For the past five months I've been battling a number of baffling symptoms that an army of docs haven't been able to diagnose. Hoping I can get some wisdom from this crowd. I'm a 23-year-old male, Paleo since January 2011. Here's my story:
A year ago I graduated college, moved from my home in the Midwest to take a job in New York City (a place I had never been before), and also left behind all of my family, friends, and a girlfriend of 3+ years. Talk about stressful.
About a month after moving, I paid a visit to the emergency room because I was experiencing chest pains. At the time, I was afraid I had some mystery heart condition. After a few days in the hospital and several tests, the doctors assured me I was fine. They told me it was most likely stress-induced costochondritis and prescribed anti-inflammatories. Things got better after a few weeks, but the pain would come back any time I got really stressed.
Fast forward a few months. I had just spent three weeks back home for the holidays, and am now back in New York. About a week after I get back, I catch a cold. It's nothing serious, but it's the first time I've been sick and not had anyone around to take care of me, and it makes me anxious. After about a week, the flu symptoms fade, but I notice some new symptoms: sensitivity to light and sound, pain behind my eyes, persistent headaches centered in my cheeks, temples and forehead, ringing in my ears, dizziness, and popping of my ears when I swallow, burp, blow my nose, etc. As an extremely anxious person, this freaks me out. A lot. I see my general physician, and she's not concerned. She runs some blood tests as a follow-up to my hospital stay for the chest pain, and finds nothing out of the ordinary except "high cholesterol" (Total cholesterol = 277, HDL = 78, LDL = 188, Triglycerides = 57). So, she gives me an antibiotic, thinking it's a sinus infection. This doesn't help. Next, she refers me to an ENT.
The ENT prescribes a different antibiotic and sends me home. He's also not concerned. This antibiotic also doesn't help. I come back and he puts me on Prednisone, thinking my sinuses are swollen. He also schedules a CT scan of my sinuses. He's still not concerned.
The Prednisone doesn't help much, either. But, the CT scan results come back fairly normal. Some polyps on the inside of my sinuses, but nothing to write home about. The ENT refers me to an allergist just to make sure there's nothing going on there, but he's still not concerned.
The allergist runs some basic tests and finds I'm not allergic to anything. Big surprise. He blames everything on my sinuses, but can't explain the sensitivity to light/sound, or why I'm STILL dealing with symptoms after 6-8 weeks of this business. So, he refers me to a neurologist just to be safe. But, he's not concerned.
The neurologist runs a basic exam and says I look "normal." He suspects migraines (because of the light/sound sensitivity and persistent headaches) but says he needs to order an MRI just to be thorough. Of course, I freak out, thinking I have some sort of brain tumor. He tells me not to worry, that he's not concerned. He also wants me to see an opthamologist to have my eyes checked out in the mean time.
So, I head to the opthamologist, who says I look normal. I tell her I'm going to change my name to Normal if one more person tells me that. She's not concerned, either. Of course.
A week later, the MRI comes back clean. I should be breathing a sigh of relief, but I'm not...because I'm still in pain. The neurologist is convinced some migraine medication is the answer, and he prescribes Topamax. He tells me to be patient, that it might take 4-6 weeks to start working. After 10 days on the Topamax I'm experiencing severe nausea, loss of appetite, and lots of digestive irregularity (alternating diarrhea and constipation, stomach pain on the right side, back pain in the right flank, reflux, etc.). So, the doc takes me off the meds. That was a month ago, and my digestion still hasn't returned to normal.
After a few weeks of stomach pain, my primary care doc suggests I get an ultrasound of my abdomen to check for gallstones, ulcers, etc. That scan, of course, comes back "normal" as well.
Next on my list of doctors: an appointment with a gastroenterologist in two weeks. At this point, I don't think anything's going to come of that one, either.
Aside from the digestive issues, I'm still battling the light/sound sensitivity. A nighttime bite guard I got from my dentist seems to have alleviated the headaches (he suspected I was grinding at night), but the dizziness still comes and goes.
I'm also moderately fatigued, have a mild tremor in my right hand, have constantly cold hands, and occasionally feel a wave of foggy-headedness come over me for an hour or two at a time.
Could this be thyroid-related? My June 2011 blood test (before all of these symptoms started) showed TSH at 0.66, but my January 2012 blood test (after the onset of symptoms) showed TSH at 1.17.
