Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Sep

GERD Sufferers Rejoice!

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!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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.

    OnTheBayou wrote on September 12th, 2009
  2. 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)

    Katherine Harris wrote on September 13th, 2009
  3. 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 this condition. It has changed my life.

    kathy wrote on May 26th, 2010
  4. 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.

    Eat Local Philly wrote on June 16th, 2010
  5. 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?

    Robin wrote on June 16th, 2010
  6. 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.

    NoGluten wrote on June 19th, 2010
  7. 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.

    Lori B. wrote on August 12th, 2010
  8. 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 it sounded sane and logical. My body is proving you right. I’m enjoying it.

    Nossar wrote on September 12th, 2010
  9. And you’re right Lori, it is pure bliss to not think about it all the time

    Nossar wrote on September 12th, 2010
  10. 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!

    Troxycat wrote on October 23rd, 2010
  11. Melissa! Congrats; what a wonderful story. I am so glad I read this, because I too have experienced a lot of pain in my life due to my nervous stomach! For years, I was taking Prilosec, and I finally said, “Enough! What is WRONG with ME!?” My brother advised the paleo diet, and I have been sticking with it now for 22 days since I have been off the pill. My GERD is going away, although, I don’t think heartburn is really a disease… it’s a lifestyle. I chose and still choose not to live that life. Your story is amazing… if anyone is interested in my story, I started a blog called “The Real Food Pyramid.” Check it out if you ever get the chance. And again, congrats on your recovery! You are an inspiration to us all, Melissa, who suffer from heartburn!.

    Barbara Cardinale wrote on November 19th, 2010
  12. Just a note, that some people have GERD because their stomaches are entirely too acidic. I’ve had several pH probe studies done of my stomach and esophagus, and my stomach runs about 2.0 on the pH scale. Definitely acidic, and not to do with my diet (Your eating is severely limited when you do this test). Nexium is a life saver for me and others like me.

    Emily wrote on April 1st, 2011
  13. Interesting – I got rid of my GERD when I went on a low-fat vegan stint for about 3 months. Back to normal eating, now it only comes back if I eat too much fat or drink alcohol.

    James wrote on April 1st, 2011
  14. Just recently discovered the whole Paleo approach last week, but have known for years intuitively that it works. Here’s how…
    I’ve had serious GERD for at least 5 years, and was taking 2 Nexium/day to control symptoms. About a year ago, I developed an autoimmune disease called Graves eye disease. Because there is no cure, I tried to stabilize it using an anti-inflammatory diet approach, which included no wheat/dairy. Voila, my GERD symptoms disappeared, along with high cholesterol! When I cheated a little, enter GERD. Now I’m 100% caveman.
    Thanks, Melissa.

    Scott wrote on October 21st, 2011
  15. I have only been on the diet for a few days, but my GERD is seriously aggravated. Is it normal to have a flare up while your body gets used to the diet?

    Jessica wrote on January 17th, 2012
    • Oh my gosh, yes. It took me a couple months before I was semi-normal (I couldn’t even eat an apple without getting heartburn). I started exercising (Crossfit) to help myself get over the hump. After about 4 months, I felt 100% cured. Hang in there; it does get better! Watch the fruit intake, eat more protein and fats.

      Bee wrote on March 8th, 2012
  16. Hi Melissa,
    I was going through the MDA archives doing a search for GERD. Your story has given my husband and myself hope. It has been over two years since you posted your story, I hope you are still thriving marvelously!

    Julie wrote on March 8th, 2012
  17. I’m on the GERD diet but I have one major concern. I’m losing weight but I don’t want to because I’m already thin. What can I include in my GERD diet to help me keep up my weight?

    Mal wrote on August 31st, 2012
  18. I too suffered with daily heartburn. Fatty foods, tomato sauces and peanuts all gave me serious heartburn and acid reflux. I used to go through handfuls of Tums until my Dr. prescribed Prilosec. Prilosec worked well but my acid reflux would return quickly if I stopped taking it. Besides the cost, I became concerned about side effects of continued daily use over such a long period and for the rest of my life. I searched the internet for natural treatments and discovered probiotic Kefir and Kombucha (fermented milk and fermented tea). I was skeptical but purchased some Lifetime Kefir at the store and found that I liked the taste. I would have half a cup to a cup each day as a treat before bedtime. Within several weeks I found that my heartburn had reduced significantly and I could get by taking a couple of Tums and go without the Prilosec. Within two months I began having days with no heartburn and after about 2 1/2 months, I stopped having heartburn altogether! I have now gone about six weeks without using any Tums or Prilosec. I have had only one evening with some minor heartburn after eating a large meal that included some very fatty chicken. After eating my Kefir treat, my heartburn went away. This immediate relief tells me that Kefir may help reduce heartburn in some way other than just the probiotic effects. I believe the Kefir is the reason that I went from daily severe heartburn and reflux to only one minor heartburn in six weeks. I believe it takes some time for the probiotics to colonize your system which would explain why my relief came gradually over a period of weeks. I am so excited to be rid of my heartburn! I only wish I had known about Kefir and Kombucha in time to help my late father. He suffered terribly from heartburn and acid reflux for many years before Prilosec came onto the market. I am now making my own Kefir (which is quite easy) and I am starting to make Kombucha. I have since come across numerous people on the internet who claim that Kefir and/or Kombucha cured their acid reflux. These helathy probiotic foods may not work for everyone but they have done wonders for me! Best wishes.

    Robert Morris wrote on March 16th, 2014

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