Heartburn/Reflux/Fullness/Painful Hiccups

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New Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 8/18/2011 4:39 PM (GMT -6)   
August 2011

I am a 47 yr. old female and have been suffering with persistent heartburn, persistent indigestion, persistent fullness, hard swollen abdomen and painful hiccups for the last 3 years. I use the word “persistent” to describe my symptoms because it is with me 24/7. In other words I am experiencing heartburn and fullness BEFORE I eat anything. Prior to August 2008 (3 years ago) I had the “normal” type of heartburn and indigestion that anyone gets after eating spicy foods or onions and garlic, for example. I would take a couple of Tums or a Zantac and it would be cleared up within an hour. This type of heartburn episode occurred about once per week. For the past 3 years, however I have these persistent symptoms that are NOT relieved by any medication that I have tried (listed below) over the counter or prescription.

Let me start at the beginning because at this point I am really not sure what is causing it since all the tests have come back negative. In March 2008 I stopped menstruating for good, except for a short one in July 2008 but otherwise menopause started early at 44 yrs. old. I dealt with the hot flashes which lasted a couple of years but I still seem to get them now and then. I started noticing that my pants were getting too tight and I was gaining some weight. My waist continued to get larger and my weight was going up but the only thing visibly bigger was my belly. By August 2008 I had purchased 3 new pairs of jeans in larger sizes to accommodate my stomach which at this point looked like I was 6 months pregnant and I had literally gained 50 lbs as well (went from 105 lbs to 158 lbs. and I am 5’3” tall). I went from a size 8 to a size 14 but ONLY in my waist. My diet had not changed at all in that time frame and so I figured it must be due to menopause. However, my stomach felt (and still does) hard and pressurized. For instance, when I lean against the sink to wash dishes, it feels as though it will explode with the pressure although I am barely putting any pressure on it while leaning into the counter. At that point I was beginning to think there was a huge tumor in there or something but I had no pain then or other symptoms. One day while trying on new slacks in a dept. store dressing room I happened to see myself naked in a 3-way tall standing mirror. I was a little shocked at how pregnant I looked and my lower back was sunken in and bruised looking. I have had lower back pain upon awakening ever since I broke my tailbone at the age of 13 so anything with my lower back would not surprise me but I had never seen bruising there before. That experience was still shocking to me as to how big my stomach was especially compared to the rest of my body that was still as thin-boned looking as it always had been.

In August 2008 I ate at a Japanese steak house and the next day I vomited all day long. I drank lots of Pepto and was over it by the next day…or at least I thought I was. The next evening, while I was eating a chocolate mint for a snack I began to get some heartburn and after about 20 minutes or so I was having severe “crushing” like chest pain. I debated about going to the ER thinking it might be a heart attack, but then I started thinking it might be related to the heartburn but I really was not sure. I could not find any position that would stop the chest pain but held out for a couple of hours and it finally stopped. Well, the chest pain went away but the heartburn stayed with me and I still have it today. I have had the chest pain a few more times since then and I can attribute it to eating something too acidic like chocolate or tomato-based products. But, the heartburn, indigestion, fullness and painful hiccups are always there before, during or after eating and during the night – 24/7. It seems to add the chest pain when I eat something acidic.

Besides the main symptoms outlined in more detail below, it is now August 2011 and in the last year I have lost some weight – over 35 lbs.- some of which may be due to moving and changing jobs (stress) but physically my work activity level was the same as before and it is an active job in a large retail pet store. Some of it is also due to my eating habits changing and most of that is caused by either not feeling hungry or not wanting to eat for fear of the worsening heartburn and other debilitating symptoms.