As I mentioned before, I've been Paleo since January 2011, with about 95% adherence. I supplement with fish oil, and just ordered some Green Pastures fermented cod liver / butter oil blend. I also take 250mg of magnesium before bed. Since the digestive issues began I've been drinking 8oz of Lifeway Kefir with breakfast, and I also consume 3-5 bottles of GT's Kombucha per week. Taking some NOW Foods Super Enzymes before meals seems to dull the stomach pain a bit, so I've been doing those for a week or so, too.
Starting a yoga class this week in hopes of reducing stress, and also looking into acupuncture.
Any suggestions? This isn't a debilitating set of symptoms, but I do feel "off" all the time, and I'm tired of being distracted by worry.
asked byChris_15 (55)
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on May 29, 2012
at 04:42 PM
Well...it sounds like you have an anxiety issue. Possibly an anxiety disorder (10 docs tell you you're fine....yet you suspect a brain tumor). The popping in the ears, dizziness, and even some of the (what appear to be) sinus headaches all sound like allergy/inner ear inflammation. You need to do some inner ear exercises and get some allergy and decongestant help. Clarinex and or Sudafed. The tight chest and impending doom/heart pain sound like textbook anxiety attack symptoms. Anxiety disorders can be amplifying feedback loops. Anxiety triggers physical symptom triggers anxiety triggers......you see what I'm getting at here.
The digestive issues are probably a result of the antibiotics. It looks like you're handling that. Your ENT sucks. I don't know why he put you on Prednizone! If you're having inner ear issues, it could explain a lot of the "in your head" symptoms, but it could be a mild viral infection complicated by sinus and allergy issues. You just moved somewhere far away, with allergens and germs your body has no immunity to. You also endured a somewhat traumatic life event: big move. This stress can weaken your immune system, especially to unfamiliar germs and allergens...hence the cold you picked up. I'm also going waaaay out on a limb here, but people who tend toward hypochondriasis often had some one very ill in their immediate family at one time, or were very much coddled when ill as children.
"About a week after I get back, I catch a cold. It's nothing serious, but it's the first time I've been sick and not had anyone around to take care of me, and it makes me anxious." This stood out to me. You state it's nothing serious. It's only a cold. And yet, it triggers anxiety despite the fact you know it's not serious. You also state you are 23, and are yet made anxious by the fact that no one is around to take care of you, when all that ails you is a cold, and you're a grown man.
My suggestion to you is to work first and foremost on your anxiety issues. There are many helpful cognitive behavioral techniques that can help you, and even some medications. Once you tackle this issue, and find productive ways to deal with your stress load, the physical symptoms will be alleviated to a great degree. Now granted, I'm making assumptions here, but I have personal experience on all fronts. So take it as you will.
on May 29, 2012
at 04:04 PM
Carbon monoxide poisoning? Mold? Toxic chemical exposure?
on June 08, 2012
at 08:58 AM
(I'm posting because the OP asked me to.)
Sorry, I lost the link when my browser crashed the other day. I just found it again.
The problem seems they are treating symptoms but not the source of the problem. No, you're not "okay", you're not "normal" if you are suffering like this.
I really don't have a good feeling about all that antibiotic use.
Can you post a one-week food log of what you eat? Do you eat differently when you are and are not stressed?
Another question, do you eat (real) salt? Make sure to salt your dishes well. Don't be afraid of salt.
The allergist runs some basic tests and finds I'm not allergic to anything.
Doesn't mean you're not sensitive to anything.
My boyfriend had sinuses problems all his life. Seemed like he had a "cold" and a headache everyday, all year long. He also got a lot of testing done (as a child, actually) to see what the problem was, but nothing worked. Even got tested for food and ambient allergies. He said it was because of spring allergies but he had sinus problems all year long, every day. When I started eating Paleo, he thought the food was really tasty and went full Paleo himself. His sinuses problems are gone!
I know what it's like to feel so much anxiety when you don't know what's wrong with you.
I assume you've read a lot on this topic, but... have you read this?
Reading between the lines, some of it sounds like it could cause the dizziness, headaches, and so on. People generally get dizziness/lightheadedness when they have ear infections, so this is similar. The headaches, from pressure from inflammation. Sound sensitivity, same. Light sensitivity and pain from pressure on eyes? And so on.
Generally if you look around you'll find out each of the "causes" all have the same root problem. Health problems can be intertwined, more than people think.
Fatigue, tremor, brain-fog, digestive problems... can be symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
The TSH is low, indicating hyperthyroid. But you shouldn't test TSH alone, ask for a full thyroid blood work (atleast free T4, free T3, and anti-bodies). But, doesn't mean you ARE hyperthyroid (yet?), your body could just be dealing with stress (cortisol), and yes, it can cause the brain-fog, lightheadedness... light sensitivity...
