Sunday, 14 July 2013

A Healthy Gluten Free Diet May Help Relieve Reflux Disease

I'm pretty much a private person really but I feel I must share this awesome news with you so that it may help someone else who has been suffering just like me. Have you ever wondered why I am following a gluten free diet? Well, one of the reasons why I started a long term gluten free diet is because I have been dependent on proton-pump inhibitors since the Summer of 2001 and because of their potential side effects, I have been desperate to stop taking them. I really hoped that a long term gluten free diet might just help me to stop. 

I can actually pinpoint the time it all started, it was the day of my eldest son's graduation. I'd been feeling a bit rough for a few weeks and was suffering from a strange uncomfortable pain in the centre of my back between my shoulder blades but on this day I woke up with a severe sore throat and I felt as though I was suffering from asthma type symptoms. But I was excited for the day and really looking forward to seeing my son graduate so I just got on with it, hoping it would all go away! But it didn't and I can remember quite clearly feeling extremely ill later on in the day. We had booked a meal at a vegetarian Indian restaurant to celebrate the occasion but I couldn't eat much of the fantastic food.

I was diagnosed with auto-immune thyroid disease and iron deficiency about a year earlier and that seems to have been the start of a downhill path as far as my health was concerned. This was the other main reason for starting a gluten free diet.

I put up with the discomfort and pain for some time but it soon became obvious that I wasn't going to get better and that I would need to seek some help. I would be able to start out OK in the morning but by 3.00 in the afternoon my throat would feel like it was closing and I remember struggling to concentrate on my driving during the school run. I made an appointment with the doctor. He asked me my age and this was his reply - "once you hit your mid 40's, everything starts to go downhill", well thank you!!! He seemed to know exactly what was wrong with me, gave me a prescription for a PPI and arranged for an endoscopy. This revealed a slight hiatus hernia and no signs of coeliac disease, something they routinely tested for. However the nurse who carried out the procedure mentioned to me that she really thought the hernia wasn't bad enough to be causing the severity of my symptoms.

A few weeks later when I stopped taking the medication, my symptoms returned with a vengeance! I couldn't eat, in fact I lost half a stone. So back to the doctors I went! I felt dreadful for about three years, suffering from bloating and reflux and eventually I was diagnosed with IBS. To cut a long story short, I tried various PPIs and medicines before settling on "the purple pill", this was the only one which seemed to really help but not 100 per cent. I did reduce my medication to the minimum dose though, in fear of the long term side effects.

Looking back with the knowledge I've gleaned over the past seven years, I was probably suffering from gluten sensitivity all along, going back to when I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem and iron deficiency and most likely for years before that. I read everything I could about the reflux disease and I actually forked out for one of the "miracle" cures sold for $34 on line but this basically advised me to eat apples. I decided to try a completely gluten free diet for six months and the bloating improved but I was so disappointed when I attempted to stop taking my pills that it hadn't made any difference to the reflux symptoms which started to return. I now realise that this period of time probably just wasn't long enough.

When my son was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I drastically cut back on gluten containing foods and since I've never been a huge bread eater anyway, it wasn't a very difficult thing for me to do. In fact we ate an amazingly healthy diet compared to most people. Despite the stress caused by my son's illness, I most definitely noticed that I started to feel much better than I had done previously and put this down to our much healthier lifestyle in addition to the purple pill. I learned more about my condition and started to take Manuka Honey which made me feel almost normal again. Since I was always busy either at work or in the kitchen, I almost forgot about the illness except for the fact that I was still taking the medication. We had in the main adopted a grain free diet at that time. I should have noticed the signs! I still depended on my medication. But holding on to the distinct memories of the suffering I had endured and how miserable I felt without the pills, I was very reluctant to give them up and I resigned myself to the fact that I would probably be on them for life.

After Christmas 2010, I decided that I really must attempt to wean myself off these nasty pills. My daughter had been living a gluten free life-style for a year by then and was reaping the benefits from the diet, so I decided to try modifying my diet once more.  Again the bloating improved and I started to feel great. After a year, my prescription was reduced for my thyroid medication and my iron levels started to remain at a normal level. Meanwhile I embarked on a course of homeopathic medicine, prescribed to me by a qualified and reputable homeopath in the hope that one or both practices would help my condition.

This is something I should have started a couple of years earlier having witnessed my close work colleague's improvement in her reflux symptoms using these remedies. It was me who actually advised her to see the homeopath in the first place having been witness to the success he achieved in healing my daughter. My colleague didn't have a hiatus hernia though and she didn't adopt a gluten free diet. Months later she tried to persuade me to book an appointment but I couldn't afford the fees and my head was firmly stuck in the sand at this point. I was convinced that the hernia was the main cause of my reflux, the gluten-free diet didn't work and I would have to rely on the PPI's. So to encourage me further, instead of a birthday present, my work colleague thoughtfully handed me some cash to put towards the appointment and I saved up!

Over the past couple of years I have regularly attended appointments with my homeopath but it wasn't until the beginning of this year that he decided to concentrate on healing my reflux disease. This persuaded me to take the bull by the horns and ten weeks ago, two and a half years after going gluten-free, I went cold turkey. I stopped taking my pills and put all my faith in the gluten free diet, homeopathic medicine and Manuka honey. These are the surprising results of the first week :

Day 1 - no symptoms.
Day 2 - no symptoms.
Day 3 - slight asthma type symptoms - took 6 teaspoonfuls of Manuka honey throughout the day.
Day 4 - no symptoms
Day 5 - no symptoms
Day 6 - no symptoms
Day 7 - slight sore throat on waking - took Manuka honey as before

Was this going to continue? Unlike the previous occasion that I attempted to come off the medication, I actually didn't feel any different to how I was when I was taking the PPIs.  

Ten weeks later and all I have had to put up with is the slight asthma type congestion now and again which could be due to the pollen count and the occasional sore throat which also may or may not be caused by reflux disease. Whenever this occurs, I take the  Manuka honey at hourly or twice hourly intervals and it seems to alleviate the problem.

I never expected this, I had almost given up hoping that I would be able to stop my medication believing that my hernia was the cause. But I knew the gluten free diet gave me more energy and my digestion had improved remarkably.

I know I'm not totally healed but the symptoms I'm experiencing are mild and almost non-existent, no different to how I was feeling whilst on the medication. But since I've been off the tablets my digestion has greatly improved AND I feel hungry again - I'd almost forgotten that feeling!

Was it a combination of the homeopathy, the healthy gluten free diet and the Manuka honey? I'll never know because I'm going to continue with all three. I know it was the right time to stop the pills because I had been much, much better for about a year, well into the gluten-free diet and long before I started with the homeopathic remedies. Homeopathic remedies which are healing the whole self are not expected to work immediately - it is a gradual process. I noticed that switching to a gluten-free diet didn't work straight away and I think switching to an unhealthy gluten-free diet probably wouldn't work at all. This change in diet worked successfully for me but since I'm not a medical expert, if you do decide to make radical changes to your diet, it might be a good idea to discuss this with your doctor first. 

I am convinced that as the months go by I will be able to attain a level of healing which I can certainly live with and which will make it possible for me to stay free of all medication. I can't ask for anything better than that, can I?