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.” 

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