Dental Accident

As I sit here, my stomach is growling or more precisely gurgling. The GI issue remains. I am drinking ginger tea. It does not taste good, but so far it has proven to settle and sooth my distempered gut. Also I am taking some thing called Jarro-Dophilus designed to help the good bacteria make a come back in the colon. The box says, “Five Billion Organisms Per Capsule.” Frankly, that freaks me out a bit–how small are these organisms that one can get 5 billion of them in a capsule. Are they dead organisms or free-dried? I suppose I could do some research. Instead I just take them.
jarro.jpgLast week some time I was eating and felt with the tip of my tongue–as one does–out of nowhere a rough patch on one of the teeth in the upper left jaw. I probed a bit further and found–Jesus Christ!–a huge hole in one of the teeth. Whatever had been there–tooth or filling–was gone, and hanging out I assumed somewhere in my troubled gut.

Next day, the dentist said they could only take me in for an exam real late in the day, but then just as I was getting in my car to go to the grocery store, the cell rang and they said, “Hey, come on down.”

So I spend the next three hours in a dentist chair. I had not planned on that, but the dentist really didn’t give me a choice. First he looks in there and says, Jesus Christ! and even as he is speaking he is pumping in pain killer. Something about this dental accident seems to energize him. I was like a dental adventure. Immediately he is diagnosing the situation, and calculating what needs to be done, and how to do it so he can save the tooth by putting a cap on it–and all this while working me in between his other clients. I am also a logistical challenge.

I never did get clear on what happened exactly except that a chunk of tooth fell off, and it did not crack down below the gum line and there was no abscess and thus no need for a root canal.

I guess I was lucky, though the dentist enjoyed himself a lot more than I did.

I hope this tooth incident proves isolated. 


While I lack the knowledge or tools definitively to diagnose my gut problem, I have decided I suffer dyspepsia. This is an old and honorable complaint found in medical dictionaries of the 1700’s. The OED describes this as: “Difficulty or derangement of digestion; indigestion: applied to various forms of disorder of the digestive organs, esp. the stomach, usually involving weakness, loss of appetite, and depression of spirits.” This seems to cover all the bases as I experience them. I like that “derangement of digestion” and “depression of spirits.”

The problem with such and old and honorable complaint is, of course, that it is old and honorable and probably for that reason not much up to date and not the sort of definitive diagnosis that might be supplied by modern gastrointestinal science. I find mention of dyspepsia in the modern literature. But there are all kinds of it: for example non ulcerous dyspepsia. I find this a bit alarming, for I am not sure or not if my dyspepsia is of the non-ulcerous kind. To know for sure on that head one would have to have a tube stuck down one’s throat, and so far that has not happened. So dyspepsia does not appear so much a thing onto itself as a kind of catchall phrase for a variety of symptoms that might be the manifestation of any number of deeper and perhaps more serious organic problems, with their own very specific and terrifying scientific names.

Whatever it is and whether it is the sign of something deeper, I am apparently not alone. I find different numbers, but they suggest that at least a 100 million Americans, perhaps more, suffer dyspepsia. So whatever it is exactly, a lot of people have it: wind, nausea, indigestion, bloating, abdominal pain, and deranged digestion. The medical industry devoted to this problem generates billions of dollars each year. We are a gaseous nation.

The preferred treatment for these problems today are the so-called proton pump inhibitors, like Tagamet. Unfortunately I cannot take these. I was previously prescribed for my condition Levson SLO; this reduces acid and is also an antispasmodic, derived from Belladonna. But, as I now know, anything that slows down the processes of the body in any way is inclined also to be a depressant. After 14 days of Levsin, I became more than usually depressed; my brain was a vacant hole and my heart an empty bag.

So I went off the stuff–slowly–for as with any med that I have come across, one always experiences withdrawal. And I did with a concurrent, not return exactly, but resurgence of my dyspepsia.

I feel some comfort, though, in finding a word for the condition, and now when people ask me how I am, I can say, “dyspeptic.” 

Med Mash and the GI Issue

So sometime last week I guess I get the second round of results re: my gut problem. I go in and pee and they take more blood, and later I have to harvest a heap of my own stool and put it in little bottles and take it over to the lab. That was unpleasant.

But the results are good. My urine for example is described as clear and yellow in color. Exactly as I thought it should be and as I might have predicted. And the blood tests for possible imbalances are all negative, and my medical person writes in that the stools were fine. No parasites.

results3.gifall this is great except I still have a gut problem. I am not made happy by the fact that the more I mention my gut problem–which is not often–the more I realize lots of people have gut problems. One guy, much younger and fitter than I and also much more affluent, when I mentioned my gut problem said he had one so bad for several years that it drove him to contemplate suicide. Now this is a positive and upbeat guy, so it must have been an awful gut problem.

