At the age of 34, I had what I thought to be an allergic reaction earlier this year. Doctors also identified it as an allergic reaction, not only myself. To finally ascertain the true nature of the issue, it cost thousands of dollars, necessitated numerous office trips, and required a lot of tests.
The first time it happened
I was having a typical day. I felt absolutely normal when I got up and went about my day as usual. Was running errands when I suddenly felt like I couldn’t swallow. Had I had to throw my head back to force the enormous saliva buildup down my throat since it was beginning to feel like it was about to make me throw up. My throat felt as though it were tightening. I stopped and attempted to drink water in an effort to remove the obstruction, but I was unable to do so and instead coughed the water up, some of which also came out of my nose. My chest started to feel constricted soon after I started having trouble swallowing.
My partner came and drove me to the emergency room after I was able to drive myself to a store. The nurse quickly inquired after hearing about my symptoms, “Are you allergic to anything?” I admitted that I had not received a diagnosis, but I do experience hives after consuming orange juice or anything else flavoured with orange, I later . My doctor speculated that my orange sensitivity had turned into a severe allergy.Received injections of Benadryl and an Epi Pen. I could feel some relief through the fog.You run the chance of having overlapping food allergies if you have an allergy to one of these foods.
A reflux or allergy?
I experienced the same kind of episode a week later on the first day without taking the steroid. Although I hadn’t consumed any orange-flavored food that day, I did consume lemonade. Do I now have a citrus allergy? This incident was far worse.The doctor advised me to eliminate all citrus from my diet because it could cause acid reflux, a condition where stomach acids reflux back up into the esophagus and cause irritation. Acid reflux can cause the same symptoms as an allergic reaction, including tightness in the chest and difficulty swallowing. People with severe acid reflux frequently mistakenly believe they are experiencing a heart attack, according to the doctor.
Additionally, he advised me to follow up with my family doctor. When I did, she advised me to get tested for allergies to all citrus fruits, including orange, tangerine, lemon, lime, tomato, and grapefruit. Every test yielded negative results. Even so, my doctor advised me to avoid all acidic foods, as well as avoid coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods, claiming that since it wasn’t an allergy, the cause must have been acid reflux. Additionally, she prescribed me Nexium, a proton-pump inhibitor used to treat a range of digestive problems.
I had not gone through either. In addition, using Nexium made me feel worse rather than better. The only thing that seemed to temporarily relieve the sensation of my throat being inflated with air was the occasional burp. There are several symptoms of acid reflux, some of which may surprise you.
When you consider how many of the things we eat on a daily basis are classified acidic, the acid reflux diet may not seem like much of a diet. No more tomatoes meant no more pizza or pasta topped with marinara sauce. Without lime, there would be no guacamole or tuna fish, and without spicy food, there would be no Thai or Indian takeout. In three months, I lost 20 pounds.
Nothing was working.
Despite the restricted diet and medication, the episodes persisted every few days without rhyme or reason, and the symptoms would last for a few hours each time. I felt as though my esophagus were a pipe and that something was blocking my passageway; all I wanted was the equivalent of Draino for medicine. I kept going to doctors in an effort to find solutions and comfort. One of the doctors I visited was certain that I was causing these symptoms on purpose and that I was having panic attacks, which can also cause physical symptoms like an allergic reaction or acid reflux, such as chest tightness and trouble swallowing.I even refused to fill the prescription because I was certain that it wasn’t the cause of my problems.
Then a GI doctor made a radical change.
I went to a gastroenterologist as my next stop. He said there were tests that could definitively ascertain what had been wrong with me for the previous few months. He said it might be acid reflux, but it might also be something else.
First, he advised a less invasive procedure called a barium swallow study, also known as an esophagram.During the test, the liquid passed through without any interruption, but the x-ray technicians did notice the barium pill becoming stuck about halfway down. It took three large gulps of water from me for it to finally pass through.
Finally, a response.
My doctor explained that I might be suffering from esophageal narrowing, a condition that harms the lining of the esophagus and leads to inflammation and narrowing. The next step was the more invasive endoscopy procedure, which uses a tiny camera on the end of a long, flexible wand to examine the digestive system. The doctor said he would blow up a balloon in my esophagus to “pop it back out” to its normal size if I had esophageal narrowing.
He was accurate. I discovered that I had been dealing with an esophageal stricture for four months after spending thousands of dollars, blood work, seeing numerous doctors, visiting the hospital, and taking medications. (This is just one of many complex medical conditions that go undiagnosed a lot.) I was experiencing the same symptoms associated with allergic reactions, acid reflux, and panic attacks because a ring had developed within my esophagus. Food impaction within the ring caused the tightness in the chest and difficulty swallowing. I should have been avoiding solid foods, particularly meats, instead of citrus’s acidity all that time. Steak, chicken, and other types of meat are chewy and therefore harder to break down, making them more likely to get stuck. This condition is also known as “steakhouse syndrome.”
I discovered when I awoke from the procedure that my doctor had actually cut the ring by making four incisions and removed the pieces for biopsy rather than using the balloon technique. The outcomes were favorable. My esophagus was raw from the procedure for about a month, so my recovery took longer than I had anticipated. Instead of his initial plan of “popping it out,” my doctor decided to remove the stricture because there is a chance that it would have narrowed once more with time.
In hindsight, it makes sense that the steroids and Benadryl temporarily relieved my symptoms because an esophageal stricture is actually inflammation, and both medications have anti-inflammatory properties. Try consuming these 7 food combinations to reduce inflammation.
To the point where I am always the last person to finish a meal and my food is always cold halfway through, I still find that I am very conscious of the foods I eat, the bite sizes I take, and I over-chew my food. However, I will always be grateful to the doctor who was able to correctly diagnose me and whose treatment allowed me to return to normal.