Big Trouble In Little China: Treating Acid Reflux, GERD, Ulcers, Gastritis and Other Internal Troubles


I’m a visual thinker. Well, I’m more of a think-in-film thinker. Film is my internal language. I have trouble processing sentences, numbers and and can’t quote dialogue to save my life – odd for a screenwriter right?! – but words in sequence don’t stick with me. The frames of movies and photographs do.

So, when it comes to my illness and dealing with it, my conception of what’s going on internally and how I am treating myself is in terms of films: plots, characters, sequences, shots.

When I think of acid reflux, and the myriad conditions like it or connected to it, I think ‘Big Trouble In Little China’. Big Trouble being the acid. Little China being my gut.

I was ‘diagnosed’ with acid reflux when I was 20. A GP put my burning throat, stomach aches and diarrhea down to stress-induced acid reflux, and prescribed Lanzoprazole. This began a 10 year reliance on Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs like Omeprazole and Ranitidine), as well as gallons of Gaviscon, Loperamide, Renee and a diet so bland I was sent near mad by the lack of variety (I’m a born and bred foodie, so white bread, mild curries, and fat and fruitless meals were torture).

I used to conceive of the PPIs as the hero, running in with an ouzi and hand grenade to shut down the acid pumps that were causing all the trouble. Little did I know that in my case, this was the worse thing I could have been doing. I was misdiagnosed, and my reliance on the medication only served to prevent me from properly digesting my food for 10 years, which allowed a bad bacterial overgrowth to set up shop in my gut lining – putting me where I am today, treating Candida and Klebsiella overgrowth, SIBO, nutritional deficiencies and Chronic Fatigue.

Back to Kurt. So, he’s still the hero. I still need the ouzi, and the heroine (my gut lining) still needs saving. HOWEVER, there are some things that I have learnt that need to be taken into account BEFORE Kurt is sent in to sort it all out.

So, if you are suffering with any sort of acid problems, here are some tips to get you on the right track before Kurt kills the wrong bad guy (he’s a bugger like that is old Kurt…)

Things to consider in the first instance:

  • Do you have too much, too little, or the right amount of acid in your stomach? There are tests to ascertain this. GPs and a lot of Gastroenterologists will just assume an answer for you without testing. This is an awful tactic – imagine just guessing if a lump is benign or malignant – it wouldn’t happen. Don’t accept the same of acid production in your body. Get tested.
  • A simple test for low acidity – which is much more common in the population then conventional medicine would have you believe – is detailed on the SCD Lifestyle website. This test and my subsequent treatment with acid supplements (yes, I TAKE ACID now, after 10 years of drugs to stop producing acid. MAD!) has changed my life – so do consider it! Remember, common symptoms of over acidity are similar to symptoms of under acidity.
  • Most conventional medicine doctors will tell you that you’ve got too much acid in your stomach, which is causing the reflux or ulcers etc. In a lot of cases, mine included, this is not true. Rather, it’s that the acid is in the WRONG PLACE in the stomach. I recommend reading ‘Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You’ by Dr Jonathon Wright. It explains all you need to know about stomach acid and treating problems associated with it.
  • Find a decent practitioner to help you figure out test results and treatment plans. If your conventional doctor can’t or won’t help, then enlist more expert help. Even if you can only afford one appointment with a private doctor or nutritionist, just getting on the right track to start with is essential. Make sure the practitioner is a Functional/ Holistic medicine practitioner (check out some recommendations here).

There are some simple things you can do to start to reduce the symptoms associated with acid problems straight away. These include:

  • raising the head of your bed so that you do not lie flat at night, which can encourage gravity to work on your acid and allow it to flow back up through the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) -stick a plank of wood or rolls of cardboard under the top feet of your bed.
  • eliminate the most common irritants to the gut from your diet, especially caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks, refined sugar, gluten, dairy, processed foods and smoking (which can soften the LES and cause gut irritation). For some these might seem like insurmountable lifestyle changes, but it can be done and needs to be done if you want to heal your gut. Once the gut lining is inflammed it will stay so until the irritants are eliminated and then active healing takes place. Take it slowly if needs be, and eliminate one at a time.
  • concentrate on healing foods. A common mistake when diet changes due to health problems is a focus on what can not be eaten, when it is far more helpful and psychologically encouraging to focus on what we can eat. Anti-inflammatory foods like leafy green vegetables and cruciferous veg, ginger, garlic, turmeric, avocado, fish and shellfish, grass-fed and pastured meats, eggs, coconut, seeds and nuts, bone broth, soups and stews,  curries and whole grains provide an enormous variety of delicious meal options that just need to be tried to become firm favourites!
  • reduce your stress. I know, easier said than done, but combating stress and dealing with it head on is necessary to calm the digestive system. Easy first steps include stomach breathing and guided meditation (find free videos on Youtube – I quite like The Honest Guys guided meditations for healing), taking baths and time to read and relax, and going for walks and doing gentle exercise.
  • chew your food! How you eat is as important as what you eat. Don’t eat when really stressed out, chew your food really well (digestion starts in the mouth – give your stomach less work by chewing every mouthful 20 times) and sit up straight when eating. Check out a professional’s take on it – Nutritionist Joanne Crovini did a guest post on it for me – read it here!
  • gut healing supplements. Consult a health practitioner before starting any supplements, but things that I’ve tried and found useful to treat gastritis are DGL, L-Glutamine, Zinc Carnosine (Pepzin), and licorice/ marshmallow root/ chamomile teas. Slippery elm, gelatine, and bone broth are also helpful.

