Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My GERD is Cured! Low-carb Hits the Mark

It's a good day for paying your bills
And it's a good day for curing your ills
So take a deep breath and throw away the pills
'Cause it's a good day from mornin' til night

A low-carb diet has cured me of GERD! Thanks to the work of Dr. Norm Robillard, author of Heartburn Cured, I no longer have acid reflux--and I don't have to avoid "trigger foods" like onions, caffeine, chocolate (in the form of baking cocoa), mint, tomatoes and fat.

This is a big change from the Body-for-Life program I was on just a few months ago. Body-for-Life involves eating (among other things) six small servings of "authorized" carbs like whole-wheat bread, pasta, fruit, beans, brown rice and winter squash per day. Now I mostly eat meat, eggs, nuts and non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and green beans.

Low-carb diets defy just about every official dietary guideline out there. How often do you hear "eat plenty of healthy whole grains," "drink milk" and "eat plenty of fruits and vegetables"? Grains, milk and fruit are high-carb foods. What's the long-term result of such a diet?

One of my relatives grew up eating biscuits, having gravy at every meal, and potatoes every night and continued the high-carb theme through her adult life. She has been obese over half her life, even though I always observed her to eat in moderation. She has type 2 diabetes. Her GERD is as bad as mine was, even though she takes a proton pump inhibitor. She's suffered from a number of other health problems.

To use a local historical example for contrast, the Plains Indians traditionally ate bison, wild game, and native plants. My educated guess is that they ate mostly meat. Plants here on the Colorado plains are dormant six months out of the year. Summers are hot and dry and fruits are small and only briefly in season. But bison, antelope, rabbit and other game were plentiful. According to a study done at Ohio State University,

Equestrian Indian tribes on the American Plains in the late 1800s were the tallest people in the world, suggesting that they were surprisingly well-nourished given disease and their lifestyle, a new study found.

Average height is a good way of measuring health in populations...especially nutritional status, as determined by diet minus claims on the diet made by work and disease.

...the Plains Indians ate a varied diet that included a variety of native plants, as well as buffalo and other game that typically roamed the Great Plains...

I know these facts don't prove that a high-carb diet is bad. After all, my relative's husband eats far more starchy, sugary carbs than she does and is in better health. (Part of the reason for his health is that he takes a lot of medications.) And I have a slim, healthy friend in her 50s who can frequently eat pasta without gaining weight. Nevertheless, I've been encouraging this member of my family to avoid starchy, sugary carbs. She finds that when she avoids them, her blood glucose level stays down and her stomach acid stays where it belongs. It only takes a little bit of bagel, a few bites of apple sauce, a bowl of oatmeal, to send her blood glucose sky-high and bring up the stomach acid.

This tells me that for some people (to borrow a phrase from Dr. Robillard), eating more than a little carbohydrate is like putting gasoline in a diesel engine.


Anonymous said...

I am so happy to hear of your success. I read the Taubes book, Why we get fat. In 2 months, I was down 25 pounds - without restricting calories, ONLY carbs. I also was cured of severe, longstanding GERD. I chucked my pills, and now I save by not having to score omeprazole at the store every month. I feel like I should inform the physician who prescribed aciphex for me originally, that there is more he can tell his patients than "take these pills" or avoid eating anything good and hope for the best. I also think I should inform my healthcare insurer that they can save covering a lot of Rx's if they can get people to go low-carb, high-fat. Again, it's not a restrictive paradigm, because although you have to give up certain things (ice cream) at least for the most part, you can also eat any amount of allowable, low-carb foods (meat, greens). Continued success - John

Lori Miller said...

John, I'm glad to hear your GERD is cured as well. Like you, I dropped over 20 pounds on LC.

Breyer's makes a product called Carb Smart--it's low carb ice cream with only 5 net grams of carb per serving. It's sold at King Soopers, and it doesn't give me reflux.

Anonymous said...

I have been struggling with GERD and esophagitis for 1 year. I am taking nexium 40mg twice daily and still having esophagitis symptoms - in looking for alternatives to traditional medical based treatment of GERD and this low carb diet sounds like the answer! Any pointers on starting out?

Lori Miller said...

Lynn, I'm sorry you're suffering with GERD. It's miserable! I suggest eliminating wheat, fruit and milk. Be careful to keep your carbs down, too. Back when I first went off acid blockers, even anything fruit flavored gave me acid reflux. You might start out with an Atkins-type approach of 20g of carb for a week, then gradually go upward and see how you do.

Avoid bouncing around (e.g., running or jogging); research shows that this can cause stomach acid to end up in your (tender) throat, and I've experienced that myself.

Going off of acid blockers, you might experience acid rebound. This can last for weeks or even a few months--even in people who never had acid reflux. You'll just have to be really careful about what you eat.

It sounds like you're new to eating a low carb diet. You may feel tired at first; this is normal as your body adjusts from burning mostly sugar to burning mostly fat. Don't avoid fatty foods--these are your new fuel. Don't avoid salt, either--your body may dump a bunch of water weight along with sodium, and the salt needs to be replenished. (See the Blog of Michael R. Eades MD at right for tips & tricks to starting a low carb diet.)

If you take any other medications, especially for diabetes or high blood pressure, these will probably need to be adjusted downward with guidance from your doctor. If you or your doctor have any concerns about eating a low carb, high fat diet, there's a lot of sound literature out there that makes a good case that most of us don't need to reduce dietary fat. Blogs and books by Michael Eades, MD, Gary Taubes, Dana Carpender, and the documentary Fat Head on Netflix and Hulu are great places to start.

Best of luck to you, Lynn, and let me know how it goes.

Lori Miller said...

One more thing: whenever you end up needing something for acid reflux, the best thing in my book is a teaspoon of baking soda stirred into a glass of water.