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Showing posts from February, 2010

Trying to Pull the Trigger

"Avoid trigger foods!" is common advice to people who suffer from acid reflux. (This is more advice than I got from my doctors.) The theory is that certain foods cause the LES (lower esophageal sphincter muscle) to remain open and allow stomach acid into the esophagus. Today I put that theory to the test. Two trigger foods are fat and garlic; another trigger is a big meal. For lunch, I ate a two-egg omelet with garlic-herb cream cheese and reduced fat cheddar cheese (it was what I had on hand). For good measure, I put half an avacado on top and added some mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper for flavor. Except for the avacado and absence of salsa, this was the same meal I ate last Sunday when I had blistering reflux. For a mid-afternoon snack, I ate about a cup of mixed nuts and sunflower seeds (a high-fat snack) and chased it with two cups of white tea, which has caffeine (another trigger food). For breakfast, I had a plain Spiru-Tein protein shake with a few drops of orange an

Yes, We Have No Bananas

If I had any doubt that sugary or starchy carbs give me acid reflux, my experience yesterday removed them. I felt fine except when I ate high-glycemic foods. I ate some lentil salad, berries and oat bran in the morning and got acid reflux. I ate about 10 blackberries last night and got acid reflux. The rest of the time, the only carbs I ate were cabbage and cauliflower--two supposedly gassy foods that didn't give me gas or reflux. Dr. Robillard is right about high glycemic foods causing reflux, and I can't wait for his book, Heartburn Cured, to arrive. Yesterday, Day 2 of my low-carb experiment, started with a workout I couldn't finish: I didn't have the energy. But after I showered and got dressed, all those Saturday chores--shopping, sorting papers, mopping the floor, clearing out clutter, putting away laundry--got done easily. I normally hate, dread, and often put off those chores. I noticed the same thing the day before: I was flying through my work. Last night, th

The Acid Test: Results of my Limited-Carb Day

Readers know that I am trying to avoid acid reflux without going back to acid blockers. Today, I tried a limited-carb approach to controlling reflux. Here is what I ate today: Vanilla Spiru-Tein shake with berries (about 1/2 cup) and 1 tablespoon of oat bran Mixed unsalted, unroasted nuts Salad with ham, a boiled egg, spinach, grated ginger, cucumbers and balsamic vinaigrette dressing, green beans Same as before but without the green beans Chai tea (straight) The breakfast shake and chai tea either gave me slight reflux or just caused throat irritation. (I never had much feeling in my esophagus below the neck, so it's a little hard to tell.) Nothing else caused a reaction. So far, the limited-carb, low-glycemic approach gets a thumbs-up. Other foods I've had good results with: Sardines, salmon, chicken, romaine lettuce, orange bell peppers, sunflower seeds, pistachios (unroasted, unsalted), red wine vinaigrette (homemade with just olive oil and red wine vinegar), gouda cheese (

Do Carbs Cause Reflux?

Biologist Norm Robillard, Ph.D. blames acid reflux on carbohydrates: eating carbs causes microorganisms in the gut to produce gas, which causes reflux. Before you laugh, consider a few facts: Reflux, or GERD, has been on the rise right along with high-carb diets eaten by many Americans. I started getting bad reflux--enough to put an ulcer in my esophagus--a few years after I started Body for Life, which involves eating a lot of carbohydrates. I was able to stop taking acid blockers only after I cut out wheat and cut down on sugars in all forms--both of these are carbohydrates. Protein has been shown to help close the lower esophageal muscle, which helps prevent acid reflux. (Protein, carbs and fat are the three basic food groups.) Some people report that Manuka Honey helps their acid reflux . Manuka Honey is strong enough to kill MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and Helicobacter pylori, a couple of die-hard infections. Maybe it kills gas-causing microorganisms, too. I

The Golden Age of Acid Reflux Treatments

A few years ago, my stomach was on fire even though I was taking a proton pump inhibitor. Since there was a three-month wait for an appointment with the gastroenterologist, I talked to the office's nurse over the phone. "I'm not overweight, I don't eat big, fatty meals. I don't understand why I have such an acid stomach." "Some people just do," said the nurse. Such is the progress gastroenterology has made in 40 years. The 1970s may have been an economic and sartorial failure, but it was a golden age of natural cures for acid reflux, or heartburn. Doctors had learned how to test things like stomach acid and the lower esophageal muscle (LES), but hadn't yet developed proton pump inhibitors, like Aciphex and Nexium, or Zantac, an acid blocker. An article(1) from 1975 addressed the effects of various foods on the working of the LES, the muscle at the top of the stomach that is supposed to close when it's not transporting food from mouth to stoma

