Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Friday, July 30, 2004

How Potatoes Saved Me : Living with GERD and Gastritis

I have GERD and gastritis.

Gastritis is simply the inflammation of the stomach.

GERD (common names: acid reflux or heartburn) is when food, which is supposed to go down your esophagus in one direction, comes back up and brings with it stomach acid. The esophagus is not equipped to deal with stomach acid and it can get burned. The culprit of this malfunction is a weak LES, the flap between your esophagus and stomach which is supposed to send food in one direction only.

Nearly everyone has heartburn at some point or another, but when it becomes chronic, it is serious and must be treated and managed.

I recently learned that a weak upper GI tract runs in my family (I'm told my Scottish grandfather consumed a box of baking soda a day to calm his stomach), but it all started for me about seven years ago when I was overprescribed an antiinflammatory drug, and my stomach has never been the same.

The story between then and now is a long one, but the long and short of it is that my stomach is permanently damaged and I can NEVER think about food in a normal way. When the people around me check the menu for the most delectable entree, I'm wondering which one can provide the maximum nourishment with the least trouble. Or an invitation to dine in someone's home is always a source or worry: do I call ahead and warn them of my restrictions, or just try to avoid, or be polite and feel bad?

As for gastritis, inflamed stomach lining, it is basically a matter of managing your diet, the blander the better. Fortunately I only have to go totally bland diet during the hardest times, but am grateful that does the job. The very best food for me in times of extreme stomach distress is potatoes, baby red potatoes boiled, with butter and salt. I'll be forever grateful...

Below is an email I sent to my boss, who was recently diagnosed with GERD. It describes my experience, what helps most, and also gives some online references.

Dear R.,

So sorry about the GERD, it's a drag, it comes and goes. You can manage it, but your life will never be the same.

In a nutshell, these are the things that trigger it:
Tipping your stomach over so gravity makes the contents go back up.

These are the foods they tell you to avoid:
Spicy foods
Carbonated beverages
Raw fruits and vegetables

These are the foods I need to avoid (not much correspondence with the list above):
Fruits or vegetables with skins
Soy products
Whole grains
Red wine

These are the foods that soothe my stomach:
Boiled potatoes
Plain yogurt (even though my GI doctor told me to avoid dairy)
White bread
Soft boiled eggs
Carbonated beverages
Butter and honey for calories and flavor

Most of the time I'm somewhere in between, but when things get bad, I go back to the stomach soothing diet.

As for lifestyle
I can't eat in the morning or at night. I eat breakfast at work (inconvenient!) about 10:30 a.m. and need to stay upright about two hours between the time I eat dinner I lie down to sleep., so can't eat anything after about 9 p.m. My stomach also is vulnerable around 5 or 6 p.m., probably because it is empty. Sometimes I reflux if I eat something unusual at this time of day, even one bite, like berries or sesame crackers. A little bit of cranberry juice helps; then I can eat normally.

I used to eat mostly vegetarian, but now I eat meat once or twice a day, just to keep nourished. Finding a way to stay nourished with such limitations is a big part of managing it. So glad now that I can eat, at least some fresh fruits and veggies.

I'm careful not to tip my stomach over or even be horizontal, especially within two hours after eating. That means not lying down, not bending over to pick something up, not doing yoga, I even have problems on the chiropractors table. I've finally gone back to swimming, because it helps me psychologically, but even that horizontal position for my stomach/esophagus has caused some real problems.

I've cut way back on wine and caffeine, the ultimate sacrifice! The coffee I drink now is only 1/4 caffeinated, and when I drink wine, it's only 1/2 glass WHITE only. And I limit myself to one coke a week.

40 mg of Aciphex; I hope to get off it but I'm not sure.
Vitamin B-12, because PPI's (the drugs they give you for this) deplete B-12
L-Glutamine, supposed to build up my stomach lining
Digestive enzymes

Here are a couple of good articles on GERD,,241012_245618,00.html

Here is the online GERD discussion group - It has good points and bad points

Well, relax in Hawaii, and eat lots of papayas. They are great for digestion!