I went back and forth taking and not taking the Protonix for a month and a half. I didn’t like what my research said about PPI’s, nor did I like what it did to my digestion, but I was not getting better with a reflux diet alone. I was eating supposedly reflux “safe” foods and having symptoms every day. I no longer had heartburn, but still had vocal roughness and sore throat, and I had a new symptom – globus sensation. All day long. Super uncomfortable. And I would get it immediately after eating healthy meals. Then I’d get frustrated and eat a “cheat” food–like pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, and have no globus, but wake up the next day with a sore throat and bad voice.
I did tons of internet searches about reflux diet modification and found some journal articles that said what I have (LPR) doesn’t respond well to reflux medications. I decided to check out another ENT. I hoped he might have a new perspective, and he did.
Right off he said that he agreed it was LPR, that meds don’t work for it, the diagnosis of hiatal hernia was bullshit, and that every GI likes to give that diagnosis. He wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what actually is causing it, but he said to do a 90-95% plant-based diet focused on whole foods, use an alkalizing water filter, and come back after a month.
I decided to go 100% plant-based just because it was nearly impossible for me to know how to estimate what equals 90-95% (this blogger, Speciest Vegan, tried), though it’s been tough to stick to “whole foods” all the time since I like using some packaged/convenience foods, I like baking, and I use a little oil to cook some foods.
The diet made some sense to me as I know those are the foods that one eats to be healthy anyway (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds). I was already inclined to cook and eat Mediterranean-style, and I typically didn’t do a lot of red meat, though my diet used to have quite a bit of white meat, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy. I already was a meal-planner and I tend to cook a lot of my meals. For someone who doesn’t, this could be a VERY tough transition.
I was a little skeptical about the alkaline water, but I got a pH test kit and found that my tap water, even after I run it through our regular filter, is slightly acidic. The extra filtering raises the pH which I find does help my voice and throat a little bit.
Other than that, eating too fast or too much is a trigger but it’s tough because where I work, I only have about 25 minutes to eat lunch, so it’s gotten me in a bad habit of rushing my meals.
I have remained on the diet for a few months now with very little cheating. Usually when I cheat, I’ll maybe have a few bites of cake at a birthday party, but won’t eat any of the other “no-no” foods at the party.
It’s working so I keep doing it. I was easily able to find great vegan cookbooks (I already owned a copy of The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen) and “replacement” foods at the regular grocery store or the health food store, so I don’t feel too deprived if I’m craving something creamy, cheesy, or meaty.
Then of course, there’s also the added wellness benefit of feeling good about reducing my carbon footprint, and getting past that cognitive dissonance of wanting to end cruelty to animals and then still eating them and their products. Apparently, raising animals for meat, milk, and eggs is the single biggest cause of carbon emissions in the world, much worse than even the cars we drive every day. And let’s be real and not try to fool ourselves with free-range hormone-free no-antibiotic farm-fresh meat. The living conditions of those animals are still less than ideal, and there’s no cruelty-free way to slaughter an animal and dismember it.
These weren’t my primary reasons for changing my diet though, so I call it “plant-based,” not “vegan.” Some vegans, in my experience, can have a little bit of an attitude if you’re not a “purist,” –like you still wear leather, you still eat honey or foods with confectioners glaze, etc. I figure, the less meat, dairy and eggs we consume, all the better, no matter the reason. Fun fact I learned – aside from being acidic and bad for reflux, most wines and beers aren’t vegan, as vintners and brewers may use milk, egg whites, blood, gelatin, crustacean exoskeletons and isinglass in the fining process after fermentation. Cheers!
I also have to manage my symptoms with traditional reflux protocols too. This makes me sad. I still need to sleep on a wedge pillow, but it’s uncomfortable so I don’t always. I try to remember to stop eating about 2-3 hours before bedtime, and my next challenge is to make an effort to slow down and not inhale my food, especially if I’m out all day, haven’t been able to eat and I come home ravenous.
I was never a big drinker but if I do drink at all now, it’s just one glass of wine, and not very often. I’m still trying to find locally available brands of vegan wine. I can’t eat tomatoes without immediately getting a reaction. I might put a very small amount of them into cooked foods. I avoid citrus and peppermint. I limit high fat foods. I have smaller avocado portions than I used to. I have to limit onions and garlic and limit my berries as they are pretty acidic. Those are tough because I love all those foods. Many of my previously favorite recipes have the trifecta: onions, garlic, tomatoes. I gave up coffee, but I was never a regular drinker. Once in a while I’ll cheat with special low-acid decaf coffee that I cold brew with alkaline water and I still get a little reaction. I can’t have most teas because the black teas are caffeinated and acidic, and most herbal teas/tisanes I like have mint, berry or citrus which all trigger my globus and sore throat. I was never a big soda drinker so it’s not hard to avoid that, but I do miss those no-sugar fruit seltzers. I’m going to have to bring my dark chocolate intake down even lower because it’s a trigger for sure. I just don’t think I’ll realistically ever be able to get that down to zero. I know who I am.