*Disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert. The information in this post is from the Bastian Voice Institute. This is my personal experience with chronic stomach pain. Want to hear more about the R-CPD experience from me and others? Click here.
Hello! It’s been a minute since I’ve typed up a frenzy about my chronic stomach pain. Over a year, actually. During this time, I graduated college, went to Europe with my boyfriend (and have since gone again!), and started working a full-time job. However, the biggest event for me was curing my chronic stomach pain. If you’ve read this post, you know the kind of chronic stomach pain I’m talking about. You know the various methods I’ve tried and extremes I’ve reached. Moreover, I never thought this was possible.
My purpose on The Lively Word is to talk about everything under the sun, including food and food-related issues. I’ve had my fair share of dietary stress, and today I’m here with some crazy (good) news: I cured my chronic stomach pain.
I should clarify, my boyfriend found the cure. He’s been with me through all of the pain, nausea, and vomiting. For this, I couldn’t be more grateful.
Chronic Stomach Pain: Let’s Clear the Air(ways)
In mid-September, I discovered the Bastian Voice Institute, which treats vocal, swallowing, and airway disorders. Dr. Bastian, the vocal doctor, has piloted research and treatment for the inability to belch, otherwise known as Retrograde cricopharyngeus dysfunction (R-CPD). I came across Dr. Bastian in this article, where he treats the first group of patients for R-CPD. The group of 51 patients were asked about their symptoms and how long they have recognized these symptoms, with the majority (50 of 51) noting they’ve had these issues for their entire lives.
The study continues to explain the solution for most non-burpers: experiential Botox injection into the esophagus. This relaxes the esophageal sphincter and allows it to release air naturally. All 51 patients have since felt relief and have been able to burp post-procedure. Now, Dr. Bastian has treated over 121 patients. In addition, I am now one of those patients! In the rest of this post I detail my experience with R-CPD and Dr. Bastian. Please read the article above for further scientific explanation of the study and the R-CPD disorder.
My Experience with R-CPD
I am a non-burper, a technical term of course. As a non-burper, I used to experience stomach pain, nausea, frequent vomiting, and bloating on a daily basis. Because of this, I used to think it was caused solely by food and stress. Both food and stress play a part, but this was the piece I was missing. My symptoms matched these first 51 patients, and I wanted in on this experiment.
A month or so later, I scheduled a consultation and tentative procedure with Dr. Bastian over a two day period in Chicago. At this time I had just started a new job, so I took unpaid time and crossed my fingers to hopefully cure my chronic stomach pain as I waited in Dr. Bastian’s office.
Why Does Non-Burping Cause Chronic Stomach Pain?
Dr. Bastian introduced himself and gave me a little background on non-burpers and R-CPD. My symptoms matched those of his previous patients and I was astounded to learn there were others who experienced the same chronic stomach pain I did.
Dr. Bastian needed to test if I was a true non-burper by completing two exams, an aerodigestive tract examination and video endoscopic swallowing study. These exams determine if the upper esophageal sphincter is malfunctioning. Here’s why this is important: if the esophageal sphincter doesn’t function properly, air cannot be released. Thus, if air is not released, the individual will experience a wide variety of uncomfortable and/or painful symptoms.
Dr. Bastian took a small camera and inserted it through my nose and down my throat (after the numbing spray, thankfully). He watched as I swallowed blue water and applesauce and removed the camera afterwards. The exams confirmed I was definitely a non-burper.
He explained my esophageal sphincter malfunction – it’s supposed to open to let air escape the esophagus, otherwise known as a burp. For me, the sphincter doesn’t open at all and remains permanently closed, trapping air inside my esophagus. This excess air creates pressure, pain, nausea, bloating, etc. There are foods that make it worse (think gaseous) but overall, the issue wasn’t food. It was my esophagus.
A Note of Gratitude
Before I continue with my story, I need to extend my gratitude to Dr. Bastian. He is the best doctor I have ever seen. Dr. Bastian and his team did not tell me my symptoms were in my head, caused solely by stress, or impossible to solve. They empathized with me and assured me this problem is curable. Living a burp-less life is no way to live. I can’t remember the last time a doctor made me feel comfortable, let alone heard. Thank you, Dr. Bastian!
The next step was the procedure, in which Dr. Bastian would inject my esophagus with Botox in 4 different places while I was under anesthesia. The Botox will relax the muscle, letting air escape freely, before wearing off after six weeks. This only took 30 minutes and Dr. Bastian and his team made me feel very comfortable beforehand.
After the procedure, I experienced micro burps, followed by real burps. I had to literally teach myself how to burp. It was like being a baby again! My esophagus was dilated from having stagnant air for an extended period of time, so it took a bit for me to get the burping thing down. This is normal!
Dr. Bastian assured me my esophagus would go back to its normal size and there was a very high chance I would maintain the ability to belch after the Botox wore off. For many of his patients thus far, and for me, the first time worked like a charm.
Dr. Bastian and his team followed up with me two days after the exam to see how I was feeling and ask about my symptoms. They assured me I can call with any questions or concerns and they would continue to check up on me.
Where Am I Now (with the Burping)?
It has been 7 months since I received the procedure, and Dr. Basitan’s team is still reaching out to me. I’m still experiencing relief from the Botox and continue to burp regularly. According to Dr. Bastian, if I’m still burping freely, I should continue to burp permanently. I’m happy to report this is the case so far!
When I first learned to burp, they escaped freely due to my relaxed esophageal muscles. My stomach issues have been reduced significantly and I feel so much better. I still don’t love gaseous foods (looking at you, garlic) as I got sick from them so many times. Can I eat them, though? The answer is yes!
If you or anyone you know is struggling with chronic stomach pain, please read the study and articles I linked in this post. You never know the true cause behind an issue, and sometimes it takes some digging.
In case you’re wondering, my boyfriend found Dr. Bastian through this Reddit thread, with other non-burpers. There is a list of doctors and helpful information in the thread, including my comment supporting Dr. Bastian and his incredible work.
Have you been experiencing chronic stomach pain? Leave a comment below, I would love to hear your experience. Please contact me with any questions or comments. Peace and love.