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.”