Three years later, my symptoms are exactly the same and I also get short of breath when I bend over to tie my shoes. I get an episode of severe heartburn and reflux whenever I bend over to do any task at work or at home and it is painful when it goes up into my chest (but I do not usually get a sensation of food in my throat or mouth unless it is right after eating, otherwise it is reflux without food). I get this very loud hiccup that is extremely painful in my chest and it happens about once or twice an hour throughout the day and after I eat something it is every 10 minutes for a couple of hours. It is usually loud enough to startle me and everyone in radius of the sound. It is almost like a belch that is not happening. I have never been able to belch intentionally and it rarely happens, like maybe once or twice a year and I am always surprised by it. However, I have been known in my lifetime to have an overabundance of flatulence and notable gas pain episodes where I thought I was going to die kind of pain that went away after either lying flat on my back for an hour or after an anti-nausea shot at the ER. That is what used to happen. Now, in the last 3 years since this began, I experience weird sharp pains that feel like they are located more toward the surface of my skin rather than the deeper moving gas pains like before. I believe these are actually gas pains that now just feel different and very sharp but oddly not as excruciating as they used to feel. For the first 2 years of this I also lost my feeling of hunger completely. My stomach always felt full and I did not feel any hunger pangs to tell me when to eat. I relied on the time of day or when my body would get shaky then I knew it was time to eat and I would sort of force myself to eat something. However strange it sounds, as soon as I start eating I feel as if I am relieving the hunger that I did not ever feel in the first place. Food still tastes good too. For some reason, and maybe it is due to the recent weight loss, my hunger pangs have returned gradually over the past year.

My belly itself still looks like it is pregnant but since I have lost weight it is still relative to my other skinnier body parts. To me, I look way to thin everywhere but I weighed 119 lbs on my last doctor visit which should be a normal weight if I didn’t look anorexic everywhere else. The swollen part of my abdomen is centered directly around my navel although when I look down at it from my point of view it is oddly-shaped with more swelling on the right side.

The heartburn and reflux occur at night if I lay on either side so I tend to sleep flat on my back 99% of the time. Sometimes I will wake up with severe heartburn and it gets worse as soon as I sit up in bed. Most people I have read have problems when they lie all the way back, but for me it does not seem to matter if I raise the head of the bed or not and it still gets worse when I sit up. In fact, it is worst when I am in a sitting position like in an office chair at the computer and I lean forward to type and I get reflux. I try to lean back in a chair to make it more tolerable. The problem with having to lie flat on my back for the heartburn is that it causes my lower back pain to be excruciating every morning when I wake up. It takes hours before my back finally feels better in the mornings. Still, my main issue is the reflux and large stomach.

I have tried all kinds of medications, over-the-counter and prescription, probiotics, changed eating and sleeping habits, had several tests that show nothing wrong but my stomach still feels like it wants to explode or needs to be poked or removed to provide just a little relief. I am super-thin looking in my opinion and it looks as though I am either pregnant or malnourished or both but neither is the case. I have no urinary or bowel issues, no constipation or diarrhea or any specific persistent pain either.


- Increased abdominal girth
- Persistent stomach fullness
- Persistent heartburn
- Persistent reflux
- Persistent indigestion
- “Crushing” chest pain when acidic foods consumed
- Heartburn/Reflux worse when sitting up or leaning forward/bending over
- Shortness of breath when bending to tie my shoes
- Occasionally feels like something is ‘stuck’ under my ribs and pops back
- Abdomen feels tight and hard and sensitive to pressure
- Abdomen looks oddly shaped when looking down from my point of view
- Sometimes palpitations and shortness of breath when bending or just sitting still

Note: one thing that started less than a year ago was a pain in my left breast that I only notice when not wearing a bra. It has become more noticeable because I often remove my bra and anything else that may constrict any part of my abdomen whenever possible.

Tests done/results:

- Trans vaginal ultrasound/negative
- Pelvic ultrasound/2 small Nebothian cysts
- Abdominal CT scan/negative
- EGD w/ biopsy and irregular z-line. No problem visible but reflux evidence found. No hernia found. Celiac and H. pylori also being tested w/ biopsy./Waiting for results of biopsies.
- H. Pylori blood test/negative
- Liver/kidney/pancreas function blood tests normal
- Thyroid normal
- Last Pap: 2006/Normal (HPV/mild displaysia found in earlier paps
- Last Mammogram: 2006/Normal
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol last tested 2006

Current medications:
- Metroprolol xl 100 mg 1 X per day (blood pressure)
- Hydrochlorothiazide 25 mg 1 X per day (blood pressure)

Heartburn/reflux medications tried:
– 8-wk Regiment (No relief at all):
o Prilosec OTC – double dose for 8 wks per Dr.
o Kifir (probiotic) drink2X/day
o Zantac 150mg 2X/day
o Tums ex-1000 daily

- Tried at different times mostly in the first 2 years from 8/08 to 8/10 (No relief at all):
o Nexium
o Prevacid
o Prilosec
o Protonix
o Zegerid
o Kapidex (Dexilant)
o Fluconazole antibiotic in the event it was H. Pylori/Infection (before the blood test was done for HP and different Dr.)
o Hyoscyamine Sulfate
o Sucralfate (Carafate)
o Zantac
o Tums

Home treatment tried:
- Raising head of bed
- Cut out all acidic and spicy foods
- Eat small amts.
- Eat at least 4 hours before bed time
- Cut back on coffee and smoking
- No alcohol

I am currently waiting for results of the EGD biopsies in which it said “irregular z-line”, biopsy taken, biopsied to rule out celiac sprue and H. Pylori (for which I was already blood tested). The gastro doc said he saw no visible problems.

