Hi Hearty, your profile sounds very much like mine... except that I have only been on Protonix for 2.5 months. I am a 43 yr old female, not overweight, had a pretty decent diet, exercise etc. But I was undergoing tremendous stress from a horrible job that I've since quit. Not too soon after, the pain started, I went to the ER twice - morphine didn't even dull the pain. Like you, I was astounded to hear the preliminary diagnosis, as I had never experienced much reflux, only after thanksgiving and x-mas-type meals. The reflux started in earnest after my first doses of Tagamet. After two weeks of Prilosec, dramatic weight loss, no sleep and constant anxiety and palpitations, I was switched over to Protonix. This PPI did the trick, and after the required 2 months I have lowered the dosage to 20 mg with my doctor's approval. Like you too, I plan to eventually get off it completely if my body allows it, although my doctor would like me to be on it indefinitely.
You probably know that there's a percentage of us who do not experience the constant reflux symptoms and who only get the esophageal spasms, anxiety, pain, etc. I have read ("Tips for weaning your patients off PPIs" by Joel E. Richter, FACP, chair of the department of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation) there is a small percentage of people who will require PPIs for the rest of our lives, usually those with complications. I hope that's not you, or me! One thing I have learned is that for some people it will take longer to recover from tissue damage. One co-worker I have says it took her multiple tries over a year to become PPI free.
Like you, I initially suspected my reflux came from a whole body imbalance brought on by PPI/H2 blocker use. This theory has its advocates. Bob Cotton, a runner, ("Heartburn, Helicobacter, Antacids and Salt") treated his GERD by increasing his salt intake to combat HP growth encouraged by antiacid and PPI use, but this sounds downright scary to those of us with high blood pressure. However, after reading more medical literature, I now suspect the reflux only reared its ugly head as a result of the disease's natural progression, and that I am one of those people who don't have symptoms that show very much until they get a big hole in their gut. Because of this, I will now request an endoscopy to be sure my tissues have healed before getting off Protonix.
Something I resent is that none of this information came from my doctor. She did give me the okay to get off the PPI eventually, but the 10 minutes my HMO allows per visit do not enable anybody to have a normal conversation, much less to deliver any info. Like many readers, I know how to find and filter my own data. I am interested in reasonable treatments that are validated by research AND in alternative treatments pioneered by individuals, but ignored by the medical establishment. I run them all by my doctor. Sometimes I print articles and bring them to her during a visit. I don't care what she thinks, I like to see myself as the person in charge of my recovery.
So far this forum has been incredibly helpful and I want to thank the posters who share what they know. There are many smart folks here and between all of us we might figure out how to help each other. Sorry I got on a soapbox!