I am a previous GERD sufferer that suffered the condition for over a year. During my quest for recovery, I swore to share my success story if I ever got better.
Over a year ago I was prescribed very strong, injected antibiotics for weeks for an infection. After the third round of medication, I started to show strange symptoms: my upper palate was inflamed, my lymph nodes were swollen, and I felt a large ball in my throat. Worse, I was chronically tired and slept 12 hours a day.
My family practitioner was also a gastrologist. He initially suspected thyroid disease, diabetes, or another infection. After several tests though, everything tested negative. He concluded that I was stressed and prescribed sedatives. My fatigue improved slightly but the other symptoms remained.
At my next visit he asked me to lay down and jiggled my stomach. My previous meal been 2 hours earlier. The Dr. said that my food was still in my stomach, and that I had slow emptying. He said that the burning in my upper palate was due to gases from my stomach making their way upwards - the gases were burning my mouth and tearing down my tooth enamel. He said I had GERD and prescribed Motilium (mobility drug) and Pantoprazole (PPI) for two months.
I felt well after a month of taking the pills, but as soon as I stopped the medications the GERD returned even worse. I could not stop belching. Every time I burped, I could feel the lining in my upper palate burn horribly. I had burn lacerations and blisters all over the palate. My throat also worsened. The lump I felt in my throat seemed to occupy all of the space. I could barely pass food and at one point even swallowing became difficult. I was constantly hungry because I could not eat much, but my stomach would feel full after just a few bites.
I underwent an endoscopy and my Dr. said that I had severe esophagitis and acid reflux - GERD. He recommended a manometry to test the LES ring, which I utterly failed. He confirmed a hiatal hernia and said the LES sphincter was not functioning. The analogy used was that of a worn out waistband on an old underwear. He prescribed two 40 mg Nexium twice a day and all sorts of other medication (pills, jellies) to coat my throat and mouth. Two months later I still did not feel better. Everything was getting worse. At my next visit, my Dr. recommended surgery.
I do not take surgery lightly, however common practice it has become. At this point, my weight had dropped from 120 lbs to 90 lbs. I went to three other specialists who all confirmed the same findings. I had a PH 24 test done and failed that one too. Everyone seemed to think the surgery would do it. I tried everything – naturists, anti-candida diets, alkaline diets, etc. At one point, I ate toasted bread and tea alone for days. I slept upright and avoided swallowing as long as I could. Nothing worked. I almost caved, except that I met someone.
I was at a dinner one night - avoiding all food as usual - when an older lady asked me why I was not eating. My friend told her my condition. She immediately pulled out her purse and passed me the number to a doctor. She explained that her husband had recovered from a very bad case of GERD after years of suffering from it - he had even been hospitalized several times. He too had been skeptical of the surgery so he kept looking for help.
I was doubtful of course, but I scheduled an appmt. The doctor turned out to be very unconventional, but wise. I arrived with a portfolio of studies and tests, but he would not see them, dismissing them as excuses for doctors to charge patients. He only wanted to hear my symptoms. He asked me to lay down and jiggled my stomach and listened with a stethoscope. Then he gave me his theory: my hiatal hernia and LES ring had nothing to do with GERD. Acid reflux is caused when a small muscle at the bottom of the stomach that opens to the intestine clenches up. It is called the Pylorus. When people undergo severe stress or nervousness - like I had undergone a year earlier with my infermity - the Pylorus tenses up. This prevents food from passing into the intestine from the stomach. Eventually, after prolonged bouts of stress, the Pylorus remains clamped. Food will sit in the stomach for hours after eating, giving one a sense of bloating or emptiness. Your stomach produces acid naturally so the stomach fills up on acid since there is no outlet. Your stomach is a muscle designed to pump food out of it. It does not stop pumping because your pylorus closes up though. A full stomach, no outlet, and the pumping action is what causes acid reflux.
This was revolutionary for me. And to be honest, I did not believe it. I became even more skeptical when he prescribed me another PPI - Mopral three times a day (6 pills), Motilium (12 pills a day), and Cisapride (12 pills a day). The doses seemed lethal but I remembered the gentleman who recovered under this man's care and went for it. I weighed 85 lbs then at 5'6". I could not eat, sleep (I could not lay down), and I was miserable and in pain all day. I was desperate. I went in every week, and we monitored my organ functions every 30 days. Luckily, there wasn't a flinch in the numbers.
I was taking medicine all day long. With all of this medicine it was no wonder I started to feel better in 24 hours. I could swallow again. Breathing did not hurt. Over time, I went back to my regular diet - excluding coffee, tea, alcohol, chocolate, spices, etc. My doctor said I should eat everything - and I found that nothing happened when I included previously banned foods - pizza, light spices, etc.
I was on this medicine for 2 months. When we started to wean me off the meds though, I would rebound. The doctor prescribed yoga. I was a believer in him then so I did anything he asked. I did yoga and I started to wean myself off the medicine. I started to relax - though I had never considered myself a stress case. I eventually worked myself down to 2 PPI pills a day and 3 mobility pills a day.
The Dr. said that after 2 months I should have recovered, so he was going to have to do a gastroscopy and dilate my Pylorus manually. It is the same as an endoscopy but they go further down to your stomach. A little balloon is inflated with water at the Pylorus and held for 4 minutes. This sort of jump starts the Pylorus again.
After the dilation, I stopped all the medicine. I felt relieved for the first time in one year. I ran to the nearest restaurant and ordered hot chocolate, spicy pasta, etc.
I did not feel perfect though. I could sleep lying down at an angle only. Although most of my symptoms had disappeared, I still felt a vague sense of lingering GERD. I made an appointment with the most renown homeopath - a branch of medicine I had never tested.
I drove hours to see this man and sobbed my story to him, knowing this was my last chance to recover 100%. He listened carefully and wonder of wonders, reiterated the Pylorus theory. I told him about my last doctor and he agreed with him, but said that his methods were different. He gave me a little bottle of tiny sugared pills to take for two weeks and told me to focus on relaxing. I went on vacation.
After two weeks. I was 100% well. I went to my final doctor's appointment for GERD and gave him an enormous hug. He told me to never doubt my body's ability to heal itself naturally. And with that, my chapter on GERD was closed. I turned 32 feeling like I had been given another chance.
It has been half a year now, and I have not had even the slightest GERD symptom. I eat EVERYTHING - I even drink wine and coffee again. GERD seems like something I suffered in another lifetime, but I know it was just around the corner.
I wanted to share my story to give hope to those who suffer from GERD. I know how painful this condition can become - it interferes with your life and takes over your emotions. Do not give up. However you find your cure - exercise, job change, medication, surgery, etc - do not give up. Be open to new ideas (within reason) – you never know when your cure is in front of you. Our bodies were designed to heal. In the words of my doctor - "The body is a perfect system. Just as it is vulnerable to disease and illness, it is remarkable in its capacity to heal." Have faith that you will get better and good luck on your journey to better health.