Now I need help with the next step. What other tests could possibly be done to find out what is causing this? Is there any type of problem that would not have shown up on a transvaginal ultrasound, a pelvic ultrasound, an abdominal CT scan and an EGD? And, how do you know if you have ascites? Would that have been clearly visible on one of the above-mentioned tests? Also, is there a link between GERD and the Vagus Nerve and could that cause my symptoms (specifically the lack of hunger feeling)? I have had limited/no health insurance and therefore have been dealing with this for 3 years with only sporadic ability to go see a doctor or pay for procedures and tests. I am at the point where I cannot deal with this much longer and I am desperate for any information or assistance on where to go from here.

Elite Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 14475
   Posted 8/18/2011 5:06 PM (GMT -6)   
I'd go back and get an abdominal MRI just to be be sure.

New Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 2
   Posted 8/18/2011 5:52 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank you for enduring my long post and thanks for your input. I am going to see if my PCP Dr. will order another imaging test. I suppose something could have been missed before.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2011
Total Posts : 656
   Posted 8/20/2011 2:35 PM (GMT -6)   

You have endured so much, I'm terribly sorry for your suffering. Let us know what the result of the MRI is. I agree with Joy one million percent about getting the abdominal series done - the bloated feeling is very fishy to me.

I really hope that you get some relief soon.

Keep us posted!

mock turtle
Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2011
Total Posts : 467
   Posted 8/20/2011 4:28 PM (GMT -6)   

like many here you have been thru a very dark and fiery place....

your big weight gain and then weight loss is significant especially as you indicate that you are thin everywhere but your abdomen

yes mri or some kind of better imaging would seem to be in order

as for sitting up in bed when you are experiencing reflux , and upon sitting up its gets worse...me too

my GI doc's nurse explained to me that the tension of sitting up from the prone position easily ejects contents of the stomach upward....sit ups are risky for gerd sufferers!

i found it remarkable that you remembered all the way back to august of 08 , eating at a japanese steak house and getting so sick...must have been most traumatic. the ensuing chest pain you describe, which caused you to wonder if you should go to an ER as it might be a heart issue...yes i...and many others here... have experienced pain so bad we wondered if we were having a heart attack. i was so frustrated, so without hope, so angry the last time this happened to me, that i went outside and jogged up and down my street thinking, ok if its a heart attack ill bring it on, otherwise , if i dont keel over, ill know its just that demon GERD once again...i was at the end of my rope

hang in there...we are suffering together ( which i guess is better than suffering alone...i think (guess)

keep reading the comments here and read back whats been said over the years here at HealingWell, there are some great posts by people who were members years ago that will shed light on your...our...situation

keep us posted on how you are doing...we care

dont give up
mock turtle

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2011
Total Posts : 119
   Posted 8/20/2011 5:56 PM (GMT -6)   
You don't show having had a HIDA scan. Have you had your gallbladder function tested? That was the route of many of my evils. After surgery six weeks ago I was honestly about 80% better. Still suffering off and on with the reflux, vomiting, gas, bloating, anxiety and it is still not easy to deal with after having been ill for a very long time.

I put on about 40 lbs in a matter of months and jumped up three pant sizes too. I kept telling my mother and husband "something isn't right". Some people put on weight with GB issues. Of course the last four months I lost 33 lbs :(! Another thing that can be happening is your hormone issues or decline of. Have you had a full hormone screen done? Testosterone being high will cause the midriff to increase and high testosterone results in more insulin being stored in the fatty cells.

My gallbladder, ovaries, kidneys and stomach were all tested a couple of years ago with an MRI and transvaginal ultrasound. They didn't see any gallstones so they ruled that out. When a HIDA scan was finally ordered last month, my function was low. When they took my gallbladder out, it was full of stones, sludge, enlarged, scarred, and was plagued with "old" infection. My duct work was such a mess they had to stint it and repair it at the time of surgery. My surgeon told me I had to have been like that for years, yet nobody ever found it....go figure!

