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Sufferers of GERD, unite!

Hi everyone,

I've been felled by a nasty flareup of GERD (gastro-esophogeal reflux disease). It runs in my family, so there is no escaping it, and I guess I'm lucky not to have had a flareup in about five years.

Anyway, what do all of you do during a flareup to quell the awful discomfort? I have been avoiding alcohol, coffee (drinking black tea instead), tomato sauces and tomatoes in general, spicy goods, all citrus, garlic, etc. I also finally raised the head of my bed last night and for the first time in a week slept through the night wthout having to get up in the night and walk around and chew gum. It's been horrible.

Am I missing anything?

I would also like to know how you all avoid the onset of new flareups. I think mine started this time because I had been overdoing coffee and orange juice on an empty stomach, but who really knows?

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  1. I stopped eating grains (especially wheat!) Problem solved. No more heartburn, no more reflux, nothing. I can tolerate all of the other foods you have listed since I cut out wheat (cutting out the rest of the grains other than the very occasional rice made me feel even better.) I've honestly never felt better.

    (For the record, I am not celiac and I do not have a wheat allergy.)

    14 Replies
    1. re: weezieduzzit

      Yes, cutting out grains, anecdotally, just stops GERD and IBS in their tracks, I learned when a low carb ng was very active years ago. Newbies reported that and the cessation of needing asthma inhalers constantly.

      1. re: mcf

        Seriousy???? (Said increduously as yours truly has three loaves of bread rising)....

        I am also vegetarian. I wonder what I'd eat all the time without wheat!!!

        Please tell me what you regularly eat. Do you also cut out rice? Quinoa? Rice noodles? I would have a hard time being vegetarian wtihout at least those grains, but what I know is that NOTHING is worse than the kind of flareup I've suffered with this past month, and especially this week. Horrible. (My mom said she would rather break her arm than have a flareup, and she's an emergency room nurse so she knows what she's talking about ...)

        1. re: IndyGirl

          "Seriousy???? (Said increduously as yours truly has three loaves of bread rising)...."

          Seriously, every single time!!

          That may explain a lot. I used to be vegetarian, til I realized how sick I was and reversed much of it within days of relearning how to swallow protein and fats.

          "I am also vegetarian. I wonder what I'd eat all the time without wheat!!!"

          Protein! And healthy fats! If you do, you'll be amazed at how many health "conditions" you have are grain related, I'm guessing, once they're gone.

          If you feel you must eat vegetarian, you have to learn to base your meals around substantial non grain based proteins and high fiber veggies, not grains, which are all sugar when they hit your blood stream. Black soybeans and whole soy products, if you have no thyroid issues, are a good start.

          1. re: mcf

            I eat a ton of beans already.

            My awesome DH is on board. He has seen me suffer lately and feels bad. Can I eat quinoa and soba (buckwheat noodles)? I assume rice noodles are OK?

            For many reasons, I don't ever want to eat meat again. I am not totally opposed to fish, butI have some concerns there as well.

            I also suffer from frequent terrible migraines, and I'm wondering if the gluten free thing might help with that too.

            1. re: IndyGirl

              "My awesome DH is on board. He has seen me suffer lately and feels bad. Can I eat quinoa and soba (buckwheat noodles)? I assume rice noodles are OK?"

              Unless you're celiac, gluten isn't the issue, grains are. Why not see how much relief you get from eliminating them all at first, and if you get relief, add only one back, a week at a time to see if you find particularly culpable ones?

              At the same time, put proteins and fat at the center of your plate; beans are more starch than protein except for black soybeans, which are entirely fat, protein and fiber. If you're not vegan, use eggs, Greek yogurt ricotta, cottage cheese.

              I am an unrepentent omnivore, but I do not buy animal products that aren't pastured, humanely raised and sustainable for use at home. Eat fish, too, if you can.

              Migraines tend to be hormonal headaches, and what a high grain diet does to your endocrine system via diet induced high insulin levels is highly disruptive. Could help, only experimenting will tell. I did a quick browse and found a lot of citations about hyperinsulinemia induced migraines.

              1. re: IndyGirl

                I totally agree with mcf that you might not even realize what else grains are doing to you. Without grains I'm more alert, my concentration is better, I'm more productive (which is great for me- I'm self employed!) and I don't suffer from the "mid-afternoon lull" any longer (I'm sure this is due to a much steadier blood sugar level without the rollercoaster that grains cause.)

