It started somewhere in December last year.
I coughed up some rust coloured phlegm. But it was only a one time incident.
A few days later, I felt that the back of the mouth and throat were raw and burned. When I brought Joel to see our ENT, I asked him to take a look at my mouth and throat. He said they look pink and it wasn't from being sick. Most likely I was having a GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) episode. He prescribed PPIs for me.
Towards the end of December, I had a little itch at the throat and some light coughing. Within days, it became a full-blown cough with difficulty breathing. I thought I had contracted some viral or bacterial infection. I tried gargling. Drank more soup. Went to bed earlier and slept more. Continued to walk. But nothing worked. And then it happened. I jolted up from my sleep in the middle of the night gasping for breath. It was as though I had an asthma attack. But I'm not asthmatic. Have never been. Can I suddenly develop asthma at the age of 40? I calmed myself down and tried not to get into a panic attack. Tried to breathe in and out calmly. I could breathe but it wasn't breaths where I felt relieved or satisfied. I had to breathe multiple deep breaths in order to get some slight relief.
Sat up in bed and tried to think what could have triggered this?
Nothing came to mind. I did not have any allergy reactions. Did not have any anaphylaxis symptoms. It was truly perplexing. But something was definitely wrong.
I went to the ER the next day. I told them I had difficulty breathing and they took me in immediately. After checking my medical history and what I was allergic to, he listened to my lungs. He said my lungs sounded constricted. The doctor gave me a nebuliser. This was the first time in my life I had a nebuliser. After the nebuliser, I had blood tests done and a chest x-ray.
The chest x-ray showed that I had inflammation in both my lungs. The blood test showed that I was in excellent health. No virus or bacteria infection at all. The doctor was perplexed to what was causing the chronic coughing and the inability to breathe properly. I did not fall sick recently. I did not have fever. I don't deal with foreigners. I don't smoke. I did not go overseas for holiday. In fact, I did not go anywhere! I have never been asthmatic. Nothing.
The second ER doctor who attended to me, suggested to me that I took some antibiotics just in case it was a bacterial infection which never showed up on the blood test. Things like this do happen. I hate antibiotics as they mess up with my digestive system. I declined and said that I would monitor and see how things goes.
As the nebuliser did give me some relief, they sent me home and told me to monitor myself closely. If I was to have an episode like this again, I was to go back to the ER immediately.
Well at least they didn't admit me. If not I would have spent New Year's in the hospital.
It was at this time I noticed that I had started to regurgitate big chunks of food up. Tons of acid too.
A few days later, I ended up in the ER again. The same asthma-like-attack came back. I rushed to the ER and had a nebuliser again. Blood test was done again and this time they did a influenza swab. Everything was perfect again. No inflammation, no virus, no bacteria and no influenza. They sent me to see a physician. After asking the same questions which I was asked at the ER, he said I most likely had a GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) episode and proceeded to give me PPI (Nexium) and also Aerius and Singular to help loosen up the phlegm. I went home.
It happened again. I felt very ill, coughed very violently and had difficulty breathing. I had to ask hubby to come home to take me to the hospital.
Again, blood tests and MORE blood tests. Again, all was normal. I was in great health according to my blood tests. Lungs were no longer inflamed. There wasn't any more constriction. Oxygen saturation was 100%!
The ER doctor said that he was 99.9% sure that it was my GERD acting up. I told him Nexium was useless. He gave me Pariet instead. And he told me to go back to see my gastroenterologist.
I went home with the wheels in my mind spinning nonstop at top speed. What was triggering these attacks? What have I been eating? Could it be the washing of the air-conditioners which used acid (chemicals) to clean that triggered this? I had switched on the aircon with opened windows for days with no one inside to get rid of it. But inhaling chemicals has never triggered GERD. This was something I have been eating. Could it be the new place where I was buying my free range chicken? Could they be unscrupulous business people which have been adding something to their chickens? Could it be the pork that I was consuming? Could it be the vegetables that I have been buying? Could it be the haze? Could it be something that was sinister lurking in my system?
Could it be this?
Could it be that?
WHAT COULD IT BE???????
And then it struck me like a thunderbolt.
I had bought this Rice Bran Oil from the organic shop to try (it's low salicylate and also low FODMAP) and have been using it since the beginning of December. Brown rice always gave me problems and this oil is from rice bran!!!!!!! And it was extra oily.
How could I have overlooked this?
I wanted to slap myself. I was kicking myself mentally nonstop. I could not believe that this happened. How utterly careless of me.
When I did realise, we had finished all of the oil! (I bought a 1L bottle instead of the bigger bottle in the above picture. Imagine if I had bought the bigger bottle!)
A few days later, the cough began to lessen. The asthma-attack-like episodes lessened. The reflux lessened. I was relieved. I thought things would get better.
Boy, was I wrong.
...to be continued