For the past few months my stomach has been driving me up the wall. I was diagnosed with IBS in college and even the most mindful of diets can’t stop it from acting up when I’m stressed out. Lately, my stomach hurts all the time and my digestion is anything but umm…normal. On top of this, I’ve been having some serious heart burn and a burning sensation in my throat. Add this to random (quiet) burps, and I’m pretty sure my body is going on strike.
It is. My stomach is holding the equivalent of a picket line inside me.
This summer my doctor explained to me that I have acid reflux, and she gave a few recommendations on how to make things better which I promptly forgot the second I left her office. Given the proliferation of antacid commercials on TV which suggest (to me) that heartburn is a very common occurrence and the fact that my stomach has always had a mind of it’s own, I assumed that this was just another problem I would have to deal with from time to time.
At my annual check-up she asked for an update on my acid reflux and when she heard that it had gotten worse, she suddenly got tough and started using the C-word on me. Yep, it’s the word you are thinking of. (I’m not trying to make a joke. Really.)
Basically, acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphinctor (LES), the opening to the stomach from the esohpagus, either doesn’t close completely after eating or else it opens up frequently. And each time this little dude opens up, he lets out a bit of stomach acid which creeps up into my esophagus and damages it. Over time this damage, can cause many things to happen and the biggest and baddest of them is that dirty C-word. Eating certain foods can further damage an esophagus that is already being battered by stomach acid. (source: WebMD)
Now that my doctor had my attention, we sat down and went through a list of all the things in my life that might be causing the acid reflux:
(1) Running on nothing but coffee in the morning. (Nooooo, please tell me I don’t have to give up my coffee.)
(2) Eating or drinking alcohol within two hours of going to bed.
And I did some googling and a few other things came up as possible causes too:
(1) Drinking several lime flavored seltzers a day.
(2) Eating large meals.
Then we went over the treatment process. My doctor’s two main recommendations were to eat a protein bar before running, and to abstain from drinking or eating 2 hours before I go to bed. She also wrote me a prescription and gave me some samples of Nexium to take in the morning. I asked about diet and she told me that it wasn’t a major concern as the real issue was that the LES and my esophagus needed to heal.
But of course, after the visit, I just had to google foods that are bad for acid reflux. What I came up with shocked me and also constituted a huge majority of my diet. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, spice, balsamic vinegar and coffee are major no-no’s. My daily seltzers, a replacement for my Diet Coke habit, contain citric acid in their lime flavoring and the carbonation can cause the LES to open up. Further google results, yielded more results such as peppermint tea, chocolate, fatty foods and fibruous foods such as vegetables, beans, and fruit.
Hold on a minute.
You mean, I would be better off eating a baloney sandwich with mustard on Wonder bread? Nothing about that jives with my definition of healthy.
I specifically asked about food choices, and all my doctor said was that I shouldn’t be running in the morning on a stomach only full of coffee. She even went so far as to say that while certain foods do cause greater acid production, that is not the problem. This study done by Stanford agrees with my doctor too.
I thought about what my doctor said for a while, all the while steering clear of coffee and limiting my alcohol consumption. I pillaged Fairway and came up with three coffee substitutes which I can mix with soymilk (about 1/2 cup) so that I can continue with my morning *coffeee* ritual and get my protein mix. Since I’m trying to lose weight, this adds about 60-225 extra calories a day, so I will have to take these calories out of another meal.
I also decided to lay off of the condiments – sirachua (oh, I miss you so much!) and vinegar because I have noticed strong symptoms after eating these two. But I will supplement with fresh, raw jalapenos and fresh squeezed citrus juice. I stopped drinking the free seltzer at work because it’s flavored with citric acid.
The other major change is that I have stopped eating or drinking anything but herbal tea and water 2 hours before bed. Since I am an old lady and can barely even stay up to watch Modern Family, the kitchen is closing at 7:30. During the weekends, I’ll be rebellious and play it by ear. Oh yeah, I’m living life on the edge.
But as for the fruits and vegetables, no way. I’m keeping those. Given that Stanford study and my doctors recommendation, I am going to eat whatever else I want. Vegetables make me feel good. Citrus fruits are a great source of Vitamin C, which is necessary during cold season, and they actually have an alkaline effect on the body.
Acid reflux, you can take away my siraucha but you can’t take away my kale.
I am not a doctor, nor have I been trained in anything even remotely related to human health, so do not take my advice. Please see a real doctor, but it’s okay if you want to keep on reading my blog too. I’m just relaying my experience and what works for me. And I’m not even sure any of this is going to work. So really, don’t listen to me.