MEDICAL

Food Not Going Down After Swallowing

This condition is difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced the problem, but for those who have gone through this ordeal, I'm sure you'll comprehend what I'm saying.

First, I should give a brief explanation of the process of swallowing in as short and uncomplicated an explanation as possible, as it was explained to me.  When a person swallows food, it travels down the esophagus, and at the end of the process, there is a hole that leads into your stomach.  During this procedure, there is a flap that opens when food comes to the stomach hole, and then it closes when food goes through the hole.  I found this out back in 2002 when I had to have an endoscopy done, due to the condition that I'm about to describe.

Back in 2002, I was eating lunch from a Chinese carry out.  I had previously encountered problems with food going down slowly prior to this, but in this extreme instance, I ended up needing to go to the emergency room at the hospital.  I ate a piece of chicken, which didn't get chewed up thoroughly.  I swallowed this and felt a disturbing sensation which stopped me from eating--it wasn't painful, but just a real "oh-oh" type of feeling.  I felt like I didn't want any more to eat, and I tried to take a sip of soda.  When I swallowed the soda, it felt like it didn't go anywhere.  Eventually, I felt like it was backing up in my throat, and I was able to go to the bathroom, and regurgitate it.  I then tried to drink water, and the same thing happened--it eventually just settled in my gullet/throat.  I figured I'd give it a little time before I continued eating or drinking.  Things never improved.  This happened on a Tuesday afternoon, and by Wednesday evening, the condition didn't improve.  I was advised by a friend to go to the emergency room at the hospital, because it sounded like a blockage to him.  On Thursday morning, I did so, and was admitted to a room for the morning and afternoon.  I was given an IV due to dehydration, and was monitored closely because my heart was racing.  The doctor determined that I needed an endoscopy done, which is the process of running a tube down your throat and pushing the food through that caused the blockage.  As it turned out, there was an unchewed piece of chicken that had gotten behind the flap of my stomach hole, which kept any food or liquid from entering my stomach.

I was careful for quite some time after this, but about a year later, the same thing happened when eating a hot dog.  This occurred at about 6:30 pm in the evening, and after about 90 minutes of food and drink being blocked from going down, I figured I had to go back to the emergency room.  However, a couple of months prior to this, I had bought an inversion table, which is supposed to aid in back ailments, where the person lies on the table and then gets turned upside-down for a couple of minutes to straighten the vertebrae.  I decided to lie on this table and turn myself completely upside-down for about 3-5 minutes to maybe loosen the food.  Nothing seemed to happen, and by 10:00 pm that night I decided to go to the hospital.  As I was going to walk out the door, I decided to take one more sip of water, and miraculously, there was the sensation of the food going down, and thus clearly my eating path.  I wasn't sure, but I thought that the inversion table had helped to fix the problem.

Then about another year or two later, I was eating steak at a restaurant, and the blockage problem happened again.  I ended up leaving after only finishing about 1/3rd of my meal.  This was at around 3:00 pm.  When I got home, nothing seemed to be happening, so I thought that I'd be going back to the hospital.  I had just relocated, and my inversion table was still sitting in my public storage bin.  However, I decided to travel the 45 minutes to the storage bin and retrieve the table.  At about 6:15 pm or so, I got on the table and did the inversion for about 5 minutes.  At about 8:30 pm that evening, the food went down, so again, it appeared that the inversion table saved the day.

I'm not sure what kinds of foods are the culprits, but it initially appeared that meats are responsible.  However, recently I've had the same problem with certain vegetables and grains, namely corn and rice.  I haven't had the total blockage thing happen for more than about 10 minutes.  The blockage problem also seems to be connected with warm foods mostly.  However, there never seems to be any problem with junk foods, and none whatsoever with pastries and desserts.

I thought that my problem was just something I alone experienced, until I read a few similar reports from people on the Internet.  However, the most telling similar instance is from a friend of mine, who says it takes him a long time to eat because of a description of symptoms that sound very much like my experience.  This friend said that he was tested by a doctor, and it turns out that his gullet or esophagus is narrower than the average person's, and this is the reason for his dilemma.

Hopefully, this somewhat lengthy write-up will provide a little comfort to those of you who are just as much in the dark as I was.  Perhaps, there are a lot of people with a smaller swallowing circumference, if this is indeed a reasonable explanation.  And if a blockage does occur, perhaps the use of an inversion table for 5-10 minutes will loosen the food, as it seems to have done in my case.  If nothing seems to clear up your blockage, DO NOT TRY TO FORCE THE FOOD DOWN WITH A LIQUID.  I tried this, and nearly passed out from choking.  If all else fails, visit the hospital.  If I remember correctly, the bill for an endoscopy was about $1,200.00.  Hopefully, you have health insurance.  If not, find a way to pay the bill--but definitely get treatment.  A person can't go too long without food or water.