Acid Reflux – not just for smoking, drinking, middle-aged men.

acid-reflux-causes

Back in December, I had a bad cold and lost my voice, but got over it.  Mid-January, I started feeling like my voice was going out again, but this time, I didn’t have any cold symptoms.  My primary doctor, never one to over-prescribe (I prefer it that way), said, “Maybe you just have acid reflux.  Take some OTCs and see how it goes.”

Acid reflux?  I scoffed–I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had heartburn in my entire life.  I eat pretty darn healthy, exercise regularly, drink rarely, and have an app that encourages me to get to bed at a reasonable hour.  I’m well under 50, not overweight, I don’t smoke, and I’m not a man.  How could I possibly have acid reflux?!

So, I took a couple Tums and some Pepsid, but it didn’t make any difference.  I also did what I usually do for my voice – herbal lemon lozenges, lemon ginger tea with honey, and lots of water and rest.  After trying to sing for a whole band practice, I became completely aphonic.  Not great for someone who uses their voice professionally.  After three days of being unable to make any sounds at all and now experiencing full-on heart burn ’round the clock, I went back to my doctor who was concerned but didn’t really have anything new to suggest except reflux.  I got a referral for an ENT and fortunately got an appointment an hour later.

The ENT did a nasolaryngoscopy and said that it looked a little irritated but there wasn’t much swelling so he wouldn’t even give me a cortisone shot to get my voice back.  He gave me a prescription for a powerful proton pump inhibitor – Protonix, and said, “If it works, you have reflux.”  He made it sound like no big deal.  He even said he goes off and on PPI’s periodically to manage his own reflux.

By the way, PPI’s ARE a big deal.  Being on them short term messes up your digestion because they lower the amount of acid in your stomach, so you don’t digest your food well, leading to diarrhea.  Also, they are not localized in their effects–they lower acid in your body systemically which isn’t good because you need acid for your lysosomes to properly remove cellular wastes.  In addition, there are a whole host of other health concerns from long-term use:

“…known risks, including C. difficile infections, which can cause chronic diarrhea; pneumonia; low magnesium levels, which can cause muscle spasms; heart palpitations and convulsions; and fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine. Fracture risks are generally highest in people who’ve taken high doses of the drugs for more than one year.”

from – http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20160608/proton-pump-inhibitor-health-risks#1

I took the pills twice a day for several days and my voice slowly returned, but I was still experiencing heartburn, and an altogether new sensation–a feeling of a giant lump, like food, stuck at the back of my throat.  The technical term for this is globus pharyngis, and doctors aren’t really sure what causes it.  Some believe that there is a problem with the coordination of the swallowing muscles and perhaps they tense up and don’t relax, giving an uncomfortable sensation.  All I know is, it’s annoying, lasts for hours on end, and wasn’t improved at all by taking PPI’s.

Then I went to the library and did some research about reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and found that while, yes, I was experiencing acid reflux, heartburn, and globus sensation, these don’t equal a diagnosis.  These are symptoms.

This is why I get annoyed with Western medicine–I wasn’t diagnosed.  I was treated symptomatically and it sort of helped, but not 100%, and new problems arose.  I also met with a GI specialist to get a second opinion as I didn’t want to be married to these heavy-duty pharmaceuticals forever.  He basically said the same thing as the ENT.  He also refused to do any further testing to find the underlying cause of the reflux, essentially saying, “What does it matter?  You’ll have to treat it the same way, no matter the cause: modified diet, PPIs or H2 blockers, sleep on a slant, don’t eat 4 hours before bed.”

But here’s the thing: you can have acid reflux for a number of reasons including: over-production of acid in the stomach, under-production of acid in the stomach (yeah, counter-intuitive), a stomach that is slow to empty, a hiatal hernia, a weak lower esophageal sphincter caused by lots of things (including taking muscle relaxants).

Also, some fun facts I discovered: having silent reflux might be the reason you are over-producing mucus and have a constant post-nasal drip.  It also makes you prone to getting more sinus infections, and can cause asthma-like symptoms or leave you short of breath.

Coughing Man - Arrows

Depending on the root cause of the reflux, there may be some different treatment options.  I found another GI who was willing to do an upper endoscopy.  This revealed that my reflux is caused by a medium-sized hiatal hernia.  After even more research, I learned that the current surgical treatments for this aren’t that amazing (fundoplication, Lynx, a type of laparoscopic surgery).  Also, I found I don’t have GERD, I have LPR (laryngopharyngeal reflux), a.k.a. “slient reflux” which is why I don’t get heartburn, but I get throatburn and lose my voice easily.  Still, at least I have a diagnosis and can keep up with any new treatment developments.

Overall, I’m still struggling.  I am having a hard time with eating in general, as sometimes foods that should be “safe” seem to give me a problem.  And if I over-eat, eat too quickly, or eat too close to bedtime, it doesn’t matter what it is–I turn into a Gremlin.

gremlins

Oh, and as far as home remedies, I haven’t found any that work.  I got a slant-pillow but I still wake up with a sore throat most mornings.  The whole drinking water and slamming your heels down thing doesn’t seem to magically move my stomach back into its rightful position.  Self-adjusting my abdominal fascia doesn’t offer any relief either.  And for Chrissake, do NOT drink shots of apple cider vinegar.  If that shit worked, there would be no other treatment for hiatal hernia.  Some people anecdotally swear they get relief from these, but I’m hear to tell you there isn’t any research to back that up, and this girl didn’t find it to be true (though I didn’t try the ACV, that’s just cray).

One non-dietary thing that does seem to help is lowering my stress level with better sleep, avoiding unpleasant stimuli, and meditation.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that my symptoms had a sudden onset right around the time a certain popular vote-loser took office and my stress levels ramped up significantly.

There are some theories as to why acid reflux, GERD and LPR are on the rise.  When I find something credible and research-based, you’ll be the first to know.  Stay healthy friends.

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Fixer Upper – Turning Everything into Faux-Distressed Pottery Barn Lookalikes

(Exhibits 1-8)

Chip and Joanna Gains, owners of Magnolia Homes, have not only a show on HGTV, but a whole brand they are cultivating.  They are a charming couple with four adorable children and a mess of animals on a farm down in Texas.  I love that they are into rescuing old properties rather than razing them and building new.  Still, every time I see them rip out beautiful wood windows, I die a little inside.  I guess as a contractor, it doesn’t make financial sense for Chip to reglaze.  Also annoying is that they love to make everything open concept (check my girl Roxanne at Justmewith… if you want a perfect explanation for everything that is wrong with open concept in a single-family home).  Also, they tend to ignore the era and style of the original home, making every property look sorta farmhouse-meets-industrial cookie cutter.   Nearly every kitchen ends up too big with an island (annoying and inefficient to walk around).  Nearly every kitchen has white cabinets.  Nearly every home tends to stick to a basic grays and whites palette. Reclaimed wood, distressed finishes, shiplap and subway tile are the only finishes they know, and they have a major hard on for sliding barn doors–a trend which I think will look super-dated in the not-too-distant future.  I wish the owners’ style were allowed to shine through a bit.

I think it’s important if you are looking to remodel or renovate, don’t look to just one t.v. show or source for style inspiration.  Too often people doubt their own sense of style, leaving it to the “experts” who wind up dictating a look that becomes  ubiquitous, repetitive, and boring.

 

 

Pinterest Wins and Losses

Over the past few years, I’ve become full-on Pinterest addicted.  I started out with just three “secret” (i.e. private, for my eyes only) boards and now have about 15 boards, most public.  I used to bookmark websites but it’s so much easier to search through a board of photos to find what I want.  Anyway, I’ve tried out a bunch of DIY stuff I’ve found through searching other people’s “pins,” and wanted to share a quick list of some that I have seen popping up that are worthwhile and some that turned out less than amazing.

rast hack

(This one looks magical.  They even added ball feet!)