Along with what you're doing to improve digestion, try home made bone broth. You can cook chicken broth overnight while you sleep, then keep it in the fridge in glass jars.
The sinus stuff could be partly from inflammation.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods. Lots of omega 3 (fish!), but reduce omega 6.
When tracking on PaleoTrack, I was amazed at how clean my diet looked, yet my omega 3 was so low and my omega 6 so high. So I tried harder and fixed it! You'll likely have to stop eating vegetable oils including olive oil. All of my fat now comes from animal sources.
I don't think fish oil is a good choice for this, eat whole fish instead.
Could also be from poor immune system.
You're on the right track to fixing this. Again, the bone broth will help too.
If you can, stop over reacting. I know it's difficult, I over reacted too, specially with hyperthyroid-induced anxiety. When I felt so hopeless I thought I must have brain cancer too! But you know, if you really had all the problems that sound related to your symptoms, hey, you'd probably be dead by now!
on May 29, 2012
at 11:15 PM
Anxiety. I'm a 23 yr. old male and have had extreme anxiety in the past. Your symptoms sound very similar.
- Get the Linden Method.
- Good good restful sleep.
- Eat more if you're not eating enough and up the carbs.
- Wean off drugs slowly if you can (consult a physician if you do).
- Get out in nature.
- Be with people.
- Love, Give, and Serve - get your mind off yourself.
- If you're not happy with where you're at or what you are doing, change that.
- Be thankful for what you have.
If you want more info. on faith/purpose in life, feel free to message me.
on June 21, 2012
at 04:46 PM
I've posted an update to this story HERE. Your thoughts and advice are appreciated!
on June 08, 2012
at 09:09 AM
I'm not a doctor, but this sounds like anxiety, and it can get better, but you will have to adhere to a different kind of Paleo. Not "95% Paleo", but "100% Paleo-ketogenic" (up to 50gr of NET carbs daily). This is what has brought me feelings of bliss and euphoria, I really didn't feel stressed about anything while on that mode. I'd go off kombucha personally (all new research shows that it's not actually good for you), and do goat kefir at home (do NOT buy cow kefir, it's not the same as real kefir). Here's my regimens: http://eugenia.queru.com/2011/10/20/how-to-make-free-healthcare-cheap/#update2 and http://eugenia.queru.com/2012/03/05/top-10-must-eat-paleo-foods/
on June 02, 2012
at 05:21 PM
See if your symptoms match those of a (possibly) newly emerging virus. See here:
on May 29, 2012
at 10:54 PM
Forget the army of doctors, you are severely allergic to radishes.
on May 29, 2012
at 04:33 PM
Keep in touch about it. I had mild sinus reactions to foods like milk and gluten, esp milk gluten sugar combo foods, but the rxns I have to these foods are much more severe since moving from a place which was probably cleaner than my current one. Half my house smells really badly of mold. I don't spend much time in that part of the house but have to go there once a day to do laundry, or must take a shower. Now eating gluten/milk/sweet combos sometimes makes me get a fever and have bloody plugs come down once the fever and inflammation clears. Let us know if moving out of a dingy apartment helped!
Living in Japan now which is super warm and wet during summer. That laundry area has no window. used to live in oregon which was pretty wet too, but dry summers. My lifestyle also has me significantly more indoors.
Research is coming out antibiotics don't do much for sinus infections. For your intestinal and overall health you'd better stay away from them unless determined necessary. Keep doing the kombucha. Kefir is supposed to be tame but maybe you should switch it out for a water kefir or just keep doing kombucha. Kefir made my guts and mucus/sinuses a little wierd. Bring your life in balance. If you were stressed, living a dingy indoor existence, it's no wonder your body was crying out. I feel like mine does since I moved to a more urban life.
You're going to the MDs and taking their drugs too much. Isn't it just coming out on national heavily sponsored news that they're admitting Topomax is no good? Save it for extreme emergencies and cultivate your health naturally through paleo eating, outdoors, balanced living. You don't say how much veg and speckling of fruit you're consuming in relation to meats. But maybe up your veg through juicing if your guts are sensitive to fiber. Maybe paleo isn't right for you but don't go back to dairy or grains.
As for palliative care for pains, sinus crap, fatigue... acupuncture is always AMAZING for me. Community acupuncture clinics are increasingly available and affordable for frequent visits if it happens to be effective for you. At 15 dollars a session, it might be worth a try.