He had an expensive doctor, a GI guy, but he had to diagnose his problem himself. If one can believe, the doctor never even suggested that he might have a problem with gluten (the protein in plants). But the guy researched the web, went on a gluten free diet, and says it was a life changer.

I am pretty sure I don’t have a gluten problem. It usually develops earlier in life and is a lot nastier in its manifestations than what I have (though, who knows, what I have may get worse). I guess one advantage to getting older. There are a lot of diseases out there that one is supposed to get earlier in life, and if one has not gotten them by my age one is not likely to get them.

At my last visit, my medical person gave me a med. Something called Levsin-SLO, to be taken thrice daily or as needed. After a couple days taking it my stomach did seem to calm. The stuff is an antispasmodic and derived from belladonna. When I checked out the possible side effects I freaked:

confusion, hallucinations;
unusual thoughts or behavior;
fast, pounding, or uneven heart rate;
rash or flushing; or
eye pain
dizziness, drowsiness, feeling nervous; blurred vision, headache;
nausea, vomiting, bloating, heartburn, or constipation;
changes in taste;
problems with urination;
decreased sweating;
dry mouth; or
impotence, loss of interest in sex, or trouble having an orgasm.

These are pretty damn common side effects. It’s crazy how the side-effects sometimes cause what they are supposed to cure. Check out the side-effects for antidepressants. They can cause depression and anxiety.  And, here, you will note, this med. can cause diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, as well as bloating.  All gut problems.

And oh….I forgot–not listed here as a side effect but in another place: psychosis.

That gave me pause. So I contacted a person in our condo complex, formerly a nurse, and she said doctors hand out that stuff like candy to old and young alike.

So, I thought A-OK. My gut is calmer, the flatulence less profound, and my stools nearly back to traditional.

Then–wham–I decide to cut back one pill to see how the gut is and I am hit by withdrawal (can you believe): a sudden, out of nowhere, wham in the gut bout of anxiety, plus fatigue. I have been taking the stuff 14 days and it is starting to get to my head. You put some chemical in your body and there is no way in hell it’s not going to end up in your head. I am taking other meds and I am afraid this belladonna derivative is starting to muck them all up.

So now what? I guess I will have to make the time and go through the agony of cutting back further to see if I can get rid of the emotional side effects and hope that the gut has recovered some.

On the bright side–always on the bright side–I do not yet appear psychotic.

Pulse 1 (Kairo) , Pulse 2

Since as part of my teaching, I am always listening for signs of the direction of the consumer society, my ears perked up when I heard mention of the exportation of anti-depressants to Japan. According to this speaker, the sale of anti-depressants in Japan is a billion dollar industry.

This was not the case even ten years ago.

The Japanese knew of something called depression.

The nation [Japan] did have a clinical diagnosis of depression – utsubyo – but it was nothing like the US version: it described an illness as devastating and as stigmatizing as schizophrenia. Worse, at least for the sales prospects of antidepressants in Japan, it was rare.

So they had depression ten years ago, but it was devastating. Further the attitude of the Japanese people towards melancholy states differed from ours:

Most other states of melancholy were not considered illnesses in Japan. Indeed, the experience of prolonged, deep sadness was often considered to be a jibyo, a personal hardship that builds character.

What a novel idea: a personal hardship building character, sadness–not as something to run away from–but something that, if endured, might make one stronger.

Clearly, not an American idea….not anymore anyway.

Which is why the Japanese version of the movie, Pulse (the original version), is better than the American version. Both are about how technology is taking over our lives; things come out of our TV sets and over our phones and drain us of our life force. Slowly people start disappearing or killing themselves for no apparent reason. That’s mostly what was going on in the American film: technophobia. It had a lot of cool special effects; people turning into piles of dust and so forth.

And while technophobia plays a part in the Japanese film, something else was going on, something in a way more horrifying than anything a special effect could convey. The characters actually talked about “death,” what it was, what it meant for human existence, and but most importantly death becomes the ultimate symbol of the isolation or aloneness of the individual. That’s ultimately what the Japanese film was about and stated directly by the characters at different points: We are each of us alone. There is no way we can communicate with each, no way we can know or really understand each other.

The Japanese film was depressing. Yes, the heroine escapes on a ship headed to nowhere. But in the final scene, she says she has found peace sitting with her best friend, who, having been stricken by the ghosts, is now no more than a shadow on the wall. She is staring at emptiness. The American version just doesn’t have that edge. Both hero and heroine escape and are heading to one those places where there is no cell phone reception.