Posted 4/9/2013 7:12 AM (GMT -7)
Back when I was first wanting to quit my PPIs and treat my GERD holistically, I came across many forums with many posters wanting to do the same. I didn't come across many success stories and saw that many had given up trying and reverted back to taking PPIs. When I read this, it was pretty discouraging. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to quit PPIs and get rid of my annoying GERD, but I did! I am almost 6 months medication free, and a few months GERD free.
I just want to share my story with anyone who might be looking for answers, support or some direction.
I want to stress that I am NOT a medical professional or a nutritionist. I am just recounting my own personal account of dealing with GERD and PPIs and you should always discuss any plan of action with your primary care provider (even though they don't always know what's best :P). OKAY. disclaimer over!
And since this might get kinda lengthy, I'm going to break it up into sections so you can skim over and read over parts you care about:
Four and a half years ago, at 24 years old, I began having bouts of terrible nausea out of nowhere. One moment I would be fine, the next I would be crumpled over on the floor trying to keep myself from vomiting. I would start to get heartburn at night as well. I never vomited, but as the nausea fits frequented, I began fearing leaving my house and developed pretty bad anxiety. All of this happened in a matter of months (though, truthfull, I was experiencing mild GI discomfort for years that likely accumulated over time).
Long story short, I went to a GI specialist who performed an upper endoscopy and declared that I had esophagitis and a hiatal hernia. It was declared that I should use 40mg PPIs for 30 days to "help my esophagus heal." I was told to avoid fats, large meals, and triggers such as chocolate, citrus, garlic, onions...if you've seen an GI specialist, you know the list. The PPIs were awesome, I felt pretty good, and I felt good knowing my diagnosis. I believed the doctor was going to help me repair my body.
After my prescription ran out, my stomach started experiencing really strong heartburn, more than it had before -- which I now know to be the acid rebound effect from quitting PPIs. But the doctor never informed me that this would happen. Do you know what he told me? He said, "well son, you'll probably have to be on PPIs for the rest of your life." And I believed that my fate included one 20mg Prilosec every day for the rest of my life, and followed that regiment for 4 years.
WHY PPIs ARE NOT GOOD FOR US
As we all are beginning to know now, PPIs are doing more harm than good. What is diagnosed as "too much acid" is more often than not TOO LITTLE ACID. Your stomach holds food for too long, not digesting or emptying its contents, your lower esophageal sphincter loosens and you're in for a bad case of reflux. And taking PPIs to stop the production of acid is counterproductive. In fact, it's been studied that this not only worstens the effect of reflux (causing "silent" or painless reflux, so you don't even notice since the acid is not present), it can potentially lead to malnourishment, osteoperosis, mineral/vitamin deficiencies and, the scariest of all, Barrett's esophagus and esophogeal cancer. I believe the latter two are not quite as common as once thought, but PPIs do nothing to diminish our chances of contracting this.
When I found this out about 5 months back, I panicked. I had a full-on panic attack and couldn't believe the misinformation I'd been receiving for YEARS from not one, but NUMEROUS doctors. Not ONE had mentioned the side effects of PPIs, and not ONE had offered up any solutions outside of the false sense of security from Big Pharma. I told myself then and there that I would no longer take PPIs, and I haven't.
QUITTING PPIs - WHAT TO EXPECT
So what did I do? I first made one last final appointment with a new GI specialist, told him I'd quit PPIs cold turkey and that I would not go back on them. I told him my symptoms over the years and wanted to have our meeting documented in case I decided to get another endoscopy after I'd finally rid my body of the PPIs.
I am going to tell you right now, MOST OF YOU WILL EXPERIENCE ACID REBOUND. What did this mean for me? Heartburn after EVER SINGLE MEAL for over a month. Followed by consistent nagging in my stomach and lethargy. My body was not used to acid production and my stomach needed to acclimate to the acidic environment. I would highly suggest tapering off PPIs over a couple week period to lessen the effect. The rebound isn't unbearable, but it sucks nonetheless.
Be patient with your body, especially if you've been on PPIs for years, just as I had. It will not take weeks, but more likely MONTHS for you to stop experiencing the rebound effect. Just know that your body is working to fix itself.