Are you having any right side pain, lower back pain, tingling or pain between the shoulder blades?

Of course I'm not a Doctor but I would sure have your function checked if they haven't already! Just trying to make suggestions because of my own circumstances, which went on for years with no answer!

New Member

Date Joined Mar 2012
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 3/17/2012 2:01 AM (GMT -6)   
I don't know if you are still struggling, or still keeping up on this thread, but I'm posting here anyways... just in case!
I had the same thing as what you are describing, only it started when I was 20 and it didn't get that severe to where it was constant! I had the digestive/gastrointestinal symptoms every day; nothing in the morning, mild in the afternoon, and severe in the evenings. All tests came back normal, and I went through several doctors, leaving all of them scratching their heads. I don't know if we have the same causes, or if the same things that helped me will help you- but on the off chance it does, I'm going to share it!
 I went from doctor to doctor for about 3 years, with no results. In and out of the ER with suden strange symptoms, including irregular heart beats that made me dizzy, difficulty breathing, breathlessness, severe abdoninal pain, and sharp chest pains. Even the prescriptions wore off or didn't work in the first place! In my opinion the distended abdomen was the worst symptom, and there was absolutely no treatment for it! It was so painful and made me feel like you said, like there was gas trapped and I needed to "pop" it or something! The symptoms became gradually more severe, and new symptoms constantly piled on! Finally, I went to a natural health doctor- the first one to suggest an autoimmune problem and a change in diet. I was tested for several things, and the results said that I was severely gluten-intolerant (but not celiac), and moderately intolerant to dairy, soy, eggs, nightshades, and various other grains. I learned, through my doc and tons of research, that over time, constant consumption of these foods had done some serious damage to my digestive system. That damage lead to something called "leaky gut syndrome", which was racking up the sensitivites and making it impossible for my intestinal tract to repair itself, leading to an ever-worsening condition. None of this showed up on any scans or in exams, mind you!
So, I went all-out in fixing my diet; no more processed foods, no more processed sugars and carbs (they feed bad bacteria), no more wheat. I did an elimination diet for all of the other foods, by cutting them completely for 3 full months and then reintroducing them one at a time- I still eat them sparingly. I ended up cutting soy and grains permanently- technically I am on the "paleo" diet, a grain free and sugar free diet. After only one month of this, my distended abdomen was half the size, my other symptoms were seriously lower, and by 3 months all I had left was occasional gas and bloating around my period, and some heart burn when I ate too much acidic food. The symptoms came back when I tried eating grains again, even gluten free, so I just cut them completely.
For the occasional mild diestive issues, I do take a few supplements, which I took in higher doses when I was first starting out; Cayenne and Ginger are absolutley the most helpful for the heartburn and indiestion, as well as any stomach upset that I get (usually when I have a cold); Licorice Tea was so helpful and soothing during the early healing phase, and still helps to drink every now and then; Digestive Enzymes were essential in the beginning so that I could actually digest my food, digest it quickly, and absorb nutrients from it, and now I still take them with large meals; and last but not least, I took broken-cell wall Chlorella, which has helped to heal the intestinal walls and carry out any toxins that might further irritate the intestines. 
As for diet; I find that I am at my best when I get my fiber from fruits and veggies, and some nuts and seeds, but I have to be careful with flax seeds and too much fiber! I don't eat potatoes more than twice a month, and only in small quantities- the same goes for cooked tomatoes nd sauce. My meals consist of a serving of protien, with 2 servings of veggies, and no carb-only foods or grains. I switched to raw milk for the amazing probiotics and nutrients, and this has actually allieviated my lactose-intolerance while still allowing milk in my diet. Fruits, nuts, seeds, dairy, and fats are either snacks or accompany a meal. And watch the citrus intake! No alcohol, no coffee, no smoking. I know this all sounds crazy- when I first did this I though I would starve, and didn't know what to eat! But I am sooooo absolutely glad that I did it, and now it's easy and I consider it a worthy sacrifice!
I don't know if this will help you, or what you have tried in your diet, but for me I was at a point where ANYTHING was worth a try!!! If you have any questions, feel free to ask! Best wishes, and I hope you find the solution no matter what it is! :)
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