Posted by Jenny (Irvine, Ca) on 07/27/2013
[YEA] I was vegetarian when I first started suffering from acid reflux. Apple cider vinegar, ginger chews and almonds would offer temporary relief from heartburns. The medication prescribed by doctors, a proton pump inhibitor, did not seem to make a difference. I started avoiding the foods that would trigger heartburns, which did help. But identifying these foods was far from obvious. Mine did not fit the usual list. Spicy, and fatty foods did not bother me. Some acidic foods did and others not.
But even when I did not have heartburns, I could not lay down to sleep because I would feel the burn come up to my throat, nose, ears and gums. My doctor diagnosed me with a loose lower esophagal sphincter (LES). This meant that the sphincter at the entrance to the stomach could no longer completely close up, which explains the backflow of stomach acid when laying down. Like many, I refused to take medication which lowered the level of acid in the stomach instead of addressing the real problem: the loose LES.
In the end, what really worked for me was probiotics and a dietary change. I tried the candida diet and later the Paleo diet, which have many similarities. The purpose of the candida diet is to eliminate the bad bacteria from one's body, especially from the stomach, by cutting out the foods that feed them and by promoting the growth the good bacteria. The philosphical premise of the Paleo diet is that, to be healthy, a person should eat a diet resembling what man ate before the advent of agriculture. This means primarily meat/fish/poultry and vegetables, with a few fruits and nuts. Of the fruits, one should only eat berries and avoid fruits that have been bred throughout time to be high in sugar. In addition to sugar, the main other thing to avoid is grains, since these are a product of agriculture, and were therefore not meant to be eaten (according to proponents of the diet). But the candida diet, sugar and carbs (most of which come from grains) are exactly the foods that feed the bad bacteria in the gut. The other similarity between the 2 diets I noticed is that both tended to eliminate chronic conditions of various sorts. Many followers of the Paleo diet have declared having fewer health issues and just feeling better overall.
After a month of taking probiotics and avoiding sugar and grains/carbs, I noticed I could lay down to sleep again. My tolerance for what used to be my trigger foods seemed to have increased as well. I am hoping to slowly phase out the probiotics, and just continue to eat well.
Side thought on the vegetarian versus meat-based diet: I was vegetarian primarily because I did not enjoy eating meat. However, I had IBS for as long as I could remember and the vegetarian diet did not do anything to alleviate the problem. I found it hard to incorporate what I thought was a healthy amount of veggies and ate large amounts of pasta and rice instead. But on a meat-based diet, I found that veggies, especially leafy greens, were much easier to include in meals. And I was using more spices too. I no longer suffer from IBS. And while I still do not always enjoy the taste of meat, I believe it to be the best source of protein. TVP-based fake meat products seem too processed. Soybeans has its own controversies (of which you can find discussions on the web). And the fact that beans make people fart is a sure sign that they are not easy to digest. Of course there are a lot of meat products that one should avoid. I always try to get the highest quality stuff I can find.
Finally, I would like to offer a list of resources that helped me find my way to better health:
* your doctor: only he can give you a proper diagnosis and let you know the true culprit in the matter.
* the web: this website and others like it were not only a source of information, for remedies to try, but also support
* books: there are numerous books that offer alternatives to medication. The one by Ms. Whittekin was particularly helpful and extensive in its coverage of solutions. I learned that marshmallow root and slippery elm will help heal the throat by coating it, and this was the book that initially introduced me to the candida diet. "Good calories, bad calories" is an important book that will reshape the way you think about food, especially regarding the latest opinions on what food is considered healthy and what is not.
* yourself: maintain a food and symptom diary, research your options and experiment. Good luck!