Two whole blogs ago (like, blog URLs; probably back before blogging was “blogging”), I was suffering from chronic heartburn (aka “reflux”) and sick of it. I was also significantly underwhelmed by my doctor’s response when I tried to have a G.I. done before our insurance ran out after my husband lost his job. He said we would only discover I had G.E.R.D. and would treat it the same as he was planning to, anyway: With two months’-worth of Nexium and a promise to find a cheaper prescription when those ran out. (My response should have been to feign shock that my doctor was hiding such superhero powers like X-ray vision from his patients, but that might not have been productive. Not that his solution was, either, but I digress.)
I took two months’-worth of Nexium, but did not change my diet. I think I attempted to do some things differently, but we were living with friends, had little money to spend on specialty foods, and our friends had opinions of their own on what was going on in my gut.
So, I did the only thing I could: I went to the library and read books on reflux and gastrointestinal health. I learned about the evils of antacids (Tums, Mylanta, etc), H2 blockers (Zantac, Tagamet, Pepcid, etc.), and proton pump inhibitors (Nexium, Prilosec, etc.). I learned about candidiasis and sugar sensitivity. I think the first book I read was at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house while I was a daytime nanny for my first niece: “Potatoes Not Prozac”, by Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons (her website is here). It was my first venture into understanding the gut-brain connection, and it was FASCINATING! I read three or four other books from the library (and one of my own, about sinus health, which mentioned candidiasis (yeast overgrowth) and covered dietary suggestions not given by the Potatoes Not Prozac book).
From what I read about the causes and treatment of G.E.R.D., I deduced that it was not at all a disease, as most health practitioners would lead you to believe (the name alone–“Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease”–suggests it, as well), but a symptom of a greater cause. That cause can vary from person to person, but generally it’s the body’s reaction to poor diet and digestion (oversimplification, but I’m not going to go off on it now).
I was successful for about a year after going cold turkey off sugar, sugar substitutes (with the exception of stevia), caffeine, refined flours, and white rice. I could only drink water–not because of my new diet, but because even herbal tea set off the pain–and I tried to drink at least three 32oz jugs of it a day. I was limited to leafy green veggies (limited on the hard-to-digest ones, like broccoli and cabbage), non-starchy veggies (except for potatoes), brown rice, brown breads (as whole-grained as possible), peanut butter, oatmeal, light proteins (fish, chicken, eggs), hard cheese, and a few other things I could find that weren’t irritating.
Then, I ran across information about probiotics, and was jazzed! After a long period of eating very few dessert-like foods, I got some yogurt (REAL yogurt–I’ll save the diatribe about Yoplait and other large consumer brands for another time) and was in heaven!
Once I determined my digestion was doing better, I started adding more foods in, and quickly regressed to low-willpower-land. Though my food choices are still much better for my experiences, they’re often less than ideal. And I definitely do not drink enough water anymore.
I’ve begun to notice my reflux creeping back. I know my triggers, but I ignore them. Like an addict, I can’t avoid the siren call of bread or pasta or desserts. I’ve also been in a lot of pain lately, and very tired all the time. I recognize those symptoms can be a result of little exercise, but I seriously could sleep all day long given the chance. I’ve also noticed poor Beanie seeming to show some symptoms of baby reflux, and I know much of the blame lies in my choice of food and drink.
So I need to make a change. I just recently bought three books: “The Body Ecology Diet”, by Donna Gates; “Wild Fermentation”, by Sandor Ellix Katz; and “Nourishing Traditions”, by Sandy Fallon. I’m looking forward to playing with more fermentation and preparing and eating more healthy foods.
My step-mother-in-law was in town with my husband’s dad this past week, and she’s big into good gut maintenance, including fermentation, probiotics, and raw foods. We made kefir (well, we revived the grains that were languishing in my fridge), cheese, and kraut. She also left me with some viili (pronounced “villi”) yogurt, which I might have actually killed, but I’ll find that out soon. 🙂 She reminded me about the Body Ecology Diet, which I’d looked into years ago, and Wild Fermentation, which was on my Amazon.com wishlist. The three books were marked way down, so I jumped on them.
I’ll try to take pictures of my adventures in fermentation and probiotics (and healthy foods) and post them here, along with reviews of the books. So far, I like what I’m reading in the Body Ecology.
But now I’m falling asleep, and it’s past midnight, so I’m going to wrap up. Maybe I’ll post tomorrow night! Hopefully it doesn’t trigger the breaking of an apocryphal seal, but we’ll see. 🙂