On the Rebound and Hating It

Day 3 without acid blockers has been rough. The day started out perfectly well, but I ended up with a stomach full of acid and a throat that still feels burnt. Days 1 and 2 were great, but today was my free day, when I eat anything I want. What did I do differently today? I didn't have my usual Spiru-Tein protein drink. Maybe one of the 5,000 ingredients in it helps prevent acid reflux. I had a full-sugar, full-fat hot chocolate. I ate a big, cheesy omelet and had a few berries, a little low-fat, unsweetened yogurt and a spoonful of oat bran. Big fatty meals gave me a stomach ache even when I took acid blockers. Since I stopped them, I get full a lot faster. This meal made me so full I got sleepy. The big cheesy omelet was probably the culprit, and the hot chocolate, the accessory. Several hours later, I felt well enough to eat again, not that I really wanted to. Round 2 resulted in another lesser bout of rebound. Let's see where I might have gone wrong: I had half a Spiru-Tein

The Dirty Little Secret of Acid Blockers

Who wouldn't want want relief from a stomach and throat that are on fire? This is what acid blockers offer. What nobody mentions, though, are the side effects. Acid blockers seemed like a godsend to me at one time. It was three years ago, when I couldn't eat tomatoes or oranges, my throat felt hot at night, food got stuck in my throat, there was a sour taste in my mouth, and finally, I got diarrhea that lasted a month and a half. A blood test showed two antibodies for Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes most stomach ulcers. I wasn't making the third antibody, instead I was going downhill. An endoscopy showed an ulcer in my throat. A high dose of antibiotics and a prescription for an acid blocker stopped the pain and healed the ulcer. All was well until I tried to go off the acid blocker. I think I have a pretty high threshold of pain, but last year, I lasted a day without it before stomach pain compelled me to start taking it again. Sometime later, I ran out and

Read your Own Medical Reports!

Doctors and hospitals don’t always make it easy to take control of your health. Last week, I had a CT scan of my heart. It was harder to get a heart scan than a mammogram, even though nobody in my family has ever had a breast condition more serious than a pimple. This effective, inexpensive but under-used tool in cardiac medicine takes pictures of your heart that show how much calcium is there (i.e., a calcium score). The more calcium you have in your arteries, the more likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke. In many cases, the calcium buildup, or plaque, can be reduced or prevented. Since my biological mother died of a massive stroke at 54, and many members of her family have or had heart disease, I thought it would be wise to have a scan before my own heart attack or stroke. That’s just good planning. Everybody I talked to at the hospital wanted to know which doctor ordered the test and seemed confused because I ordered it myself; today I had to sign a release form to get a

Oddities in the Grocery Aisles

Who would have guessed that a trip to the grocery store could be so astonishing? I don’t often venture into the aisles of the grocery store—unless I need tea or canned tuna or somesuch, I stick to the meat, dairy and produce sections. I understand things like eggs, lettuce, grapefruit and sliced ham. Lately, I’ve seen some oddities when looking for things like oat bran in the aisles: Onion flavoring. What’s wrong with a real onion? Is less than a buck a pound too much to pay? Is chopping it too much work? Labels proclaiming “Real Sugar!” I’d expect to see this in the baking aisle, but the labels were on soft drinks. Maybe it’s because the sugar-free craze of the 1970s is etched in my mind that this strikes me as odd. (If you don’t remember the 70s, it was a time when people were a lot thinner.) If Bill Cosby ever revives his comedy routine about giving his kids chocolate cake for breakfast (because he thought that wheat, eggs and milk were healt

Five Types of Headaches

Years ago, I had suffered such bad and frequent headaches that I saw a doctor--something I rarely did. He asked me what my complaint was, I said it was headaches, and he referred me to a hospital to get a $700 scan. Not having $700 or health insurance, the headaches continued. I've since read that some doctors get a referral fee from hospitals when they send patients there. I suppose that even making a pretense of trying to diagnose the cause of my headaches might have cost him his kickback. I've since found five causes of my headaches, though I doubt anything would have turned up on an MRI. Sinus pressure. Sinus headaches are behind the eyes, in the cheeks and sometimes in the upper teeth. I take Sudafed PE for these, as often as directed. Acupressure at the points beside my nostrils helps, too. TMJ. This can feel like a sinus headache. If relaxing my jaw for a few minutes helps, I know it's at least partly from carrying tension there. I put in my splint, take ibuprofin,

Goodbye, Cold

Until recently, I went for two years without a cold. Normally, I get one every winter. Of course, once I started bragging about my good fortune, I caught cold. There are some cold medicines out there that my friends and family and I have tried. Our results: Mucinex: This stuff really does clear out mucous. It won't however, clear up pneumonia. (Someone I won't name really did think this would work.) Nevertheless, it's worth the price, and cheaper store brands area available that contain the same active ingredient (guaifenesin). Umcka Cold Care: I've popped four or five of these a day since Friday, when a cold started coming on. It's Tuesday and my cold is gone. I didn't have sinus pain or a stuffy nose at all--just a runny nose that felt like hay fever. Buy this with a box of tissues. Sudafed PE: This works as well for me as the original Sudafed. If I'm really congested, I have to take several doses (as directed) to get relief. The store brands are cheaper;