For the first couple of months I took 150mg of Ranitidine if the reflux got too bad, and eventually weaned off of it after two months.
INITIAL DIET AND WHAT SUPPLEMENTS I USED
Once I quit PPIs, I stopped eating anything that would be difficult to digest or exacerbate my reflux: I didn't eat gluten (just in case), sugar, heavy meats, spicy foods, etc. I didn't know where to start, so I just cut out anything that might hurt my healing. In addition I bought natural supplements to help sooth my stomach and help digestion, such as DGL and digestive enzymes.
In the morning I would drink warm filtered water with a tablespoon or so of raw organic apple cider vinegar (helps with reflux, as well as digestion), an enzyme with breakfast (two pastured eggs, some organic spinach and crumbled grassfed ground beef, and an organic apple), and two DGL.
Honestly, the DGL didn't seem to do much for me, but everyone's physiology is different, and others have expressed success.
After a while, I felt I plateaued. I wasn't really getting much better, though I wasn't getting heartburn after every meal anymore. I was still crazy lethargic, had brain fog, felt cruddy and knew there was something I wasn't doing to make my stomach better. I had to up my game.
THE REGIMENT THAT FINALLY RID ME OF MY GERD
I initially started GAPS because it's meant for those with leaky guts and psychological/physiological issues related to improper digestion. I lasted four days before I quit, it was too extreme, and having to potentially stay on that diet for 2 years felt overwhelming. I decided I wanted to first try something not so intense and ended up doing the Whole30 program. I started eating a lot of fermented foods, still taking ACV with warm water in the morning, and studying up on food and how it affects us physically and mentally.
During Whole30, I never felt deprived of food. I missed my desserts and had gotten used to drinking milk-based kefir for my probiotics, but the benefits FAR outweigh the initial cravings. What happened during those 30 days was life-changing.
I started having a healthy appetite with no digestive issues whatsoever. My energy shot up. Where I used to lose steam around 3PM, I was having solid energy from 7:30AM until 10:30PM. I felt good, my brain fog was lifting and I was taking no PPIs or ranitidine.
The only supplement I started taking on Whole30 was Betaine HCL + pepsin when eating meals with. My stomach was still not producing its optimum amount of acid, and the Betaine HCL was there to help my stomach remember how to make its own acid. I don't take it as much anymore, only when I'm eating something "bad" or off my regular paleo diet, and I hope to eventually be in a place where I never have to take it.
It's been 5 months since I quit PPIs and I feel better than I have in a very, very long time. Also, I've eaten foods that traditional medicine says is "bad" for GERD sufferers (lemons, oranges, garlic, onions, coffee, hamburgers, froyo, etc...though my heartburn will act up if I overdo it :P). I follow a mostly paleo diet, free from grains and it has helped get my digestion back on track.
YOU CAN BEAT GERD. When you're first facing it, feeling crappy all the time, can't enjoy life and feel like you need PPIs to just survive the day, it sucks. It's depressing. I know, I've been there for years. But you can beat GERD and you can get rid of the PPIs. I had horrible GERD and I am living proof, but I think the most important thing is that you completely change your dietary lifestyle in order to do so.
You can do it!
You MUST be willing to exercise (even just walking for 30 minutes a day -- get your blood flowing) and CHANGE. YOUR. DIET. You CANNOT eat the standard American diet and expect yourself to get better. You ABSOLUTELY MUST revolutionize the way you eat and pinpoint what foods cause you harm, then eliminate them. I think this is absolutely key in getting yourself better. There was a study that somewhere around 30+% of the Western world suffers from frequent GERD compared to a mere 4-6% of the Eastern world. That is a huge disparity, and can most likely be chalked up to diet.
The doctors will not tell you this, because conventional medicine is not out to cure illness, it's out to treat symptoms. There is no money in pharmaceuticals if illnesses are cured, but the pharma industry receives BILLIONS of dollars from those suffering GI distress and needing meds just to live a semi-normal life.
As far as I see it, you have two choices: You can continue the dangerous, damaging PPIs, or change your diet and lifestyle, get off the drugs and be happy and healthy.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below and I'll be more than happy to answer them or provide any support you might need.