I am 46 years old, not overweight, and I am taking the time to post to this forum because I felt really really hopeless along my journey to be free of GERD, and after making specific changes in my diet, I now feel nearly completely cured of my reflux (which manifested not as heartburn but as a burning in my throat and a choking sensation). But, just 6 months ago, I was so desperate I was considering having surgery, I was at such a loss. Even though I was taking prescription strength Nexium, my GERD had become worse than ever.
But let me back up. Three years ago, I woke up one morning with a very watery mouth. My saliva was in overdrive. I also felt like I was choking or that I was about to choke. This sensation caused me to feel very panick-y, as EVERYTHING I ate seemed to exacerbate this sensation. I began to wonder if perhaps I was having an allergic reaction to the food I was eating, even though I hadn’t been allergic before. I considered going to the ER that night, after a day of this feeling, but I didn’t. I tried to remain calm, and I called my doctor the next morning. After visiting briefly with her, she referred me to a GI doctor.
I met with the GI doctor who put me on Dexilant, which worked to totally erase my symptoms in about 48 hours to alleviate the choking sensation (brought on by the Vagus nerve; I wasn’t actaully choking). The GI doctor performed an endoscopy within a couple of weeks, and I was diagnosed with esophagitis. Also, my sphincter was OPEN! He said I would likely have reflux problems all my life, and that the medication would help, but I might have to have surgery down the line. I felt really hopeless!! He said I should have a repeat endoscopy in two years. I began to develop a skin rash from the Dexilant, so he put me on Nexium, which also worked, and which I stayed on for the entire next year.
Fast forward a year. That doctor retired, and my GERD was back and worse than ever. The medication wasn’t working anymore. The new GI doctor told me to double up on the medication. (Which was already expensive, and I was worried about side effects of prolonged PPI use.) He told me not to worry about extended PPI use. Just double up to 80mg of Nexium a day. When I said that I wanted to get to the REAL bottom of this thing, he said I should try some enteric peppermint capsules. I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not. He didn’t seem to be hearing me. I did try the capsules, though, and they did nothing. But I didn’t want to double up on my meds, so I didn’t. I just kept taking the 40mg of Nexium and lived with the reflux. For a YEAR more! Well, at this point, I was taking Nexium AND going through bottles of Tums/Rolaids/Gaviscon and anything else I read about.
I tried digestive enzymes, probiotics, drinking vinegar before meals (not recommended!), DGL, aloe vera juice, kombucha, fermented foods, all the advice from every blog out there. If anything worked, it did not work for me, at least not consistently or for long.
But then, someone somewhere on the web recommended the book The Acid Watcher Diet by Jonathan Aviv. So, I read it. I also read Dr. Jamie Koufman’s Acid Reflux Diet, which was recommended by Amazon when I bouth Dr. Aviv’s book. Both of these books will scare the hell out of you when it comes to esophogeal cancer! And both of these books suggest similar stratagies: Eat no acid. This seems like a no brainer in hindsight, but a lot of educated people on the Internet will tell you need MORE acid when you have reflux. I know now, this was NOT my case. I had thought I had cut out most of the offenders from my diet already. I hadn’t had coffee in three years. I had limited my tea to two cups per day. I wasn’t drinking margaritas. I wasn’t eating bad food. In fact, I was eating healthy food. But guess what: I was still eating some really acidic healthy food (I’m looking at you turkey-black bean chili!) without thinking about it.
At any rate, I had been having pretty nonstop GERD that seemed to have come out of nowhere for 2.5 years, and I was getting really desperate. I felt that I was very near having surgery for the throat burn I was experiencing, as NOTHING was helping me.
The first thing I did was read both books in three days. I then purchased a wedge pillow from Amazon for 20 bucks. I bought a few gallons of alkaline water. For one month, I followed the acid-free diet to a T. The only fruit you can eat on the acid free diet is non-acidic fruit–bananas and melon. There are many acidic veggies I was eating, too, like nightshades (peppers, tomoatoes, egglplant). And no onions or garlic are allowed in the first phase. But, the hardest part was NO ALCOHOL (at least temporarily). And guess what. After three long weeks: NO REFLUX. AT ALL. I used fennel bulb in the place of onions and garlic. I stayed away from peppers, tomatoes , onions, and garlic (hard to do, since I live in Texas!). I didn’t drink alcohol AT ALL. For a person who used to drink a nightly glass of wine or two, this was the hardest thing to give up.
After one month, I was able to drink A CUP OF COFFEE with NO ISSUES. I have switched from wine (which is really acidic) to 1-2 vodka martinis (vodka and tequila are the only alcohols that are neutral when not mixed with anything) a couple of nights a week. If I feel the slightest tinge of heartburn, I drink a glass of alkaline water and get back on the diet.
My last endoscopy (a month ago) showed NO ESOPHAGITIS! I take NO MEDICATION. I take NO TUMS. I eat (mostly) what I want. I have moved on to the Maintenance phase of the acid-free diet (e.g., you can eat cooked onions and garlic), and I am able to “cheat” here and there with no problems with trigger foods like fried food, chocolate, and even a margarita once in a great while.
The main point is that I NEVER thought I would be able to have relief from the reflux. So, I wanted to SHARE!!!!
Be disciplined, and you will heal. You will!!!!!