is a great stress reliever, but I find myself overwhelmed by lethargy and feelings of restlessness that keep me from really settling into anything or accomplishing much. I've got the equipment I need right there, and my clothes are not fitting me the way they should, but I still can't seem to get going. I even understand in my mind that it is important to do what you are dreading without waiting to feel like doing it and then the feelings will come, but I still don't take action.
It kind of scares me because by nature I'm fairly optimistic and happy. I still feel that way in my head, but my body is responding differently. I don't know why it's just gotten worse in the last while and that bothers me even more. My day to day life is about as stress free as it could be, I have supportive people all around me, I'm doing stuff that I enjoy and think is valuable, I've got a decent social life and overall I'd say I'm happy. The work I'm doing does make me spend a lot of time thinking about problems that have big implications (for my career and for the future of our society) and no easy answers. That also keeps looping my thoughts back to my own family members and other people I am close to who are not doing well right now, but I think that sort of thing is mostly under control mentally.
In any case, I need to find some way to break out of these patterns as well as the pain of a sore stomach that feels like something is trying to bore a hole in it. If any of you have ideas, they'd be most welcome.
First the stomach issue: It could easily be a mild case of gastritis (overproduction of gastric acid leading to irritated stomach lining). Gastritis can lead to ulcers if untreated; but it can also just become a minor chronic condition and leave your stomach vaguely irritable and even painful for years on end. You mentioned two symptoms that often come with gastritis: a change in eating habits and buying/eating treats. Gastritis tends to be worst when the stomach is empty--the gastric acid eats at the stomach lining. So when you have gastritis there's a tendency to snack and/or eat soothing foods to fill the stomach and soak up the extra acid. Trouble is, you end up snacking all the time with a focus on bready foods (leading to weight gain) or dairy products (acid & lactose can mean more stomach distress later on in the day or night).
As for causes: Stress can often help bring on gastritis. Stress stimulates stomach acid, and stomach acid gnaws at the stomach lining. But you can also get gastritis without experiencing a lot of stress. Some people just inherit genes for tender stomachs and/or high acid production. And a lot of it has to do with age: many people's digestive systems tend to get increasingly touchy with age (i.e., after your 20s).
Anyway, you should check with a doctor. (I'm not a physician, by the way.) Probably, before ordering a bank of rather gross and distressing stomach tests to measure acid production, he'll suggest taking antacids (Tums, Rolaids, or liquid antacids with aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide, like Mylanta or Maalox) and H2-receptor-blockers or PPIs (Zantac, Pepsid, Nexium, Prilosec, etc.) to see if they help calm the stomach upset. Antacids soak up gastric acid and tend to work fast but wear off quickly (distress returns in half an hour or an hour). PPIs & H2-receptor-blockers actually shut off acid production at the source and tend to go to work slowly (they take 45 minutes or an hour to kick in) but stay effective for 6-8 hours. Personally, I take 150 mg of Ranitidine (generic equivalent of Zantac) when my stomach is off. All of this stuff is over-the-counter, in case you want to check it out yourself. If you get relief from the OTC stuff, the doctor will likely put you on a regimen of daily PPIs/H2-receptor-blockers for 6 months or so to tame acid production and help your stomach lining heal up a bit. (Though once you have gastritis, you'll always remain prone to it. It's one of those things about getting older.) At the very least he'll probably tell you to take a pill before bed so that you sleep well and don't have discomfort during the night.
But definitely check with a doctor at some point and describe to him the discomfort, tell him what medications you're taking for it (see above), and tell him whether the medications have helped. He'll want to know all of that in order to diagnose whether it's just general gastritis or possibly something more sinister.
As for the vague feelings of lethargy and nerves: Yeah, some of that could be tied to an irritated stomach and/or gastritis, especially if stomach upsets are interfering with your sleep--that's common with gastritis.
Aside from that, if you can't pin down a good cause for your lethargy and nerves then you may want to inventory your life or something. I don't know how old you are or anything about your station in life, i.e., what kinds of daily responsibilities you have. But sometimes we fill our days with lots of petty obligations and responsibilities and increasingly feel boxed into a life that we're really not enjoying much. Lethargy and nerves can be a good warning symptom for that kind of situation.
Solutions could be simple like getting a new hobby or other outlet, or more complex like therapy or redesigning your life. Just as food for thought, try reading something like "Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life" by Julie Morgenstern or "Get a Life That Doesn't Suck" by Michelle DeAngelis. Morgenstern's book, in particular, claims that 80 percent of our "stuff" (belongings, obligations, worries, etc.) can simply be chucked out with the trash, leaving room for new initiatives and projects and people in our lives.
Again, that last suggestion is just food for thought. Bouts of lethargy and nerves can be telling you that your life has gotten out of balance or that the life you constructed wasn't really the life you wanted. So do some research--there are plenty of self-help books on the market about redesigning your life/ambitions/goals, etc.
Last edited by RDF; 10-30-2010 at 06:14 AM.
Reason: Inserted some additional info/corrections
Good to know about the gastritis thing - I think it's quite clearly stress related as my stomach is the first thing to be affected in this way every time major things have happened in the past. I've never tried antacids though. That's probably something worth investigating. Are there any foods that seem to neutralize an overly acidic stomach? I do tend to eat dairy when I'm stressed as well as Coke and other sugary stuff. After not eating much fat for several years, I don't seem to tolerate it that well, so it's less appealing than it once was.
I'm 34 and quite happy with my station in life. I'm not particularly overburdened by junky stuff and I have a supportive family and people around me. I like the kind of work I do. I'm fairly sure I know what the overarching issues are, but they are not going to go away soon, nor is there anything I can do to fix them. I've tried to channel my concerns and my energies into into productive pursuits that can help other people so I think those are being coped with as well as can be hoped for.
Therefore, it's mostly that my body won't ignore what's going on with people that I care about but do not live close to and do not have the power to change their situations. I cannot completely disengage as there are children involved and it is important that there be some kind of relationship there for them to come back to. It's just that every time we talk or I write about the issues that are related (one of my main jobs this year!), it stirs up a lot of those things all over again.
Okay, that all sounds perfectly reasonable.
It may be that you've been living with a certain amount of background stress and managing it okay. But as you get older, it starts to take a toll on your body--34 years old is just about the perfect age for these cumulative sorts of things to start showing up as medical problems. And then once your stomach starts going to hell, it affects your life and outlook in a variety of ways--difficulty sleeping, weight gain from changed eating habits, and then the fear and distress of a medical condition slowly controlling your life. If you already have a burden of stress in your life (tolerable as it may be), the additional awareness of a growing medical problem may really sap you. Hence the lethargy and nerves.
Anyway, it sounds like the stomach thing is the starting point. By all means attack that first--do some reading on medical sites on the web, and then either get right down to a doctor for a diagnosis and some meds or head to a store and buy some OTC medicines and start playing with them. There are no particular foods that are better for gastritis than others, other than the immediate relief provided by bready foods due to soaking up the acids. (Salt in large doses will neutralize acid, but it will also play hell with your blood pressure over time.) A doctor will basically just give you PPIs or H2-receptor-blockers and tell you to cut back on any foods that clearly irritate your stomach. You mentioned that fatty foods are a problem for you; fatty foods are a common problem for people with gastritis and should probably be avoided. Some people have problems with roughage and raw greens, etc. Again, check out medical sites for more info.
By the way, there is some need to get this thing under control pretty quickly. Gastritis can turn to ulcers, which require additional care and higher doses of stomach medicine. Worse yet, gastritis can lead to a bleeding ulcer, which in turn will kill you in a matter of days. So you shouldn't delay on treatment too long, and you shouldn't rely solely on long-term fixes like yoga or other holistic stress reducers. Definitely get drugs, at least for the short-term fix.
Young people resist taking stomach meds because they either 1) don't want to admit that they're becoming one more stressed-out oldster stuck in the rat race dosing up with antacids and pampering a bad stomach or 2) want to conquer the problem with yoga or other holistic approaches. But like I said, there is some need to get this thing under control pretty quickly. And there's no use trying to pretend that you're 20 years old with a strong stomach that can take any amount of abuse; I'm afraid those days are gone. :-)
Anyway, once you get the stomach problem under short-term control, then you can play around with yoga, lose a few pounds, sleep better, and generally feel younger and in control again. Then the lethargy and nerves may take care of themselves. :-)
BTW, on the subject of how gastritis affects and interrupts sleep patterns, see my post in the "Insomnia?" thread: http://www.typologycentral.com/forum...-insomnia.html
Last edited by RDF; 10-30-2010 at 05:48 AM.
Reason: Inserted some additional info
Lay the coin on my tongue
Ohhhh I really feel for you, Fidelia. A lot of what you've written, I could have written - A LOT. I first started having stomach complaints when under stress at the age of 18 or 19, but then it only attacked me when I was under a very high level of emotional stress. In the past few years it's attacked me more frequently and for a wider range of things (work related, etc etc). And yes also to the lethargy, procrastinating, staying up too late, etc.
