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Mysterious Acute Symptoms

Let me start off by saying that I am a 21 year old healthy male that is slightly overweight. I have a long history of having an iron gut. Throughout my life I have been able to eat habanero peppers without a single incident of heartburn and large meals with no problems at all. However, on June 6th 2008 (more than a month ago) I ingested a large amount of gin (about half a bottle). Instantly after drinking this gin I started having acid reflux symptoms.

I am not an alcoholic, nor did I have a history of alcohol abuse. I had just turned 21 and had been drinking on and off throughout those recent months. I had interactions with  many hard liquors such as whiskey and vodka, but experienced no problems. I had never had gin though, and after the first drink I began experiencing acid reflux-esque symptoms.

My lower throat became irritated and I started coughing. I began burping a lot, having trouble swallowing, experiencing minor shortness of breath, and getting worse morning breath. This all happened suddenly, I could probably count the seconds after drinking the gin.

I visited a GP who ran an EKG, chest x-ray, barium swallow, and many pulmonary tests. All came back fine. Even the Barium Swallow (Upper GI) showed no reflux at all or hernias. However, a gastroenterologist ordered an endoscopy and said he found a "very small hiatal hernia". They did not give me the specifics of the cm's or where it was. I was referred to the gastro via hospital and the report is still not in (after 2 weeks). They aren't telling me much aside from pushing antacids on me.

I've tried Protonix, Nexium, Prevacid, Aciphex, Zegerid, Prilosec, PepcidAC, Zantanc, and Tagamet. None of these have helped at all aside from giving me gas and bloating.

Again, I have never, ever, had a single episode of heartburn in my entire life, save for the night that I drank gin for the first time, it was instant. They can't explain how the hernia could be causing these symptoms if it was so instant. They said it could've "irritated the hernia", but they can't explain how the habanero sauce and other spicy foods I had eaten in the past did nothing to "irritate it".

I don't know if my symptoms are due to this small hernia (as I hear many people have them with no symptoms at all) or something else. I am 21 and do not want to feel like this or take pills for my entire adult life, so I want to opt for surgery if the hernia is indeed the culprit, but they don't recommend it and would rather have me become a life-long antacid customer, something I don't plan on embarking on.

I find it extremely hard to believe that I could go from having an iron gut to developing GERD in an acute, sudden, and instant fashion, merely after trying some new liquor. I am very in tune with my body and would have felt the slightest symptom had this ever been a problem before.

I am extremely skeptical about antacids, and going through an antacid trial without any relief has made me even more discouraged.

I stopped drinking completely and started up some home remedies for indigestion that have greatly helped, but it has not eliminated the symptoms completely. My mother has a hiatal hernia from pregnancy, and her brother has one as well. But both of theirs are large and show up on a barium swallow. They also cause chest pain for them and other symptoms I don't have. Likewise, they don't get the throat burning like I do and they've had theirs their whole lives, so I don't know if genetics is a factor or not. When I lie down, my symptoms get better, and what I eat is not a huge influence as I have it 24/7 around the clock.

I would really like a doctors opinion on how a healthy 21 year old male could suddenly and instantly develop chronic 24/7 round the clock reflux out of the blue, with no inflammation or problems shown in an endoscopy aside from a very minor and small hiatal hernia that cannot even be directly linked to the symptoms (so they say thus far).

Thank you
6 Responses
Avatar universal
Maybe I'm just being really impatient, but I hate when I have to spill something personal like this onto the net and no one responds, it really does feel like an e-slap in the face.
Avatar universal
I don't know anything about the drinking part making you sick, but I have just been diagnosed with Barretts Esophagus. While reading up on this it mentions that drinking alcohol makes it worse, with the symptoms you explain. Maybe you need to be checked for that.

Avatar universal
Darlene, I thank you for your suggestion, but as I said in my original post, I had an endoscopy/EGD done (the tube/camera down the esophagus/stomach). They did not find anything unusual aside from a very small hiatal hernia that they said 90% of the population has and is usually not symptomatic. They did not even find any slight irritation or inflammation.
Avatar universal
My advice is to you is to keep getting more opinions from gastroenterologists until someone can solve your problem.  My son, also 21, had sort of a similar situation to yours.  He woke up one night with severe pain in the esophogus/chest and  ended up in the er, although he hadn't eaten or drank anything out of the ordinary.    After many tests, including an endoscopy, a gastroenterologist diagnosed him with acid refulx due to some gastric juices in the esophogus (which later I found out could have been just caused by nervousness of the exam), and small hiatal hernia.  Like you, never any pain in his life until a couple of terrible incidents.  They put him on aciphex and reglan and other med 5 times a day.  He also was in tune with his body and felt that this truly wasn't acid reflux and how could you go from fine one day to all of this stuff instantaneously.    He went to another gastro and was told it was all stress, which he also felt it wasn't all stress.  He weaned himself off of the medicine as he truly felt that he didn't have what was diagnosed.  (Like you, never any pain from spicy foods, etc...)The horrible "acid reflux" pains have completely gone away on their own and now he isn't on medication at all for whatever it was.  Strange...several months later, he had terrible abdominal pain and was rushed to the er and had an emergency appendectomy.  Was it all related??  Who knows -- but now he has developed a new problem post appendectomy related to irritable bowel.  I feel that irritable bowel is just another excuse for doctors who can't figure out the problem.   Guess I just thought I'd share with you...but the bottom line is, keep searching on the Internet for your symptoms, unfortunately these days we almost have to diagnose outselves!! ...and keep looking for a good doctor who is willing to listen and work with you and do all tests possible (blood tests, etc....) to rule everything out.
Avatar universal
Hi mg, thanks for the story. It does sound very similar to my problem (although my symptoms are a bit different i.e no chest/stomach pains). I'll definitely keep searching. I think I know how your son feels, it's like you get something wrong with you that you know isn't what the doctors have diagnosed you with, but one gets caught up in the web of "GERD/Acid Reflux" sales for antacids. It's as if there are people with various problems that are causing different forms of abdominal/esophageal discomfort and all the doctors can do is tell us to take antacids, when there really can be an underlying problem causing it.

When I told the gastroenterologist about my symptoms, he initially said "some of your symptoms sound like acid reflux, but some don't". He sat there, literally for about 10 minutes, pondering the situation. He then ordered the endoscopy and ever since then he has been pretty distant, while only telling me to take more and more antacids. I feel if something is only an irritation and not seen as "life-threatening" many doctors either wash their hands of it or just prescribe "symptom relief" medicine.
Avatar universal
Does anyone else have some feedback? The sensation is worse when I take a deep breath, it's like as if one had a tight throat from running too hard, and it's constant.
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