My medical issues: digestion

In March 2013 (age 28), I was diagnosed with low gastric acid.  This turns out to be really important for things like “digesting food.”  I could manage macaroni and cheese and candy and other things that aren’t really food, but protein and fiber made me feel ill.    My doctor prescribed me HCl Supplements as both diagnostic test and treatment, and suddenly I was able to eat both.

In hindsight, this went back a very long time.  When I was in pre-school or early elementary, the family joke was that I must photosynthesize, because I never ate anything.  I distinctly remember my mom telling me I would never make it as a cave man because all the plant life was too tough for me to chew, and meat was just out of the question.  My best friend from 3rd grade still remembers how I ate nothing but bagels when I slept at her house.

So from age 0 to 28, I survived on spaghetti with tomato sauce.   This transforms the question from “why do I have so many chronic problems (constantly sick, anxious, musculoskeletal pain, terrible oral health, adrenal-fatigue-no-hypothyroidism-no-adrenal-fatigue-again)?” to “how are my chronic issues so minor?   Were we on to something with the photosynthesis thing?  My hometown is the #2 most overcast city in the country, and my current home is #1.  What super powers would I develop if I moved to Phoenix?”

Now that I have the HCl supplements and can actually digest food, I’m feeling a lot better.  I have more energy and more cope.  I get sick less and recover faster. My dentist commented that my (previously miserable) oral health was looking a lot better, without being told anything had changed.  Friends commented on how much better my skin looked. I gained muscle mass. And oh yeah, I don’t constantly feel ill for no reason.  Pretty much everything you would expect for someone suddenly gaining the ability to digest food.

Coming up: My experience with hypochlorhydria and its treatment and the science of the stomach.

Why “Aceso Under Glass”?

You may be familiar with the rod of Cauceus as a symbol of medicine

Caduceus symbol by Rama and Eliot Lash (public domain)
Caduceus symbol by Rama and Eliot Lash (public domain)

I hesitate to call this usage wrong, because it’s been used as such for 150 years and people will reliably interpret it as medical, but it is based on bad mythology.  The caduceus staff was associated with Hermes, who had nothing to do with medicine.  It was used out of confusion with the  Rod of Asclepius.

Rod of Asclepius, author: Rama, public domain.
Rod of Asclepius, by Rama (public domain)

Ascelpius was a god or demi-god of healing.  He had six daughters.  Hygieia and Panacea did pretty well for themselves, to the point that I don’t need to tell you what they’re the goddesses of,  and both have lavish wikipedia entries.   Two others (Meditrina and Aglaea) have little to do with health and appear to be engaged in some horizontal myth transfer, since there are characters with similar names and related areas of focus but very different  parentage in Greek mythology.    The remaining two are Iaso (Recuperation) and Aceso (Healing and Curing).  They have short wikipedia entries, but at least everyone agrees on who they are.

Recuperation is a good thing, but doesn’t captivate me.  Healing and curing interests me a great deal.  I’m interested in how they work, how they’re blocked, how you know they’ve worked, the distinction between the two, why something heals one person and hurts another, and… well, this list gets very long very fast.  So that’s why I chose “Aceso.”

The “under glass” part represents a few things.  One is that I’m very literally studying the healing process.  But I’m also studying how we study the healing process.  Right now we have the choice between relying on traditional large peer reviewed studies, and qualitative provider accounts.  Both of these have serious limits, and I want to explore what those are.

So that’s how I arrived at “Aceso Under Glass”.

Why I’m Writing

I am not a medical professional of any kind. My qualifications for writing a medical blog are as follows:

  • A BA in Computational Biology, focusing on behavior, ecosystems, and math, that I haven’t used professionally since graduation in 2006.
  • A father with a PhD in statistics.
  • A series of mild-but-serious-but-compensated-for medical issues, which may or may not be interconnected.
  • A library card.

So while I am not qualified to diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease, I am much better equipped than your average layman to investigate and evaluate medical research. In a perfect world, every MP would be better than me at this, for every possible problem. This just isn’t the case. My research has saved me where doctors have failed. And the best MPs, the ones I couldn’t replace with Dr. Internet? They love it when I do my own research, because it leads to me giving them more useful information that they can apply their superior knowledge to.

With that said, here are my goals for this blog:

  • Provide specific information that creates a spark of recognition, so others can help themselves.  While researching a particular sensory integration book I stumbled on to sensory integration sea turtle, which alerted me to the existence of weighted blankets, which have helped me more than anything in the original book.  And the sea turtle doesn’t think thiomersal causes autism.
  • Demonstrate good DIY medical research so others can better investigate their own issues.
  • Practice medical research for medical research’s sake. I’m seriously considering pursuing a career as an Nurse Practitioner. If I love this doing this research, it’s useful warm up. If I hate it, that’s good to know before I spend $200,000 on making it my career.
  • Help people evaluate their doctors. Is she right to ignore that mild symptom? Is that drug worth the side effects? I can’t tell you, and I mostly can’t even tell you what to ask, but it would make me really happy if something I said helped someone figure out the right question.