I can be laid low by such symptoms under stress to the extent that I can hardly get out of bed. I can't eat because it's too painful and nauseating and sometimes if the stress/feelings are really bad I eat but then throw up. I feel so tired I can barely move...etc. By the way, most of this doesn't apply at the moment (maybe a few symptoms occasionally). But I know it can also be extremely disconcerting to be ambushed by such symptoms when you think things are going reasonably well. That also happens to me sometimes.
On the medical side I don't have much to add to what's already been said. Some of it might be worth looking into for myself as well. I do agree that these things can be cumulative. I realised in the last year and half or so especially that there had been a major buildup of cumulative stress in my life for several years and I think that was triggering these symptoms on a more and more regular basis. I'm 31 so it might be a similar thing with things having built up to this point in my aging. Things have improved in the latter half of this year. I've made some changes (moving house, new people in my life etc) which were stressful at the time, even very stressful, but they have helped me to introduce some fresh air into my life, and have also helped me to step away (or start stepping away) from some situations and people who I think were doing more damage than I realised. I also have a permanent job (well, as "permanent" as anything seems to be in this life, especially job-wise!) after contract and temp work for a few years. I think this is helping me feel much better because it just provides more stability, there isn't an end date looming every time I start a new contract or whatever, and it's easier for me to plan stuff. An INFJ feels freer when they have some of the basic stuff like that really laid down in their life
You seem highly, highly realistic about how things are in your life, what's good and what isn't so good, what you can and can't control. THe only other thing I can suggest is that sometimes when I have such symptoms there is something unresolved that I am unhappy and stressed about and have really buried it. This may not be the case with you. But with me it can be like my body is telling me that this issue is still affecting me to a large extent, while my conscious mind is hardly acknowledging it. It's very strange and disconcerting. Sometimes you need to do some digging to figure what exactly is getting to you.
I hope you feel much better soon!
Enneagram 6w5 sp/sx
I can relate. as to something effective. I suppose eliminating foods that affect you like sugars, grains and milk and finding out how you feel before and after. Another possibility could be parasites and bacteria.
wants Mifune clone minion
I take this^ myself, it's the only OTC thing that helps when my innards start feeling sour from stress. It also kind of helps me to stay away from dairy. I always strongly crave it- as though it'll make my stomach feel better, and it does while I'm directly eating it- but afterwards it invariably only makes it feel worse. I know that pickles are actually good for your stomach, in the same way that cranberry juice is good for kidneys- I think it's the vinegar (my mom has had ulcers and has constant heartburn, that's how I know about the pickles).
Originally Posted by FineLine
Reality is a collective hunch. -Lily Tomlin
5w4 sx/sp Johari / Nohari
Thanks for the response, Z.
Originally Posted by Z Buck McFate
Just a quick health note about pickles: Anything high in sodium is going to be good at neutralizing acid, because salt (sodium chloride) neutralizes acid. Pickles and relish are very high in sodium because they are made from cucumbers soaked in brine (saltwater). Another old home remedy for upset stomach used to be to drink baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in a glass of water. But keep in mind that sodium in all its various forms is going to drive your blood pressure through the roof if you eat it in high doses.
If someone has rare or very occasional acid attacks (heartburn, acid reflux, sour stomach), then home remedies like pickles, baking soda in a glass of water, or even just a teaspoon of salt will help them feel better in a pinch. But a shot of liquid antacid will be even more effective; and certainly antacid should be used instead of sodium if the attacks become regular or chronic, in order to avoid the bad health effects of a high-sodium diet.
I should note too that even liquid antacid has its drawbacks. One active ingredient of most antacids is aluminum hydroxide, which neutralizes acid the same way that salt does, but doesn't affect blood pressure. Still, some say that people shouldn't be drinking huge amounts of aluminum. So if someone with a chronic stomach problem finds themselves drinking lots of antacid all the time, then it would probably be better to reduce the use of antacids by going to a higher dose of the PPIs and h2 blockers (Ranitidine, Nexium, and all that).
This is all just FYI, of course. I've had a bad stomach for a quarter century, so I've seen it all. Bad stomachs are highly controllable with modern medicines. But if stomach upsets become a chronic problem, then at some point it is important to check in with a good gastroenterologist so he/she can monitor progress, switch medications when appropriate, and look at complicating factors like GERD (acid reflux), possible stomach viruses (H pylori), etc.
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