My Life with Acid Reflux and What I Have Learned
In November 2010, I woke up and ate breakfast as usual. But for one reason or another, after I ate breakfast I started feeling nauseous and vomited. As soon as I finished throwing up, I felt better but I still did not feel completely well.
I ignored it as a bug and continued on. Fast forward to March 2011 and the same thing happened again. Everything was fine until the same thing happened to me. At that point, I thought something was wrong but again I could not point my finger at anything specific.
When I was in college, I discovered I was deathly allergic to nuts of any kind. That included anything that barely touched nuts or nut-based products. From the moment my allergist confirmed that- I knew what to look out for. So I knew it could not be that.
I decided to go to my doctor around mid 2011 and she thought it was digestive- maybe acid reflux. At the time, I as not sure but I did what the doctor said anyway and took some over the counter Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)- mainly Prilosec.
This spring I had another episode which I thought was something else but after several appointments over the past few months my doctor and I are sure this is reflux. I now have a treatment plan that seems to be working.
But from what I have learned, I want to share with people who may be going through the same thing.
Causes of Reflux
There are several causes of acid reflux and they are not the same for everyone. Most acid reflux sufferers are over 40 but I am in my mid-twenties. From what my doctor and other physicians have told me, the cause of my issues are related to my lifelong struggles with seasonal and food allergies.
Histamine is produced when you are exposed to allergens and consistent histamine reactions trigger nausea and reflux. But no two cases are alike.
- Weakened System
- Extremely Tight Clothing
- Alcohol (Not always but sometimes)
- Slow Stomach (Usually because of Diabetes, Medications, or other ailments)
- Allergies (Food and Seasonal)
- Excessive Exercising
- Pregnancy (The hormone Progesterone plays a major role)
- Family History (Particularly anyone who has had digestive problems)
- Diet (Particularly a high fat, low fiber one)
Syptoms of Reflux
Reflux affects twenty five million adults everyday and sixty one million adults every month. And since it is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract- there is a possibility that it can be confused with other disorders such as ulcers. So while these symptoms may point to the possibility of acid reflux, you should consult with your primary physician or arrange to see a gastrointestinal specialist.
- Nausea/Upset Stomach After Eating Meals- For me this primarily happened after breakfast. When I talked with my doctor she said this is common because acid is produced overnight while your body's resting. And the reaction of food and acid has its problems.
- Abdominal Pain/Swelling- This is something I experienced regularly. It usually happens after meals.
- Trouble Eating Meals- If you start feeling discomfort while eating, that is a sign something is amiss.
- Burning Pain in Chest- This is obvious since it is also called heartburn.
Even though these are common symptoms, there are others that are less noticeable. But you still should be aware of any changes in your body that aren't normal.
- Morning Hoarseness/Sore Throat- If you sound like a cartoon character other than yourself, than this is something to consider.
- Drooling- This is only reserved for sleeping babies and adults.
- Coughing Spells- Unless you have a cold, it is something to watch out for.
The Acid Reflux Solution, Dr. Jorge M. Garcia
50 Ways to Relieve Heartburn, Reflux, and Ulcers, M. Sara Rosenthal
How to Stop Heartburn: Simple Ways to Heal Heartburn and Acid Reflux, Anil Minocha, M.D., and Christine Adamec
Treatment Options and Tips
There are ways for acid reflux to be treated both with and without medicine- it just depends on what your doctor thinks is best. My treatment involves attacking the histamine produced from my allergies, so I take two different medicines. At the moment, I am feeling better but the healing process is about more about a lifestyle change than just medicine.
- Papaya Tablets- This is a natural remedy that some physicians and health experts recommend.
- Charcoal Tablets- Another natural supplement some recommend to help alleviate some of the symptoms of reflux such as gas and bloating.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors (Priolosec, Nexium)- Many of you have seen commercials for these medicines especially now since they are available over the counter as well as via prescription. They block acid production in the body.
- Antacids (Maalox, Alka Seltzer)- Unlike PPIs, they give relief of acid reflux symptoms without blocking acid production.
- Water Before Dinner with Lemon/Vinegar- It doesn't sound tasty but anything is better than reflux.
- Seaweeds, Chamomile and Other Herbs- They are supposed to work to relieve symptoms naturally but again check with your physician before going this route.
Foods to Avoid:
- Spicy Foods (This doesn't mean you can rule out entire cuisines such as Mexican and Thai but you just have to be more careful in what you eat)
- Carbonated Drinks
- Alcohol (Red Wine is okay)
- Don't Drink During Meals- It messes up the digestive process. It's best to drink 30 minutes to an hour before or after.
- Stop Eating 3 Hours Before Bedtime- This means if you go to sleep at 10pm, eat no later than seven. Your body needs time to digest without interruptions.
- Sleep with Your Head Elevated- This helps acid remain in the digestive system and get a good night's rest. I recommend a wedge pillow if you're like me and don't like sleeping on two pillows- they are sold everywhere.
- Exercise Regularly- At least thirty minutes a day, four to five times a week will make a difference.
- Don't Lie Down Right After Eating- No one should do this anyway but at least give yourself an hour for the food to process.
- Maintain Communication with Your Doctor- This is for anyone regardless if they have acid reflux or not, but if something is not working or you have other symptoms contact them ASAP.
Acid reflux is not a sentence to me, it's just a wake-up call. Before reflux, I was pretty aware of my health but this has helped me see that no matter how good you think you are doing, you can do better.
With the right attitude and outlook, you can change your lifestyle and live a healthier life.
- GERD - MayoClinic.com
GERD — Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, treatment, diet issues of this acid reflux disease.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease - PubMed Health
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the stomach contents (food or liquid) leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartbur