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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. Iโ€™m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything weโ€™ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 08, 2009

GERD Sufferers Rejoice!

By Guest
88 Comments

This story comes from reader Melissa. Her personal tale of going Primal was sent in during this season’s Primal Blueprint Health Challenge. She is the first of four entrants that will be part of the first round of drawings for the ongoing Primal Blueprint Real Life Stories contest. If you have a Primal story that you would like to share visit this page for all the details!

Reading all the amazing stories this week, I’m so impressed with all the weight people have lost because of primal living. My own story isn’t about dramatic weight loss, but underscores that the primal diet can address a variety of health problems caused by our modern diets.

I’ve always had a weak stomach. Growing up, stomach aches and pains were a daily nuisance. They became more than a nuisance when I went to college and started suffering from crippling heart burn. It gnawed in my chest nearly all day and night. Unable to sleep or study, I went to the student health center where I was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). I started on mild H2 inhibitors, which reduce acid production and tried to get healthier by plodding on the treadmill for hours and replacing my normal diet of pizza with some whole grains.

As you can probably guess, this didn’t solve much and soon enough I was feeling my stomach acid gurgling back up to where it didn’t belong. My doctor put my on Prilosec, a proton-pump inhibitor, which eliminates most stomach acid. Finally I could once again load up my plate in the dining hall with cheesecake, fried hot wings, nachos, and ice cream floats.

But it didn’t make me happy. I gained 25 lbs and soon enough food was a souce of guilt for me. I would play games in my head, trading the chocolate cake I was about to eat for an unhappy hour on a stair machine. To my horror, the acid reflux started coming back and along with it, even worse other stomach problems. I was diagnosed with IBS and resolved once again to eat healthier, but every day I felt weaker and weaker. One morning as I left my dorm room, I collapsed and ended up in the E.R. It was there that I was finally diagnosed with a nasty case of chronic salmonella.

Chronic salmonella is something that is usually seen in the elderly immunocompromised, not healthy twenty year olds. I realized that stomach acid is there for a reason. It helps us digest food, of course, but it also protects us from pathogens. I wanted mine back, but I also didn’t want to be in pain all the time.

I actually first learned about the Primal diet from a class I was taking on food history, where I read Jared Diamond’s The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. I was floored; here was an essay by an incredibly intelligent scientist saying that humans had been much healthier before we discovered agriculture. Poking around on the web, I discovered lots of interesting sites about eating like these healthy ancestors and I gave it a try.

I certainly didn’t stop having heartburn overnight, but I stuck with eating Primal and GERD has been gone for over two years now. More than that though, the Primal diet has changed the way I think. I’ve read so many interesting books about anthropology and learned how to cook delicious fresh vegetables and grass-fed meats. I went from Doritos addict to farmer’s market fanatic and now I work connecting people to local healthy food.

I now view exercise not as a chore, but as a way of life. I take the long way home, winding through a forest and climbing over large rocks. At the farmer’s market I pick out the biggest watermelons and lift them high over my head as I carry them a few miles home. I’ve lost all the weight I gained my freshman year and it’s not coming back any time soon.

Last year I traveled around Europe, which I never could have done with the stomach problems I used to suffer from. I highly recommend the pork knuckles in Krakow and the very fatty Mangalica pork in Hungary to Primal travelers.

My father was so impressed with my results and The Primal Blueprint that he is now eating Primal and has lost 30 pounds and also eliminated GERD! There’s not that much out there for GERD sufferers about the role of diet, so I hope others will hear my story and give this diet change a try. The Prilosec website recommends a low-fat diet….probably helps boost their sales!

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65 Comments on "GERD Sufferers Rejoice!"

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Chunster495
Chunster495
7 years 3 months ago

Those birds in the oven and the pork are making me drool. Great story! It still amazes me to hear that peoples lives can totally be changed based primarily on changing their diets.

dragonmamma
dragonmamma
7 years 3 months ago

My husband was never diagnosed with GERD, but his dad was, and we guessed that he had it in a milder, on-again-off-again form. (Burning, gagging sensation in throat, etc.)

It was shortly after I stopped buying bread and cereal that he noticed he didn’t have the problem anymore!

Kind of obvious in hindsight, isn’t it? Gotta love those “duh” moments.

I’m off to look up that essay by Jared Diamond; never heard of it!

Furious Mittens
Furious Mittens
7 years 3 months ago

Great story. Another great example of med v. food. Would you rather be hooked on expensive prescriptive medications forever, or tasty tasty pig knuckles forever? I’ll take the pig knuckles.

Jane
Jane
7 years 3 months ago

Loved reading this! Definitely going to pass it along to a couple family members who have stomach issues. If it can so greatly help your GERD, i would think it could help their (less serious??) stomach irritations. Congratulations on your accomplishment, and to your dad!

