Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

The Beginning

For years I’ve always had chest pain and heartburn after eating certain foods. I would usually lie down after eating to relax and apparently this wasn’t a good thing. The pain was chronic meaning it was always there in the background causing discomfort, I didn’t pay much attention to it until in 2018 when the pain became unbearable. After much discomfort, I finally went to a doctor to figure out what was wrong with me.

I visited the doctor and based on the symptoms I described to him, he recommended a H.pylori blood test and a general blood screening. The H.pylori test came back positive, meaning I had ulcer causing bacteria in my stomach which could be the cause of the chest pain. I was prescribed antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria, which it did. However, the chest pain continued months after the treatment. I went back to the doctor and he prescribed antacids for immediate heartburn relief and proton pump inhibitors (PPI) like omeprazole as treatment for the H.pylori induced inflammation, still nothing changed.

The chest pain refused to go away and I went for another H.pylori test using the urea breath test (UBT) and the result came back negative. Frustrated, I started researching the symptoms I had online and I found a test called upper gastrointestinal endoscopy which involves putting an endoscope with a camera down the esophagus to see whats going on and to collect sample for testing. I made arrangements with my doctor for the test to be done and the after analysis, the diagnosis was Gastritis. The doctor prescribed Nexium, Omeprazole and Mobilinium to treat the Gastritis.

The Diagnosis

I began the treatment prescribed to me for Gastritis but I wasn’t satisfied with the results and the symptoms described online did not do justice to how I was feeling. I then embarked on weeks of research for more information on gastritis and what could be wrong with me based on my symptoms and I found out that I had GERD because the symptoms fit perfectly like heartburn, chest pain, sensation of a lump in my throat and even back pain.

On finding this out, I realised that most of the drugs prescribed for gastritis were also used in treating or managing GERD and so I continued treatment for another few months.

My symptoms improved for sometime, but after a while it seemed like all the drugs besides of Nexium, stopped working and I was back to daily chest/stomach pain. This pain would start when I wake up in the morning and continue until the next day, day after day, non-stop. I felt frustrated and worried especially because I read online that GERD has no cure and can only be managed. Based on the inability of the drugs to numb my pain and the possible side effects of taking Nexium consistently like weakened bones, magnesium deficiency and other crazy side effects, I decided to stop taking the prescribed medication.

Finding a Solution

After I quit taking the medication I had to find another way to feel better. I researched natural ways to relieve acid reflux pain, to promote healing and I found results that have worked and are still working for me despite ups and downs. GERD has no permanent cure and can only be managed consistently. Here are a list of eating habits and lifestyle changes i’ve made that have helped me manage my GERD so far:

The first thing I did was buy an angle pillow. This pillow is at a 15 degree angle and its specifically for people with GERD. People with acid reflux have a problem where the stomach acid moves up back to the esophagus thereby causing heartburn and pain. The angle pillow uses gravity to ensure that stomach acid doesn’t go up the throat.

15 degree angle pillow used to combat acid reflux or GERD
15 degree angle pillow used to prevent acid reflux

I stopped eating a large meal. Whenever I ate too much food and stuffed my face, I noticed that I had serious pain that usually lasted the whole day. Now I eat smaller more frequent meals during the day using a small plate as measurement and I have less frequent pain.

I stopped lying down immediately after eating. This habit was hard for me to quit because most of the time after eating, I have the urge to sleep and apparently sleeping immediately after eating is the worst thing to do with acid reflux. So I started waiting 2-3 hours after every meal and if I feel the urge to sleep, I use my angle pillow for some elevation.

I started drinking tea. I read online that camomile tea and ginger tea help to settle the stomach. I tried it and it worked for me. I take ginger tea before breakfast and then camomile tea after dinner, just before bed time.

I avoid eating certain acidic foods. I try to limit or completely avoided foods like orange, raw tomato, raw onions, raw garlic, spicy foods, coffee, chocolate, pineapple, deep fried and high-fat greasy foods. These foods are acidic and therefore increase stomach acid and subsequently trigger reflux pain.

I make sure not to drink too much water at one time: Drinking a lot of water in one go, puts instant pressure on the stomach and causes stomach acid to rise to the throat. Now I drink cups of water throughout the day, to avoid chugging to prevent pain.

Eat a balanced diet to manage body weight. Acid reflux made me very selective with food and as a result, I lost up to 8kg weight within 6 months. Instead of completely eliminating certain foods from your diet and becoming nutrient deficient, it is better to eat a more balanced diet in accordance to foods that your stomach can tolerate and find substitutes where necessary.

I avoid Alcohol as much as possible. Alcohol is bad for reflux and even though I fall into temptation from time to time, I try my best to avoid it.

The Outlook

Managing GERD is tough because you have to unlearn bad eating habits and learn the good ones. Sometimes after weeks with no pain, one Friday night cocktail mistake can send you two steps back into a week or more of constant pain. It’s really a life-long disease and everyone has to figure out what works for them and stick to it.

Feel free to share your reflux story in the comment section or contact me for more information on GERD.

PS: The information provided on this page is based solely on my personal experiences and should not be considered as legal or medical advice. Five foot nomad is not liable for any misrepresentation or misinterpretation of any and all posts on its website.