This Is How I Cut Out Carbs From My Diet and Got Rid of Heartburn and Acid Reflux COMPLETELY
Anyone who is plagued with acid reflux or GERD knows how massively miserable heartburn can be. Of course, most humans can be susceptible to heartburn. Yet when it’s chronic and frequent, it is a (pun intended) gut-wrenching pain that’s often hard to ignore.
How It Began
Many members of my Dad’s side of the family have been afflicted with the agony of persistent acid reflux. Many adolescent memories of Dad were of him popping fruit-flavored Rolaids like candy.
Personally, I started getting heartburn at the age of 12 or 13. At first, I didn’t know what the burning sensation exactly was. I guzzled down glasses of Coca-Cola, thinking it might have been some weird, parched, burning thirst. Putting two and two together, I figured out what the culprit was in causing the upper abdominal sting and knew I had inherited my father’s acid reflux. Heartburn was sporadic at first, but by the time I graduated high school, my Mom was buying me rolls of cherry-flavored Rolaids every week because I’d get heartburn every day.
My diet was horrible. It was the standard American junk food and fast food diet: the equivalent of five or six cans of Coke, Pepsi, or Mountain Dew every day, with loads of burgers, fries, burritos, pizza, Pop-Tarts, and hot wings in my meals. I gradually learned what triggered heartburn and took copious mental notes on them: foods like Italian and pizza, with rich, acidic tomato sauce, lots of cheese, and easy meat; oily, fried, and breaded foods such as mozzarella sticks and fried chicken; any alcoholic beverages like wine and beer (as mentioned among my reasons why I don’t drink alcoholic beverages); and any strong, acidic, citrus drinks like orange juice or lemonade. These items destroyed me. Unfortunately, except for cutting out the offending alcohol beverages, I unwisely continued eating poorly while upping my dosage of antacids to compensate. I had no desire to modify my diet.
The Heartburn Got Worse
Acid reflux turned into something much, much worse in my twentysomething years. Buying large bottles of Tums became a twice-per-month occurrence. Since the late 1990s, over-the-counter and prescription acid reducers became readily available. I’ve been taking some type of daily medication like Pepcid, Aciphex, Zantac, to finally Prilosec/Omeprazole. I’ve been on Omeprazole for several years because it’s over the counter, it’s relatively cheap, and it’s worked at killing 90% of my heartburn, with an additional infrequent popping of Tums if I’ve eaten acidic or fried foods. Since Omeprazole was a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI), I honestly wanted to get off of it because it could potentially cause significant kidney issues later in my life. But hey, for now, it was a good trade-off for not feeling excruciating pain day and night!
Since moving up to Toronto from Missouri, I found out that Omeprazole is not available as an over-the-counter medication. I brought up a good stash that I purchased in the U.S., but I knew that I had to get a medicine that did the same thing. What is available in Canada is the brand name Nexium. The actual drug is called Esomeprazole, which is similar to Omeprazole, but didn’t work as effectively; and on top of that, Nexium was comically expensive. Therefore I tried spreading out the remaining Omeprazole tablets by ingesting one every other day. That actually worked well. Then I tried taking one pill every three days, then four days.
Going on a New, Low-Carb Diet
While doing this, I had not realized until later that one colossal factor in the success of taking less and less PPI medicine was the fact that since the move to Canada, both my wife Darien and I were on a severe low-carb program called the Dr. Poon’s Metabolic Diet. This eating plan was a brutally strict dietary regimen that allowed only basic lean meats, green, leafy vegetables, chile peppers, broccoli and cauliflower, eggs, and minimal healthy oils. Pretty much everything else was forbidden: corn, peas, nuts, beans, potatoes, fruit, rice, milk, bread, pasta, grains, cereals, tortillas, ice cream, any foods high in sodium, and the list goes on and on. Let me tell you, to say that this diet was strict and demanding would be the understatement of the year!
Darien was the one who began Dr. Poon’s plan, and I followed suit to be in solidarity with her. After all, it’s tough being the only person in the house who has a restricted diet while everyone else gets to eat whatever they want.
I gradually found out that the occasional flare-ups with heartburn got less and less frequent because of the new, low-carb diet. I got up to 5 to 7 days without taking any heartburn medicine at all and found out that my new diet reduced the amount of heartburn I got to almost zero.
As the months progressed, I figured out that this low-carb diet was the cure for my life-long acid reflux problem!
There have been many times since Darien and I have gone off of Dr. Poon’s Metabolic Diet for a cheat meal, a cheat day, or even a cheat weekend. I now anticipate having to take a handful of Tums at night if the diet pause gets too “off the rails” from what it should be on the Poons plan. While in previous years, acidic foods, oily foods, and booze were the primary triggers of heartburn, I’ve found out that during these cheat periods, even too much bread, muffins or rice would send me into a tailspin of gastrointestinal discomfort.
We took a two-week-long break from dieting over the 2020-21 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and it was as if I was back at age 20 with massive heartburn that kept me awake most nights. Because of this, I have said “never again” to pausing the diet for that long!
Obviously, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. But I would say that if you are suffering from acid reflux and want to get off medications for it, or if PPI drugs aren’t helping as much as you’d like, consult your doctor and ask him or her about a strict, low-carb diet for you. Seriously, it’s that much of a life-changer for me. This diet actually solved my acid reflux problem! I wish I’d done something like this sooner.
Interesting story, Scott. Glad you’re feeling better and are healthy!