                I sincerely hope it helps you with your migraines!

        2. re: weezieduzzit

          Does this mean you can drink wine? I've been so very sad over the holidays without my daily wine!

          1. re: IndyGirl

            I definitely drink wine. :) Without problems. You might want to lay off while you're figuring things out so you can see a more accurate picture of what is or isn't working for you, though.

            You could try with cutting out wheat first (completely, not a little, not occasionally but completely- including reading labels to make sure it doesn't have any in it,) for a couple of months to see if that works for you and only eliminate other foods if you need to.

            1. re: weezieduzzit

              Does this mean avoiding things that "have been processed in a facility that also processes wheat?" Like my frozen rice from whole foods? ( Yes, I know, it's very anti-CH to have frozen rice, but it's so DANG convenient!!!)

              1. re: IndyGirl

                No, unless you're severely allergic. For GERD, it's usually just cutting out grains, or wheat, at least, as a dietary component.

                1. re: IndyGirl

                  I mean where it's an actual ingredient in things, and you'd be surprised at how many things add wheat and wheat gluten as fillers!

                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                    This is true, soy sauce, lots of things have wheat products as an additive, for instance. But unless you're severely allergic or celiac, those products won't cause a problem, IME. By "dietary component" I meant things that take up room on your plate. :-)

            2. You'll know more if you start looking around for info, which I highly recommend. There is some good info on Primal/Paleo sites, for example, mark's daily apple.

              I endorse all the comments posted so far about going grain-free. If you don't try it you won't know what relief might be in store for you.

              Ditto for eating meat and healthy (hint: probably not the ones you think) fats.

              If you're choosing vegetarianism for philosophical reasons and letting that trump changing your diet to see how you body does best, then you're choosing that over health.

              It's that simple. And, yes, that's not the same as easy.

              Best wishes to you in sorting the GERD out.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Enso

                I am sick right now (severe headache and a cold that hit me like a ton of bricks last night--lovely!). Can you just tell me what you mean by healthy fats? Trying not to look at the computer screen for too long. I assume coconut oil and olive oil, avocados, etc ? I'm likely wrong and my foggy brain does not help.

                1. re: paulj

                  I am floored by the number of people echoing the gluten free or grain free approach, mainly because (unsurprisingly) this isn't what doctors have told me. This makes me even more convinced that I need to do this.

                  I think I will start with GF and then gradually eliminate all other grains. I really appreciate everyone's help--this has been a miserable flareup.

                  1. re: IndyGirl

                    Hope you don't think I'm one of those who is advocating GF.

                    The strongest thing that I see in the 'everydayhealth' article is that people who are gluten-intolerant might experience GERD relief when they go GF. It does not imply that people who don't otherwise have problems with gluten, will benefit from going GF.

                    <<Most experts, however, don’t believe that gluten intolerance leads to GERD, or has any connection to GERD. Gluten intolerance attacks and damages the small intestine,.... Any esophageal symptoms are probably coincidental to the true attack on the intestines, they say.

                    "Eliminating gluten for reflux doesn't make sense because there's no association for reflux," says Michael Vaezi, MD, PhD, clinical director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology and director of the Center for Esophageal Motility Disorders at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.>>

                    In this thread there are 2 people who are advocating a GF (or grain free) diet. And as best I can tell, they are working from personal experience, not any sort of clinical trials.

                    1. re: paulj

                      "In this thread there are 2 people who are advocating a GF (or grain free) diet. And as best I can tell, they are working from personal experience, not any sort of clinical trials."

                      Not personal experience w/ GERD in my case, just an observation from hundreds of reports which I properly characterized as "anecdotal."

                      The fact that medical authorities don't make the connection means nothing, particularly when it comes to the powerful physiological effects of various foods.

                      No one is going to do a clinical trial where there's nothing to sell at the end.

                2. I have no scientific bases to go by and am not vegetarian, but once I've gone grain free, my heartburn & weird throat issues have cleared up. If I go back, they flare up again....

                  1. Grain-free can certainly help, but it's not always the magic solution. I gave up all grains a couple of years ago and I still suffer from pretty bad GERD flare-ups.