Ikea “Rast” Hack – I needed a pair of beside tables.  Nothing too fancy, some drawers for storage, and enough surface area to have a box of tissues, a book, and a glass of water.

Verdict – Easy as shit, and only limited by your imagination and crafting skills.  I painted mine a simple blue with white drawer fronts, and swapped in some mid-modish circular metal pulls.  My imagination is a limitation, but allow yourself to be inspired.   They work great, and hold: all my bathing suits, all my winter scarves/hats/gloves/earmuffs, and some extra books and whatnot in the top drawer.

lemon honey

(Just make tea.)

Blackhead removal with a lemon and honey – Holy Christ this pin comes up so often, and it’s a bunch of nonsense.  If this really worked, no one in the entire world would have blackheads.  This is just going to irritate your skin with the lemon and make you all sticky from the honey with nothing good to show for it.  Fun fact — I found out through research that I don’t have blackheads – what look like clogged pores are called sebaceous filaments.  They are genetic, harmless, and nearly impossible to get rid of.  If your aesthetician manages to extract them, they will reappear in a matter of days, and your skin and pores won’t thank you for the squeezing and tugging.  PUT DOWN THE BIORE!

Verdict – Don’t even bother with this nonsense.

roller shade

Covering vinyl roller shades with fabric to pretty them up  – Get some cheap vinyl shades, get some cheap, thin cotton fabric, get some spray adhesive and slap it together.  Viola!  You have fancy, affordable shades that block out the early morning sun and neighbors’ prying eyes.

Verdict – So, this didn’t work so well for me, but the directions I found weren’t great and I made the mistake of following them blindly.  Instead of only covering the 3 ft or so length of the shade that is visible when the shade is unfurled, I covered the entire shade (as per instructions).  It wouldn’t roll back up because a) it was too heavy for the springs, and b) even the thinnest cotton calico is too thick and it looked lumpy.  I might get brave and try again using just a short length of fabric.  Also, that Elmer’s spray adhesive smells like death, and is super-messy and tacky to deal with (careful of overspray!).  Do it outdoors and leave it to cure out there for at least a day if you don’t want indoor air pollution.

buffalo bites

Cauliflower replacement recipes – trying to cut carbs? Increase veggie intake?  Make an every day food out of your your favorite “sometimes” foods?

Verdict – This actually worked, though if you are a junkfood purist, it will likely offend.  I used my pizza stone and made a decent cauliflower pizza crust, and used cauliflower florets to make baked “Buffalo wings.”  Frank’s makes a Buffalo sauce that isn’t high in fat (just has butter flavor), and it will work.  Great to make for your vegetarian friends at a casual party.

wineapple

“Wineapple” gift – nearly everyone I know loves booze and/or chocolate, often both, often together.  Take a bottle, stick on a bunch of Ferrero Roche candies, wrap the whole thing in plastic, and make some fake spiky leaves at the top with paper/plastic/whatever.

Verdict – Time consuming, expensive, difficult to get it looking good, but everyone loved them anyway.  I found someone selling huge boxes of those chocolate truffles online and had them shipped, as it will take many more of these to cover a bottle than you can imagine.  Maybe next time I’ll dot them around in a diamond pattern to save time, money, and frustration.  I stuck the candies to the bottle with tape as I didn’t want to hot glue it all making them difficult to remove, and leaving the bottle a mess and hard to pour from.  The candies tended to sag out of their wrappers even though the tape held them in place.  Wrapping it all in plastic helped hold it together somewhat, but there was fallout.  Also, it’s hard to spread them out evenly in neat little rows.  If you like your homemade gifts not to have that “homemade” look, and you are a perfectionist, just give them the candy and hooch wrapped separately and call it a night.