Take matters into your own hands and get the treatment and healing plan that’s right for you. It’s a terrible shame that the British NHS (and most international health care providers) have a blanket method of dealing with acidity problems, and that is to prescribe acid suppressants. The problem here is that the acid suppressor will either only mask an ongoing problem (not treat or cure it), or can make the problem worse if misdiagnosed.

Unless you are getting better, you are getting worse. Kurt can shoot out your acid producing cells as many times as you like, it isn’t going to help if there is damage that needs to heal or food that needs to be digested.

So, get your 80’s vest-clad, ouzi-totting, mulleted hunk of a hero working for you and set him after the right bad guys. Your heroine needs saving. And as Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) in Big Trouble in Little China says,

Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”


6 responses to “Big Trouble In Little China: Treating Acid Reflux, GERD, Ulcers, Gastritis and Other Internal Troubles

  1. Excellent article Jen *claps* / really inspiring also and packed to the hilt with exactly the type of stuff I need to wage war on this horrible illness. Boy am I glad I started subscribing to you’re blogs 🙂

    • Cheers Mark! Glad it’s helpful. There is so much experience and knowledge we can all share. My original mission was to help just one other person with these kinds of problems, so mission accomplished! Just give us a shout if you need any more tips, and keep telling your story, here, there, wherever! Let us know how you get on x

  2. Hi. I have had digestive issues my whole life and am on PPI’s as well. My ? to you- the whole time you were taking the medication did it seem like it was helping? I realize PPI’s don’t fix the problem but I’m desperate to know if they mask the problem and lessen the abdominal pain the same whether you have too much or too little stomach acid…? Did it make some of your symptoms go away? I’m assuming yes and that is why you kept taking them for years… Please respond as I can’t seem to find this answer anywhere. Thank you!

    Stephanie Sefcik

    • Hi Stephanie, I’m sorry to hear you are having problems. Its very distressing and confusing. Basically, my answer is that its complicated! To start with, taking a PPI when there is no medical proof that you are over producing acid, or have a compromised stomach lining (which needs temporary protection from irritants like acid to be able to heal) then it is unlikely that the PPI is actually doing any good at all. At the time I was taking them, I was psychologically convinced that they were helping, because a doctor told me that they would, and at that time I did not know anything about any other reason why a stomach could be experiencing difficulties. However, when I was given new advice from a more experienced practitioner, I came off the PPIs and found that they had not been making a positive difference at all – quite the opposite, as without stomach acid we can not properly digest food. PPIs should only be used for short periods of time for things like stomach lining healing, and for those with proven over-acid production (which is very rare). I have found that there are many other things that can cause symptoms that feel like over-acidity, and it is these different things that you might want to look into, with an experienced practitioner preferably. A good functional medicine nutritionist, doctor or any other holistic practitioner would be a good option. Allopathic doctors do not see the body as a whole and therefore might not be able to put the pieces together for you. It comes down to experimenting with different approaches to see what works for you, we’re all so different. There are lots of medical tests that can help rule in or out important things too. For example, things like SIBO, candida, parasite infection, FODMAP malabsorption/ intolerance, gluten sensitivity or allergy, anxiety and stress, lack of exercise, nutrient deficiency, refined carbohydrates, fat intake, alcohol and other stimulant use etc can all cause stomach dysfunction, as can problems with the vegal nerve (usually damaged through surgery or chronic and acute stress).

      If the PPIs are not working for you, then there is something else going on. If a drug was working, you wouldn’t have to ask the question, and you know intuitively that something else is wrong. Its all about gut instinct (ha, pun intended!). I knew that what I was doing was wrong when I was on PPIs and not doing anything else about it – but I buried my head in the sand because I didn’t want to have to face changing my diet or lifestyle. But it turns out that these were the only things that I could do and now have alot less difficulty (for example, I have identified that I have FODMAP intolerance, so eating a low FODMAP diet is essential to manage my symptoms). If you have any further questions just let me know. I hope you can find a way forward that helps – it’s absolutely possible, don’t loose faith! Jen x

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