                    Some other triggers that haven't been mentioned: chocolate; mint & mint flavorings; too much fat; onions; vinegars (except raw cider vinegar); and carbonated drinks. If coffee sets you off, tea isn't much better. And I have to respectfully disagree with the suggestions that red wine is okay - the high tannin content coupled with the esophageal relaxation and increased stomach acid from the alcohol make it a major trigger for many people.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      It may be, but it's never been for me... but I'm sure there's a lot of variation. Still, I've heard hundreds of immediate GERD relief anecdotes from stopping only grains, and none from stopping only one of those other things.

                      Of course, I don't hang out in GERD groups, and i read those anecdotes in low carb and diabetes groups, where the GERD/IBS relief was an unexpected benefit of a diet attempted for other reasons.

                      Apropos this topic, I just got a recommendation in my inbox from the Eades blog for this book... http://fasttractdigestion.com/

                    2. How diet may affect a particular individual's GERD is very complicated. Multiple causes have been identified, and there are probably others that have not been identified. I could see where a particular food may both relieve a symptom *and* be an underlying cause.

                      I would only suggest one thing for relief of symptoms, that being a bed wedge to elevate your head from your stomach. This might provide a degree of relief from night-time heartburn, sore throat, coughing, and hoarseness. This may also reduce damage to your esophagus.

                      Again, this is a quick fix that will probably reduce, not eliminate, some of your suffering. The real solution is likely to require a lot of study, patience, experimentation, etc. I don't believe there is a single cause or universal treatment for GERD.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: johnseberg

                        I'm pretty sure the OP said in another post that she's already elevating the upper body.

                        1. re: mcf

                          Yep, don't know how I missed that.

                          1. re: johnseberg

                            I do, since I'm a frequent practitioner of such lapses myself. ;-)

                              1. re: johnseberg

                                If you take out the H, I do, too.

                      2. my husband developed a severe case of GERD 3 yrs ago. he tried everything that the Dr. ordered. cut out coffee, tea, alcohol but nothing worked. he was on prilosec which helped a little. he finally cut out most meats and went on a strict GF raw food diet. it was pretty extreme as one day we were eating turkey sandwiches and next thing you know i'm soaking cashews and thinking of getting a dehydrator. his diet (if i can remember) went something like this. kale and chia seed smoothie for breakfast made in a vitamix type blender. lunch was fake tuna salad made with soaked almonds. dinner was raw spaghetti made with zucchini and sauce. he did have a little tomato in the form of this raw sauce but not anything else.

                        he did chew a lot of gum as well and elevated the bed. after several months of this he truly did fix himself but it wasn't overnight. he has flare ups here and there but nothing that can't be managed.

                        oh and he's no longer on a raw food diet and back to eating gluten. it wasn't sustainable in the long run for us as a family. raw food diet can become pretty fatty as you get a good portion of your calories from nuts. the soaking and making the nut cream can become one note and tiresome. turned out the same year we discovered our child had a severe nut allergy so we can no longer eat nuts in the house for his safety anyway.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: trolley

                          Why not try gluten free or grain restriction alone if it happens again, before seeing if more modification is required? In all the anecdotes I recall, relief was pretty immediate with grain avoidance, and lasting. These folks were mostly on high fat, animal protein/meat centric diets with lots of veggies.

                          1. re: mcf

                            i agree with getting rid of one thing at a time. i was just referring to what my husband did but not necessarily advocating it. remember, his was pretty severe and initially landed him the ER. it was that painful. i'm still not sold on the raw food diet either. during the time he was GF and raw he had several blood tests and they came out abnormal. once his GERD subsided and he went back to a more normal diet by eating tons of greens and some lean proteins his blood work came back normal. raw food diet is a lot of work more in the preparation since nuts have to be soaked overnight then drained etc. it also required the use of cusinart a lot which is a pain in the rear to clean and use on a daily basis.

                            1. re: trolley

                              Wow, that's BAD GERD! Glad it's better, any way you get there.

                        2. Hi Indygirl,

                          You probably already know these tips, but try not to consume too much liquid with your meals. Also, if you can, eat your dinner as early as possible, to have your stomach as empty as possible when you go to bed.

