Heidi Montag hospitalized for Abdominal Pain

“Lost Chamber” 06.11.heidi1

Reality show celebrity Heidi Montag was hospitalized in Costa Rica Saturday when she became ill on the set of  I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. Heidi and husband, Spencer Pratt had just spent the night in what was called the “Lost Chamber,” a dark, scary room with only water to drink and rice and beans to eat. The duo, who had already quit the show twice, were put in the room as a punishment for leaving and then asking to return to the show. Montag began to complain of abdominal pain, and was said to be “convulsively throwing up.” She was transported to a hospital where she was given IV (intravenous) fluids. Published reports have said that she was diagnosed with gastritis and/or a gastric ulcer.

Your stomach makes acid to break down the food you eat. But in some people, the acid can damage the lining of their stomach. This is called gastritis (inflammation of the stomach). Gastritis can be caused by a number of different things. The most common are:

  • Alcohol
  • Infection of the stomach with a germ called Heliobacter pylori
  • Medications that can irritate the stomach lining such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibruprofen and naproxen
  • Smoking
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as pernicious anemia
  • Excess gastric acid secretion (such as from stress)

Symptoms include abdominal pain, indigestion, dark stools, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or vomiting blood or coffee-ground like material. If the irritation to the lining is more severe, an ulcer (simply a break in the lining) can form in the stomach (gastric ulcer), or in the upper part of the small intestine leaving the stomach (duodenal or peptic ulcer). Symptoms may last for a short time (acute gastritis) or over many months or years (chronic gastritis). Several tests may be done to make the diagnosis:

  • Stomach x-rays – usually done with swallowing a chalky substance called barium to better outline the stomach lining
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy – where a long flexible tube with a camera at the end is inserted into the stomach to directly observe the stomach and duodenal lining
  • Stool tests – to look for blood and bacteria
  • Blood tests – to look for anemia and H. pylori. A positive H. pylori blood test is not definitive for an current infection (it may be a mark of past infection) whereas a positive stool test for H. pylori does indicate current infection.

Treatment depends on what is the underlying cause. If irritation from alcohol, smoking or NSAIDs is the cause, discontinuing them will help the problem. This is often paired with medications which reduce or neutralize stomach acid. For mild gastritis, over the counter antacids (such as Maalox or Mylanta) can neutralize the acid and provide relief. If antacids don’t provide enough relief, medications called acid blockers may be used to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. Examples of this kind of medicine include cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac). There are also medications that decrease acid production by shutting down acid-secreting cells in the stomach. Omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium) are examples of these “proton pump inhibitors”. In the special case of chronic gastritis or gastic ulcer caused by H. pylori, most doctors use a combination of two antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor, sometimes with bismuth (such as in Pepto-Bismol) to the regimen.


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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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