Thursday, November 1, 2012

Part 1: A Painful Secret, GERD

Last year I was diagnosed with GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). A year and a half prior no one knew I was this unhealthy “skinny” person with high LDL and low HDL cholesterol. My treats of choice included donuts, cheese danishes, coconut custard pie, cupcakes, cakes, butter pecan ice cream, super sweet cereal before bedtime, and any pastry good enough to try. I loved spicy food and had a very high tolerance for spicy foods. I ate so much spicy foods my taste buds seemed to be immune to it. Because I love all food, that is--clean eating and processed junk foods, no one ever knew how much I could really put down. In public I loved healthy foods but at home I enjoyed my pastries too--almost daily. I have never been a big soda or juice drinker. My preferred drink is water, maybe that gave me a little grace. What I am saying is that I was addicted. I would over-eat all of these things and given my emotional state at times it's possible that I can do it again.

One evening, last year, I went to pick up my husband from work and as I drove the car I felt this persistent upper chest pain, it was like a dull ache that wouldn’t go away. I felt so bad I didn't even want to drive. It hurt for me to inhale and exhale. This pain was occurring every day all day long. If I didn’t eat I still had pain. I was taking every over-the-counter antacid drug on the market yet I was still in pain.

I thought that I could beat this. Some days I would starve myself so I wouldn't feel the pain. I would take things I liked out of my diet believing it would help and it did but the pain came back. At times, when I swallowed I could feel each and every piece of food traveling down my esophagus and into my stomach. I finally realized I needed medical help. I visited my primary care doctor around this time last year. My doctor referred me to take a series of tests, an X-Ray, endoscopy, and finally a MRI. All of the results proved to be negative but the endoscopy showed that I have 3 benign tumors in my stomach. I was prescribed Dexilant for 3 months, of which I couldn’t afford, it would have cost me $400 for a 30-day supply! I purchased the generic brand, Pantoprazole, only $10. The doctor provided me with information about GERD and a list of foods that I can have. Looking at the list I knew I had to make changes about my own food selections. There were no cupcakes and donuts, the list only had whole foods. I have never been the type of boxed-macaroni and cheese having, Rice-A-Roni-eating, Zatarain’s Jambalaya mix eating kind of girl. I loved sweet pastries, sweet cereal, bread with every meal, spicy food on a big plate with seconds, maybe even thirds.

Here are some changes that I made:

  1. I slashed my portions in half - now eating dinner on a saucer (unless it's salad) and instead of swallowing my food out of sheer greed I actually slow down and chew it.
  2. I became aware of what I ate that triggered pain.
  3. I stopped treating the kids to donuts and cupcakes because I wanted it more than they did - If I forget to pack a healthy snack while we’re out grocery shopping or at a store I buy them a banana or apple. It’s cheaper than a donut and healthier.
  4. I stopped eating CEREAL before bedtime which increased the pain I would feel -  What’s insane is that I was eating cereal with whole milk and my stomach does not like whole milk

I had to be honest with myself. I knew that the way I was eating would not impede the health issues that would likely occur in my 40’s. Though I have consistently been exercising 4-5 days a week for a year and a half I know exercise alone cannot sustain my body. For a year I have made positive efforts about my food choices. I still experience days when I fall short of my goal of eating healthy. Monday I had 8 red velvet donut holes from Dunkin' Donuts. OUCH! I am still not discouraged. I believe my diet will completely change for the better, I see it in every victory. The same day that I woofed those 8 donut holes, I reset myself and had healthy meals for the remainder of the day. Those 8 red velvet donut holes let me know that I still have work to do. I can emotional eat at times and I can binge too. Researching the topic of eating healthy I have come across this mantra:

“Eat to live don’t live to eat”

I don’t want to have to depend on Pantoprazole everyday of my life because I have over-indulged food. I don’t want my kids to believe that unhealthy eating is a way of life or worse living to eat!

I have not been purchasing the Pantoprazole but whenever I over-indulge foods high in sugar or over-eat the pain comes back , not as bad. Not too often that happens. I have to go for a follow-up soon so I’ll keep you posted.

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