This is my story of how I cured my acid reflux – and also how I got it! If you suffer from it, then we probably have a few things in common. But I hope to show you the battle I faced, its ups and downs and how I eventually came out on top. It’s a story about taking action, overcoming ignorance, fears, and going against the crowd.
When I was young I had a very bad idea of what good food was. Pizza, pastas, breads, meats, chips, candies and sodas were the mainstay of my diet. Although I did enjoy salads, they were usually just a side dish, and always loaded with heavy dressings and even bacon or chicken too. There was a McDonald’s restaurant very close to my house and was my convenient fall-back option. Sometimes I skipped out from school lunch to make my way over there instead. However it’s hard to say which is healthier – McD’s might even be an improvement over American public school lunches!
But I also grew up in a generation where it was normal to eat microwaveable foods from a box or can. I even had the misguided idea that using a toaster oven was huge step up from a microwave in cooking and preparing food. Nonetheless, microwaves and toaster ovens were the only ways I could prepare any kind of cooked foods. The sophistication of boiling water would come much later and my cooking skills would reach their heights once I added grilling on the BBQ to my routine!
Although I ate many fruits, they lost their appeal to me and couldn’t compete with all the enhanced sweets and packaged snacks from convenience and grocery stores. In my university days, I worked in an Italian restaurant and spent roughly 5 years eating all kinds of heavy, greasy foods on a regular basis. The restaurant was well known and its food was better quality in terms of taste. So that led me to think I was eating better quality food. At this point I distanced myself from the canned and microwave foods, but I judged food quality based on a restaurant’s reputation and the price. If it was a better price, that might lead me to give it a try.
The Price of Ignorance
So I had been deluding myself all this time and without realizing it, I gained about 40 pounds (18 kg) in 5 years. This also included regular alcoholic binges and other poor lifestyle choices. But my food decisions were based on only a few factors – price, convenience and taste. Looking back, I had no idea what quality foods were. Nutritional content wasn’t even on my radar! Fresh, pure, natural, organic, whole foods – these words really had no meaning to me! I chose not to care because I was too busy moving forward with my life.
Soon enough I got the wake-up call and paid the price for this ignorance. When I was 24, I was rushed to the hospital because I thought I was choking. But actually I was just hyperventilating and panicking because a piece of meat was stuck in my throat! No matter what I tried, nothing would budge it loose! Drinking water, trying to vomit, bending over, laying down, etc., nothing worked! The doctors couldn’t even help and after several long hours, it eventually passed through by itself!! The whole time I never considered that I wasn’t choking – if I was I would’ve been dead of course.
This was the first time I was aware, but my esophagus had been so badly burned by stomach acid that it was raw and swollen. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. When it becomes inflamed and raw like this, food can’t pass through without difficulty, especially poorly chewed pieces of meat. This is called GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. It’s due to stomach acid coming up into the esophagus which causes it to narrow, form ulcers and even lead to cancer. Heartburn is the main symptom (but it’s nothing to do with the heart!).
So now I had a mini crisis on my hands, I needed help! I turns out that any food not finely chewed could get stuck. It was just a matter of time until it happened again! The doctors couldn’t offer me anything encouraging. Besides sticking a camera scope down my throat and taking a biopsy, there wasn’t much they could do. That is, except to give me pills – for the rest of my life!
The Only Option – So I Was Told
The pills are designed to stop the production of stomach acid, a natural body function. So in theory, there would be less acid that could come up into the esophagus to cause damage. The pills themselves (protonix, nexium, pepcid) could only weaken my digestion, not enhance it! The other factor is that the esophageal sphincter, the small flap that closes the stomach from the esophagus (and keeps the acid out), was far too weak to do its job. A hiatal hernia also developed, and my stomach was rising up into the esophagus, making the situation much worse.
Years of bad eating and poor nutrition had weakened my entire digestive system. It was to the point where I was unable to actually absorb the few nutrients that I was taking in! From this point it’s a quick downward spiral and the root cause for disease as the body rapidly deteriorates.
Over the course of roughly 8 years of seeing several different gastroenterologists, none of them ever mentioned poor diet as the root cause. In fact we never discussed why this had happened to me! Sure they told me what was going on in there, but they focused more on taking the pills, routine check ups and annual endoscopy procedures that I’d be locked into forever. Not once did I hear anything new in terms of treatment and corrective options. There was nothing aimed at natural healing and nothing the doctors could do to help my body get stronger. This didn’t sit well with me at all!
A Sliver of Light
After 8 years of daily pills and continued discomfort, it was actually a chiropractor who had explained to me why I had this problem. This was the last person from whom I expected to hear the truth on this topic. We did something called Nutritional Response Testing, which identified where in my body I was having problems and what nutrients I was lacking. Once we knew where I was deficient, I could start taking the right supplements to replenish my body. The treatments were effective right away and I noticed a big difference. I felt more alive, with more strength and energy! But we also focused on making some serious dietary changes. We had to examine my diet and eating habits in detail. This way we could flag all the problem foods and start making changes. Now the path was becoming clearer, it was up to me to eliminate the bad foods and take the supplements – no one else could do it for me!
But this required much more effort than I was prepared to give. I had been brainwashed to follow doctor’s orders for years, thinking that a pill could make up for all my poor lifestyle choices. So I was finally confronted with the truth. I struggled with it for a while, but I couldn’t deny what I was learning! I had been in limbo and even flipped flopped a few times, going back to the pills and endoscopy approach. This was my comfort zone and they were the best fit for my lifestyle at the time – eat, drink and be merry! At times I felt naked without them!
Lifestyle Changes & The Snowball Effect
Other things in my life had been gradually changing as well and this helped me to finally make the right choice. After 10 years working in the financial world I decided to change directions. I wanted to follow my passions and interests, try something new and travel more. I came to Japan to teach English and to explore Asia. I also became much more dedicated to my Yoga practice and this especially helped me to commit to the natural healing approach. Everything didn’t come together right away, but with these changes my lifestyle could now support the changes I needed to make!
When in Japan, I soon ran out of pills and my doctors were 1000’s of miles away. I couldn’t turn back even if I wanted to! I was being nudged in the right direction all along! With no other choice, I started to do my own research and I focused on natural remedies. Most notably, I got into juicing. Almost immediately I noticed a world of difference in my energy. The first juice I had, it felt like I was drinking a Red Bull! Not only does juicing nourish the body, but it also cleanses – the two things that every human being needs!
These types of changes bring about a “snowball effect,” where the benefits get better and better as you move forward. Gradually there were no more symptoms of acid reflux – heartburn, hiatal hernia or choking! Eventually, I lost any desire for those foods, alcohol and old habits that dragged me into the bondage of modern medicine. Today my digestion is the best it has ever been. My knowledge of my body, natural healing and how to nourish my body from whole foods and supplements has paid off.
The Reality of Making Changes
This is a conditional relationship. If I fell back into these old habits, eventually my body would weaken and fall apart again! My focus is to stay strong and continue improving day by day. I don’t want to tell you I’m perfect in maintaining my health, but that’s not my point here! I still have moments of weakness and temptations – however much less than before.
Think of it like graduating from university…. once you get the diploma the world starts to open up its doors to you! Getting over the acid reflux was really only the starting point. That can seem discouraging since it takes so long. I lost so much time by looking back and hesitating. But from here is where the real progress is made. We can shift into high gear because now the framework is laid out and we have the experience! My body and mind is stronger and ready for growth, discovery and the next challenge.
Overall I’m grateful to have gone through what I did because it gave me the motivation and confidence to live a better life. I hope I can help anyone who is going down this path!