                          More anecdotal stuff: a friend swears by a tea called "throat coat" that contains licorice and slippery elm. She also drinks aloe vera juice as a supplement during flare-ups (warning--too much has a laxative effect).

                          Of course, if you are taking any NSAID (ibuprofens, naproxen sodium), please consider replacing with acetominephen (Tylenol).

                          Oh...and if you can tolerate it, nosh on a little black licorice daily. Doesn't have to be salty, but a few pieces of the classic black per day might help.

                          1. I can't believe I forgot to mention one of my worst triggers - peanuts. I'm currently in the midst of a really painful flareup after eating a spoonful of PB this afternoon. Ugh.

                            BTW, pay attention to your monthly cycles and see if your GERD acts up with changes in your hormone levels. Elevated progesterone in particular can trigger attacks.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              That's really interesting, someone who used to be a cyclical Cushing's specialist always told his patients to test for high coritsol when they had heartburn, too.

                              1. re: mcf

                                All my cortisol studies have been normal, but I can *guarantee* I'll have a bad GERD attack when my progesterone is cycling higher.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  That would be a good time to test them both! I gotta think that if one steroid can do it, another can.

                            2. I have my mom staying with me right now, due to her lack of her Gerd control. In order to get complete relief, you must understand first that Gerd and Heartburn ARE two different entities. Gerd is the relaxing of the muscle that STOP the stomach acids from splashing up into the esophagus. Certain foods relax that muscle causing it to stay open, not good. Certain foods STRENGTHEN it. That's GOOD....... ACID Reflux is the excess acid being produced in the stomach. Certain foods can cause this, also not good (for example carbs). Having both, which my mom was having, is awful. It causes unbearable throat burning and pain. I took mom to my home, gave her 2 table spoons of organic apple cider vinegar to relive the heartburn immediately, so I could begin a program of healing for her. She also drank cool glasses of Aloe Juice to keep throat cool, strengthen the muscle, and also cuts down on the tummy acids. I started a steady diet of mashed bananas for breakfast(mash to release the healing oils), lunch is green beans, soft diced carrots, crockpot soft (or boiled soft) chicken BREAST with a few table spoons of low sodium fat free cream soup as a gravy and soupy mashed potatoes (don't forget, I'm healing a VERY sore throat here too). Dessert is sugar free jello squares, or low fat or non fat LIVE CULTURE Greek yogart, Very soft, or incredibly soft diced peaches or pears. Dinner is basicly same foods, but I sometimes add plain sweet potato, soft diced cantalope, mashed squash or my own Alfredo Sauce (fat free half n half mixed with vegan parm cheese heated till melted) mix with diced soft chicken over mashed potato. Tonight will be crockpot soft lean beef with her veggies. Green beans are very important because they 1. STRENGTHEN that muscle to control the Gerd, and 2. Are a good fiber food so the stomach produces Less acid in order to break it down. I also give my mom a tea of boiled Lavender and Slippery Elm (boil till thick, then strain into cup). she also is drinking Almond Milk, or Carrot Juice depending on what she feels like having. Right now we are on Day 4 of NO symptoms. When I send her home I will send her home with a list of "HER Trigger foods" OR "NO NO FOODS" because these can be different for other people. My moms are butter, fats, sugars, wheat, breads, dairy, high fat blood meats, broccoli, cauliflower, hot beverages, raw apple, apple juice, (cooked or baked apple with no sugar is ok for her )and a few other of her favorites, like chocolate, cake and potato chips ... LOL which are no no's for just about everyone who is suffering from these conditions. I'm not saying everyone should NEVER eat this stuff, of course you can, once in a while, but to have this in your pantry is too tempting. If your gonna have it, have with a healing soother like Almond Milk,or Aloe Juice afterwards to try to cut down on the acid. Or try to eat healthy the rest of the day to minimize or eliminate the bad effects of the luscious splurge ... LOL.If you want ice cream, Bryers Low carb, sugar free vanilla bean is excellent, mix in some diced soft peaches or fruit (any except pineapple)and you'll be in heaven. So i guess what I'm saying is no-one really needs to GO VEGAN or GO ORGANIC totally, just learn your trigger foods for acids, read up on Gerd causers and adjust your diet to your needs. Both CAN be controlled for anyone one (babies can have this too). My 81 yr old mom is finally sleeping thru the night, and waking up happy !