Top 5 Symptoms of my Chronic Pancreatitis
I get a lot of messages and questions from people all over the world asking about the symptoms that lead to the proper diagnosis of Chronic Pancreatitis. Googles answer to this question doesn’t do much to help anyone who thinks they may be suffering with Pancreatitis. To add, most Gastrointestinal Doctors’ have little experience with Pancreatitis. I wanted to provide the key items that I experienced to help provide a guide to others. Please note, that these symptoms were monitored over years… yes, years! Additionally, many of these symptoms can also be a result of other gastrointestinal issues which makes documenting and patience very important
This is my story and while I have a calling to share my story of Chronic Pancreatitis, check with your health care provider if you have similar symptoms! My Chronic Pancreatitis went undiagnosed, or maybe a better way to put it is underdiagnosed, for two decades. While everyone may have slightly different symptoms, here were my top five key symptoms: .
Going #2 (yes, the bathroom #2 [insert poop emoji here]) 10+ times per day. While there is no perfect number of bowel movements to have daily, a healthy gut should allow for 1-2 bm’s max per day; anything more than that in double digits (i.e., 10+ daily), take note and see a doctor. If your pooping is affecting your daily life and causing you to be in the bathroom more than living your life - something is wrong. That is what I experienced and it was no way to live. This was something that lasted not days, not months, but years. This symptom did come and go at times, but it was often excessive and dramatic. (Note: diet can be key here… my top recommendation is to self-evaluate diet changes first and see if simple food changes can help before spending the money and time on doctors or testing.
Watery stools that looked partially undigested. Sorry for the gross mental image but it is what it is! Check out the Bristol Stool Scale – it is fascinating:
So, I was having Type 6 and 7 stools regularly. Not a pretty or healthy picture!! Another way to put it, “Lack of form is not the norm.”
3. Seeing whole food I had eaten in my stool along with oily and watery consistency. Clearly something was up as my stool was not even on the Bristol Scale! If you see a film around your poop, that would indicate fat. Excess fat in your stool can trigger that you are not absorbing the fat, which often indicates that your pancreatic enzymes are not triggering properly.
4. Excessive gas that is beyond foul smelling/putrid every single time you pass gas. Okay, sorry but also not sorry, for the TMI but this one symptom was probably the most socially difficult and devastating. I could not hold in my gas either. Holding it in, only made the pain and cramping worse. While on an airline flight, my gas was so bad that the man in front of me wanted to be moved. I felt awful on so many levels. This was a clear sign, once again, that my gas was way out of the realm of “normal”. Mind you, you should not hold in your gas but hopefully you have some control in the matter, if you get my drift. Running to the bathroom to expel my “smoke bombs” was never an option, and that really was a tell-tell sign that something was wrong. It is safe to say, this gas was a result of constant bloat, and I mean, ALL THE TIME.
5. Sharp and severe pain in middle of abdomen to back that can be inconsistent in terms of frequency, but was always sharp and alarming. This pain started waking me up at night and was the “bend over in agony” type. It turns out that I had had these attacks since I was born but grew to live with them because I knew no different. Go figure. This is not normal, people! My abdominal pain came and went through out my life until I was in my late teens when it started getting increasingly worse and more frequent. Let’s just say, ER visits became common.
The key take-away is to listen to your internal concerns and journal all episodes of symptoms in significant detail for your physician. Do not freak out if you are having these or any other concerning symptoms - knowledge is power and start documenting! The more detail, the better. Your journal will serve as your reference and personal story of your health and well-being.
Sadly, most of my symptoms are found in many other GUT issues which makes it very hard to pinpoint. After countless blood work, endoscopies, CT scans, ultra sound studies, I was told for the most part that there is was nothing wrong with me. I would be treated with meds for the initial issue, things would get a bit better only for an attack to occur again. It’s not a short process but in a later blog you will see how high liver enzymes (not super crazy high but consistently elevated) were apparently high on every blood test since I was a baby. So, the key is to journal and keep track as you won’t be able to do it all in your head. I am working on a symptom journal that will be available in the near future, so be on the look-out…!
Disclaimer: Note, the information provided in this blog is based on my personal experience and should not be interpreted or construed as medical advice. You can and should only obtain a diagnosis of pancreatitis or any other medical conditional by a licensed practicing physician.