Joe
Joe
7 years 3 months ago

I was a GERD sufferer as well. Terrible heart burn that felt like a knife was being twisted in my chest. Shortly after going primal, it never happened again. Well not never, whenever I fall of the wagon it comes back enough to remind me that I need to get my stuff together and get primal again.

Since going primal on 19NOV08 I have dropped 45 pounds, don’t have GERD, gut problems are gone.

Can’t beat it.

Adam Kayce
7 years 3 months ago

Good for you, Melissa! It’s amazing how many “medical professionals” don’t realize that digestive issues could be (and usually are) 100% related to the food we’re eating. I’m just glad you took matters into your own hands, and made the change. You look much healthier and happier now!

And I agree – those are some good lookin’ chickens.

crunchysue
7 years 3 months ago

Oh come on – do you really think *digestion* and *food* might be related? That’s so silly. Everyone knows digestion problems are caused by a lack of pharmaceuticals.

Dana
Dana
7 years 2 months ago

It’s true, don’tcha know. They recently added “Prilosec deficiency” to the ICD-9.

Nelter
Nelter
7 years 3 months ago

Brilliant to hear this kind of success over illness solely from diet/lifestyle change.

Let food be your medicine. Let medicine be your food. Hippocrates was right all along? ๐Ÿ™‚

Chris
Chris
7 years 3 months ago

Student teacher here (history), I’m gonna have to make a lesson plan involving that Jared Diamond paper.

Cameron Perry
7 years 3 months ago

Such a great story! I think the results speak for themselves so often.

Suzan
Suzan
7 years 3 months ago

Another former GERD sufferer here. After years of GERD, I went low-carb to lose some weight and I lost the GERD, too.

When I told my gastro doc that I felt better since I cut grains from my diet, he looked at me like I was daft…

Great post!

juca
juca
7 years 3 months ago

Hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you do look adorable. And your story is inspiring.

Mikeythehealthycaveman
7 years 3 months ago

I really love hearing these success stories! It’s great to see the range of ailments that the primal diet is the cure for… I only wish I could get my father on it. He is 79 and had a heart attack last year. The doctors have him so afraid of red meat and saturated fat that he is worried about me now. At least I’ve got him off sugar…
Thanks Melissa! keep it up

Alejandro
Alejandro
7 years 3 months ago

Wow that’s amazing. I am happy for your results.

gcb
7 years 3 months ago

My wife has GERD as well, due to a minor birth defect. While paleo/primal never completely erased her heartburn, I can tell you that her antacid use dropped from a handful a day to only a couple of tablets a day after a few months of eating caveman-style.

Andrew
7 years 3 months ago

I am another reflux sufferer that has suppressed symptoms from eating paleo.

I found out earlier what proton-pump inhibitors cand do to long term health and still wonder how these things are part of a “health” system.

I’ve also fixed other auto-immune issues. Paleo all the way!

WSB
WSB
7 years 3 months ago
Mark, congrats on the great job you’re doing – singlehandedly reducing America’s health care costs! I just have one concern. Some of these folks, who see dramatic improvements in their health, should be tested for celiac because not eating wheat is not enough and the 80/20 rule is a really bad idea in that case. Celiac is seriously under-diagnosed and celiacs can be skinny, obese and everything in-between. Plenty of celiacs are asymptomatic or have just one symptom – like GERD. Or they don’t realize they had symptoms until they’ve been eating GF for awhile and then it is too… Read more »
Melissa
Melissa
7 years 3 months ago
Hey, Melissa here! Thanks for all the great comments! I feel honored to be posted here and to spread the word that GERD doesn’t have to torture you forever! And I thank Mark for bringing together all sorts of great resources on the site and in the new book. I do agree about being tested for celiac. GERD is not the most typical symptom, but in my research I’ve found it’s relatively common among celiacs, so the test is probably a good idea. I did get tested when I was still eating bread and it was thankfully negative, but I’m… Read more »
Dollface
Dollface
7 years 3 months ago

Awesome story and just goes to show how much diet affects health. I never was diagnosed officially with GERD but had most the symptoms, they are now gone since eating primal!

ryland
ryland
7 years 3 months ago

Bravo Melissa!

I too found the Jared Diamond paper inspiring.
Here is a link if anyone wants to read it. http://www.environnement.ens.fr/perso/claessen/agriculture/mistake_jared_diamond.pdf

DThalman
DThalman
7 years 3 months ago

wow. will docs ever understand the role diet plays? for me, the first sign of a problem with my diet is ear pain . docs are incredulous but i know what it means–too many carbs.

Aaron Blaisdell
Aaron Blaisdell
7 years 3 months ago

This makes sense, except that I’d blame the grains in particular, not carbs in general (see Don’s post about tubers on his Primal Wisdom blog). Grains — gluten in particular — promote inflammation, which can manifest as clogged and painful ears, stuffy nose, sore throat, aching joints, puffy gums that bleed when brushed and flossed, swollen belly and bloating around the waist, baggy eyes and saggy face, & the list goes on and on.

Dana
Dana
7 years 2 months ago

Grass allergy is a common allergy… and wheat is a grass. I’m stunned the CW hasn’t made the connection.

Mary
Mary
2 years 8 months ago

I am allergic to grass and I eat foods with wheat ingredients. I had no idea it was even a grass. Right now I have esophagitis due to the GERD and don’t know if it is too late to go primal to help me in the long run.

Grok
7 years 3 months ago

There are probably a lot of us, but part of my story is almost exactly the same as yours! Couldn’t have written it better myself ๐Ÿ˜‰

Camille in Slovenia
Camille in Slovenia
7 years 3 months ago

I ate primal for a few months and I STILL have GERD. Maybe this works for some people, but definitely not all.

Regina
Regina
2 years 1 month ago

Me too. In fact, I only developed GERD after going primal. I don’t blame my diet, but clearly something else is going on.

Grass Fed All The Way
7 years 3 months ago

Great experience and keep connecting people to local resources. Eventually people will start to learn that healthy living is the result of natural foods, not medicine.

Bourgogne
Bourgogne
7 years 3 months ago
Anne
Anne
7 years 3 months ago

I am now on a mostly primal diet, but my GERD completely resolved 6 years ago when I removed all gluten grains – wheat, barley and rye. I have to be very careful about watching for hidden gluten in foods, medications and other products. Cross contamination of foods with gluten is a problem when eating away from home. Taking all these precautions is worth the effort as my health greatly improved when I went gluten free. I have enjoyed even more improvements when I stopped eating all grains.

Josh Roman
Josh Roman
7 years 3 months ago

Great article by Jared Diamond; thanks for mentioning. Here’s a link: http://www.environnement.ens.fr/perso/claessen/agriculture/mistake_jared_diamond.pdf

This was published in 1987, before he published Guns, Germs & Steel, the Third Chimpanzee and Collapse.

Dean
7 years 3 months ago

That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing it!

Mike
Mike
7 years 3 months ago

My story is very similar to Melissa’s…I have been on Prilosec for 6 years now for GERD. On the rare occasion that I went off of it the GERD always returned within a day or two. I have been eating Primal for four weeks now and have been Prilosec-less for the last two…no GERD. As a result I can sleep through the night without waking up with heartburn and without Prilosec…another plus.

Laszlo
Laszlo
7 years 3 months ago

Hi. I suffered from GERD also along with other health issues in my teens to early 20’s. (I’m 29 now). I had heart palpitations, bad chol, blood pressure and I was skinny. I even lost about 20lbs when I had GERD. All I would do is barely eat and if I did, I would also throw up. Weird issues. Now, I am healthier than ever before in my life thanks to eating whole foods and getting rid of junk. Yes, I too was the everyday pizza eater.

gilliebean
7 years 3 months ago

Wonderful story!!

Melissa
Melissa
7 years 3 months ago
“I ate primal for a few months and I STILL have GERD. Maybe this works for some people, but definitely not all.” It took mine about 5 months to really clear up. Damaged stomach linings with chronic inflammation need time to repair… I also ate very gently during that time. For a week I ate only eggs. After that I made lots of bone broths, different types of soups, and some smoothies. I supplemented with omega-3 and L-Lysine. I didn’t eat a lot of stimulating foods like nightshades, alliums, or caffeine. I also added lemon juice to lots of things… Read more »
Kim Birch
7 years 3 months ago

Congratulations, Melissa! Going primal eliminated my GERD too. Isn’t it a great feeling?

Julianne
7 years 3 months ago
As others have said it was quite likely gluten grains that caused the GERD. Dr Rodney Ford – a paediatric gastroenterologist and allergy specialist has been testing kids and adults with a host of health problems and has found in clinical blood tests that 1 in 10 people are gluten sensitive. This is FAR more than the 1 in 100 that are gluten intolerant (Celiac). Gluten sensitivity is measured by the gliadin antibody test IgG-gliadin. His book on gluten sensitivity is brilliant. He is (compared to other mainstream doctors) really out there in his thinking. He theorises that when you… Read more »
Jeanine
Jeanine
7 years 3 months ago

Great story!! Congrats!

