For a long time, I have been suffering from acid reflux. How did I find out? Through an anxiety attack while I was lying down after a (heavy) meal. My heart was pounding, I felt breathless and I really thought I was experiencing a heart attack. I ended up rushing to the emergency room, convinced that my life was at stake.
I already knew that stress could trigger acid reflux, but the other way round is also true. Some symptoms of GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux) include shortness of breath, pain chest, difficulty to swallow. These symptoms were so strong, so terrifying to experience that I realised how much physical health can impact your mental wellbeing. I was determined to get rid of these symptoms once and for all, as I was gradually developing a fear of eating (and I normally love to eat!)
After I experienced these (awful) symptoms for the first time, I started to analyse very carefully what I was eating. In parallel, I spent an extensive amount of time in the hospital getting all the different possible root causes checked: endoscopy, barium swallow… Everything was normal.
What could be the root cause? I had eliminated a lot of the foods that were supposed to be triggering (e.g. spices, deep fried food, garlic, etc)
I researched even more extensively about all the different foods that can trigger GERD symptoms:
Maybe it’s the gluten? (spoiler: it was not)
Or perhaps my sugar intake? (I have a bit of a sweet tooth)
Or maybe cucumber? (apparently it is a trigger for a lot of people)
Or maybe just stress? (back then I was going through a lot of pressure in my new job)
This was the beginning of ‘reclaiming my health’ journey: reading about nutrition, learning to managing my anxiety, moving more often. But things took a long time to improve, after I had tried a variety of different diets (which I will detail in future blog posts) and started to take medication on top (proton pump inhibitors more specifically). Things gradually got better for my stomach, however I noticed that I soon as I stopped my treatment the symptoms will gradually come back.
Gradually I had reintegrated all my favourites food (including my beloved garlic) to my diet and decided that I will just need to use medication regularly.
This was until a recent holiday back at my parents house, that I had my aha moment. While I was downing a huge cup of coffee still half asleep, my dad (an Italian coffee-drinker) pointed out: ‘How can you even drink coffee on an empty stomach? There is nothing more aggressive for the lining of your stomach!’
Ahaaaa. This could be the culprit. The main thing I had ignored in my ‘better-eating’ journey so far. I had indulged over daily large lattes for the last couple of years (like millions of Londoners, I would grab a coffee on my way to the office), without realising that drinking coffee on an empty stomach was the WORST.
The great news? I didn’t even have to give up my beloved coffee (and I’m obsessed with coffee). Just eating a couple of mouthful before the first sip. This sounds soooo simple (and too good to be true), but it is extremely effective. The food that you will eat will simply ‘coat’ the lining of your stomach, preventing the acidity of the coffee to upset your (sensitive) stomach.
Since I tried this simple change, I haven’t needed any anti-reflux tablet.
What about you, what is your no.1 tip for acid reflux? I’d love to know!