Every Day I Thank God For My GERD

According to Wikipedia, GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, a painful and very dangerous condition caused by malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter which separates the esophagus from the stomach.

It is estimated that approximately 25 million adults suffer each day from severe acid reflux in the United States alone.

Even to this day, there are no known cures for this illness, only quick-fix remedies and medications with severe long-term consequences.

This is a story about how I fell in love with my disease...

I am a 21 year old college student from Europe and I've been suffering from GERD for 4 years now. Every day I have to be extremely careful about what I eat and when I eat in order to avoid hours of painful agony. Sometimes, even that doesn't help and I just have to deal with the acid however I can.

When I first found out about my condition at the age of 18, I wasn't ready to deal with the harsh fact that pizzas, french fries and pancakes were a thing of the past for me. My doctor told me there was still a way I could be pain free, but it would involve taking PPI drugs basically for the rest of my life.

I didn't even care about the possible side effects of long term use and went ahead with it, without giving it a second thought!

The PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) worked wonders for me.

I could eat and drink whatever I want, whenever I want and as much as I want. I was "normal" again. Finally, I could have a cold beer with my friends!

If there was a time that I forgot to take my daily dose of medication, the pain got right back to me and the consequences were unbearable. It felt like I swallowed a ton of hot coals that were ripping my intestines apart.

It was fairly obvious to me at that time that I was never again going to be medication-free for as long as I live.

Little did I know that just 2 years later, I would come across an article on the internet describing the fatal consequences of long-term PPI use.

After reading it through, I was forced to face a serious dilemma.

For days and weeks, I kept foolishly comparing the beers, pancakes and pizzas to the risks of nutrient malabsorption induced diseases...

It finally became clear to me that PPIs were doing me more harm than good. I learned that acid was in my stomach for a reason, a very good reason - to digest food. And I was willingly shutting down my body acid production.

The acid was never an enemy, the loose sphincter was, and the PPIs were treating the wrong thing. I decided to get off them cold turkey.

I was not willing to put my health in danger any more.

Two days went buy and I was already bent over in pain cursing my life and my stupid decision to "save my health". As much as I tried, I couldn't see how I was "saving my health" by allowing acid to squirt from my stomach, through my esophageal tube and into my mouth over and over again.

I had tried changing my diet completely. It didn't work. I couldn't even drink water without inducing reflux. I had a very hard time falling asleep if I wasn't lying on my back. And I was really used to lying on my side...

I thought I was going to die.

"The things you take for granted when you're GERD free...", I often repeated to myself...

But why was my condition so much worse now than it was before I started taking PPI drugs?!

It turns out that there is a widespread phenomenon that occurs when one stops taking PPI drugs after a long time of use. I learned that there is a hormone called gastrin in our bodies, which regulates the acid production.

When your body shuts off acid production for a prolonged period of time, the gastrin levels build up (to a point of increased cancer risk) and when you finally get off PPIs, your stomach produces way more acid than it normally does.

I became very interested in this subject and wanted to know if other people have had similar experiences. It turns out that the so-called acid rebound effect is very real and can last up to few weeks or even months after stopping the PPI treatment.

Now that I finally realized what was happening to me, I felt relieved to know that my horrible condition was only temporary.

Indeed, as each day went buy, I kept feeling better and better. There were still a lot of times that literally brought me to my knees, but I kept hanging on.

I started spending more and more time behind my computer, reading about GERD and people's experiences with it. This is what kept me motivated through the tough times.

Since I already learned by then that GERD was not really a matter of acid, but a matter of loose LES, I was now focusing my attention differently.

I began to realize that GERD symptoms are largely due to digestion issues.

One article even suggested that the solution is to add more acid along with digestive enzymes to aid the digestion process. As crazy as it sounded, I thought I'd give it a try - and I'm really glad I did.

I also learned about probiotics and their effect on digestion. Since I couldn't drink any kinds of yogurt, I had to buy them in pills. These two supplements alone made a world of difference for my GERD.

Of course, the hardest part was modifying my diet.

It was the hardest part for two major reasons:

1) It was a "trial & error" process - and I really hated the "errors"!

2) I had to give up the foods I like forever (or so I thought...)

By this point, my life was already radically different in every aspect. No more coffees for breakfast, no more beers with pizzas, no more delicious chocolate cakes, sodas, french fries, hamburgers - all gone!

You see, GERD is different for every individual, so there were no "GERD menus" I could simply follow. I had to make my own. And that's what I did.

I now keep a virtual diary of all the foods that I'm allowed to eat and the ones that will give me a nightmare if I eat them.

Surprisingly enough, as the time passed by and the acid rebound effect began to dissolve, I found that I could eat quite a lot of foods!

At first I thought I was stuck with broccoli for breakfast and carrots for dinner, but it soon turned out I could eat much more than that.

With each new food I added to the "Allowed" list, I kept feeling better and better about my disease...

It was 2 months later that I learned I could eat vanilla ice cream with no problems at all! Can you imagine that? I never thought I'd be so lucky!

I can also eat almost all kinds of meat, pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and most of the vegetables. Not too bad, would you agree? Sure I can't eat mayo, ketchup and other processed junk food - but I honestly don't even care anymore!

In addition to that, I was forced to develop a pretty strong character by having to resist cigarettes, alcohol and junk food when going out with friends and I'm so thankful for this. I think I wouldn't be the person I am today if I never had GERD.

I now eat food consciously and I learned to see it only as fuel for the day. I substituted the emotional "kick" I used to get from food with other things.

It's been 3 months since I stopped taking PPIs now and I know so much about my disease that I could write a whole book about it.

I am very privileged to be able to write articles such as this to open eyes for other people out there who are struggling with GERD and think that their life is cursed... because it is not!

In every good, there's bad and in every bad there's good. Ying and yang.

These are the things that GERD has blessed me with:

- I started to take much greater care of my body and my health

- I stopped smoking cigarettes and eating food that was destroying me

- I developed a strong character and confidence in myself

- I am able to help others who are like me to get better

- I learned to get "emotional kicks" from other things in life, not just food

- I never again have to worry about obesity for the rest of my life

- And so much more...

This is why I thank God, every day, for my illness. Don't get me wrong, my life is far from perfect. I still get big eyes when my girlfriend orders a Big Mac and I have to make sure that I don't drink any fluids until 3 hours of my last meal.

But, at the end of the day, I don't really have an option... I could hate a part of myself until the day I die, or I could turn my head the other way and look at the good things it brought into my life. I choose to do the latter and suggest you do the same.

Wish you all the best,