June 12, 2013

Report from my Gut: Getting GERD Flare-Up Under Control with a Counterattack!

Did too many tomatoes do it?
What happened??!

The past few weeks, all of a sudden, my GERD symptoms rallied and returned, five-fold.  This, after months of feeling much better, no "clenched throat," no reflux episodes, little or no nausea, even my constipation had been resolved for the most part.   Now, constipation has returned.  Bloating, nausea, consecutive days of acid reflux shooting up my esophagus, rare for me even in my GERD flare-ups -- a daily occurrence.  

What caused all of this?  I'm still trying to figure it out.  Too many tomatoes?  Exceptionally stressful (good and bad stress) weeks?  A few constipated days too many?

After a week of chewing on TUMS and feeling miserable and demoralized, I had to take action.  Several days into my "GERD Flare Up Counterattack," I am getting back on track, and the symptoms are subsiding.

Here's the strategy I used to get myself back on track:
  • Eliminated my daily caffeinated tea and chocolate intake for a few days, choosing to drink chamomile-lavender and chamomile-vanilla, or lemon verbena, herbal teas.   When I resumed caffeinated tea, I selected pu-ehr and dark oolongs.
  • Mindful eating, focusing on GERD-friendly foods (I tend to do this as a matter of course, but made a particularly strong effort to focus on stomach-friendly ingredients): lentils, sweet potato, kale, chard, pasta.  I also re-incorporated greenmarket (pastured) eggs as meals, having hard-boiled eggs and sauteed kale for breakfast and a scrambled egg for dinner.   For lunches, I brought soup or an Amy's frozen meal. I tried to eat slower and smaller meals, noticing I'd been lapsing about this.  
  • Avoided tomatoes/tomato-based meals.  Was this the trigger for my reflux spell?  I bought two pints of sweet cherry tomatoes at the greenmarket -- the first of the season!! -- and gobbled them down, on their own, and in a salad.  I also had been increasing my tomato sauce intake, with more veg lasagnas and other dishes.  Usually, I'm lucky and can eat tomatoes without concern.  But maybe this was a case of too many, too soon, too fast.  I've also been eating a lot of strawberries, and tried honey with bee pollen -- a tiny taste that triggered an oral allergic reaction for 15 minutes.
  • JUST SAY NO policy at work.   I refused birthday cupcakes, leftover pizza, free chocolate, and other office treats.   (Frankly, I should maintain this policy, which is, overall, the best way to manage my GERD, diet, health.)
  • Tums.  Lots of Extra Strength TUMS.  I admit, they helped and I was determined to keep reflux away while I adjusted diet and other factors.
  • Engaged in "self talk," trying to calm my mind and coach my body into relaxing, feeling better, getting back in control.  Reminding myself "the nausea will pass" and just don't worry about the constipation, this will resolve as well.  
Slowly but surely, returning to "my normal."

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