Having discovered that I was lactose intolerant back in June 2016, to be on the safe side for the Rio Olympic Games I took out an entire suitcase filled with lactose and gluten free snacks!I didn’t want to take any chances of having pain or bloating during the event and, in general, it was pretty successful with minimal issues.
After the Olympics, though, it was another story! Probably the worst part was just a few days after we had won our medal…needless to say I got a little bit distracted - ate the wrong stuff, drank the wrong drinks and had a horrible painful, bloated stomach on the BA flight back home! Even being in First Class didn’t help me feel better, despite the luxury!
Over the coming months I struggled being strict with my diet, resulting in regular pains and bloating. The body is a strange thing, as soon as you are over the bout of pain or discomfort, you forget how bad it was and so having this bit of milk in my tea or clotted cream on my scone will surely be fine! It really, really isn’t!
It all slowly escalated until I was admitted to hospital in March 2017. I had been training in the 49er FX class – a new boat for me - something that was challenging, pushing me and motivating me to be better. It was a real breath of fresh air. However, during in the training camp, I started getting stabbing pains in my upper abdomen. They would last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. It would get worse and worse becoming almost unbearable, then it would just ease off for a bit, before starting again. I was confused and scared. It didn’t seem to correlate to anything I had been eating at all. It wasn’t lactose or gluten related and the pain was horrendous. It got to the point where I couldn’t sail some days. The evenings were always the worst and I spent many curled up on the bed crying in agony.
Between training camps in Cadiz and Princess Sofia Regatta 2017 in Palma, Mallorca I went to a Gynecologist. He did lots of blood tests, urine samples, an ultra sound...but still we didn’t know what was wrong with me. I got given some Omeprazole which helps reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. I went out to Palma hopeful that this would help, however the first day I went sailing I came in and immediately started getting cramps. This turned into the worst evening of pain I have ever had. Driving home it got worse and worse, there was no rest from the pain. It was 4 hours of aggressive cramping and stabbing pains with a whole lot of tears. We very nearly went to hospital, but almost as we thought it, the cramps started easing off, so instead I booked a flight home the next morning. I was booked in for an endoscopy the following week and spent the rest of my time eating toast and plain scrambled eggs – it was the only thing I felt safe eating.
As anyone does in this situation, you turn to Google. It is hard for me to sit here and say don’t do it, because I think I always will! It always throws up scary results and is potentially turning the population into hypochondriacs! So if you can avoid it, do!
I don’t remember a lot about the endoscopy, I opted for the sedative, which I would highly recommend if anyone ever has to have one! I have a vague memory of the doctor trying to push the endoscope past my gag reflex whilst I was gagging. Not pleasant at all. The results were as follows: I had a small hiatus hernia – essentially where your stomach has herniated into your esophagus, which can cause acid to get up into your throat. Secondly, there were ulceration sites, which were a bit raw. Ultimately my body wasn’t processing the acid in food very well, which had caused tiny ulcers and acid reflux. I went onto esomeprazole – a slightly stronger version of omeprazole and started reading some gut and acid related diet books. I didn’t want to have to rely on a pill for the rest of my life! I wanted to find out whether I could change my body and it’s responses to food by reading up and trialling different diets. Watch this space to see how it went....