Jen
Jen
7 years 3 months ago

Melissa, I loved your story. I had the same experience some years back. I’d been on medication for 3 years but still suffered horrible pain. Finally a naturopath introduced me to Mary Enig’s work. (I found MDA later.) Within a few months my GERD subsided, and the problems haven’t returned (with the exception of my off-the-wagon times).
As for those people who have had continuing problems, NPR had an article about acid “rebound.” It seems that after people go off of their medications, stomach acid is produced at very high rates but levels off over time.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112564382

InsanityNapping
InsanityNapping
7 years 3 months ago

Hmm! I’ve suffered from GERD for 12 years. My trigger foods are definitely not the ones that the docs have told me to avoid. Thankfully I can eat spicy foods all day long with no problems. I’ve cut way back on grains since learning earlier this year that I’m pre-diabetic. I haven’t gone full primal, but it may be worth giving it a shot to see if I can take one less pill.

Sabio
7 years 3 months ago

Not only did 25 years of GERD and my meds go away in 2 months, but I can eat chocolate (98%), tomatoes and soups and have no GERD. These foods guarenteed GERD in the past.
No more pacing at night holding my chest !

Daniel Merk
7 years 2 months ago

Great story Melissa. I to suffer from GERD but I wonder if there is a few other things in my lifestyle that caused that: homebrew, dairy, beta blockers, stress!

So am I getting that after a period of Grok like eating you’ve become GERD free? Did you just stop taking meds or were you able to convince a physician to get you off of them?

DML
DML
7 years 2 months ago

After reading this, I decided to stop taking my PPI for a while and see what happens. I can always re-start if the problems return, but it’s possible I don’t need the meds any more.

Daryle Dickens
7 years 2 months ago
This is very encouraging for me to hear. I also have issues with stomach acid. It causes my esophagus to close at the entrance to my stomach. Which means I can only half swallow sometimes. Very awkward and sometimes very painful. I’ve been living primal for only three weeks and I’ve already noticed it happening less and less. A few years back when this landed me in the emergency room the G.I. Doc told me to take Prilosec everyday for the rest of my life. That did not fit into my lifestyle even before discovering primal living. I am very… Read more »
OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
7 years 2 months ago

Add me to the list. My worst GERD was about five years ago and I was on something or other. It seemed to decline, I can’t say why, but it would pop up from time to time.

Primal for three months and I think, I can’t even be sure, I’ve had one episode.

Katherine Harris
7 years 2 months ago

You look so amazing, happy and healthy in that picture with the chickens! Good for you! (Loved the before photo with the baked good in your hand, too)

kathy
kathy
6 years 6 months ago
My GERD was so bad that I needed to sleep sitting up, and was using prilosec twice a day. I am two months into the primal diet and my GERD is gone. It’s amazing to be able to sleep while laying down! Not to mention my risk for esophageal erosion, GI bleeding and esophageal cancer have now dropped dramatically. I thought it was due to my weight, but I am still classified as morbidly obese and am symptom free. There needs to be research done into diet change and GERD, so doctors will start recommending this diet to sufferers of… Read more »
Eat Local Philly
6 years 5 months ago

This is awesome. I also went from being on PPIs to no meds and no more GERD by severely limiting carbs and sugar in my diet. When I slip up, it comes right back.

And I too work to connect people to local food! Really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing your story.

Robin
6 years 5 months ago

Hi there- My husband was diagnosed with reflux. He’s on a fairly strong medication. He’s seeing a naturopath, and we’re hoping to wean him off the meds. Here’s my concern with this diet- he’s already pretty thin. I’m concerned about him losing weight. Do you have any advice on this?

NoGluten
NoGluten
6 years 5 months ago

From what I’ve read, people who need to lose weight will and people who are skinny will stay the same or gain some weight – mostly muscle. Be sure he is eating fat for the calories.

Lori B.
Lori B.
6 years 3 months ago

I’ve had GERD since I was 9 years old and back then, doctors kept telling me that “Childre year olds don’t get heartburn.” Somebody tell my stomach that! So I’ve been drinking club soda and popping Pepcid for many years straight now!

I started PB last week, and for the first time in a long time, I’ve gone a whole week without feeling heartburn. Bliss.

Nossar
Nossar
6 years 2 months ago
Hi Melissa, great of you to notice too. I’ve been suffering a lot from acid reflux too and I have been on anti-proton medication for a while. Then I studied physics and realised anti-proton was just really really dangerous. I’ve been doing the primal diet for two weeks and stomach ache is disappearing slowly but easily. Whatever I eat, I don’t get heart burns. I do not fear standing on my back again. It seems getting rid of the grains is doing me a lot of good. So thank you Mark for your great book. I trusted it entirely because… Read more »
Nossar
Nossar
6 years 2 months ago

And you’re right Lori, it is pure bliss to not think about it all the time

Troxycat
Troxycat
6 years 1 month ago

Thank you so much for this – I’ve been suffering from GERD to the point where I can hardly function anymore. This gives me great hope that I can get my life back to normal, and hopefully even better than before!

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