How I Kicked My Antacids Habit

A week after the surgeon took out half of my pancreas and my spleen I developed the most disturbing hunger pangs — after I ate. Made me nuts, but I thought it must be a short-term side effect from the surgery and I’d feel better in a week or so. Nope. Not only did the hunger pang feeling stay, but it was joined by a cough.

My gastroenterologist put me on Prilosec — the little purple pill. (Someone’s doing an effective advertising job.) Hunger pangs stayed; coughing got worse. He switched me to Nexium. Hunger pangs stayed; I sprayed spit all over a classmate’s music score when a post-lunch cough caught us both by surprise. I asked my allergist for help. He put me on some kind of cough suppressant for two months. Cough dissipated while taking the meds and immediately returned when they ran out.

I asked my surgeon about the cough and he suggested I try a different gastroenterologist. So I went to a new guy at Georgetown who performed an endoscopy and said, “I think your stomach might not be emptying quickly enough.” (Anyone who knows my story well knows that that was what the first doc said to me when there was actually a tumor on my pancreas and my stomach was just fine.) I smiled, thanked him, and ran away.

A year later I found a new gastroenterologist, Dr. Email. After a nice email exchange he had me come to the office for an exam. Long story short, Dr. Email said that some antacids work for some; some work for others. As my cough and hunger pang sensations definitely sounded like acid reflux symptoms to him, he switched me to Pepcid. Once a day didn’t work, but 20mg twice a day did. Cough gone! For the most part. If I pushed myself to a new level of fitness in the gym or on my bike, or if I ate something really fattening my cough would return.

And so for the last three years I’ve taken 20mg of Pepcid with breakfast and with dinner… until last week.

Remember when I went down to Charlottesville to see the endocrinologist about my blood sugar issues? To level out my blood sugars he suggested I stop eating processed foods like boxed cereals and energy bars and instead eat steel cut oats for breakfast and fruits and nuts for snacks. He also said that he wanted to wean me off of Pepcid.

“I haven’t been able to live comfortably without it since my surgery four years ago.”

“But if you eat healthier, I don’t believe you’ll need it.”

“I eat an extremely healthy diet now.”

“But you haven’t eaten this diet.”

I said that I’d give it a try, and while I believed that his tweaking of my diet would level out my blood sugars, I couldn’t believe that such a slight modification to an already healthy diet would get rid of my cough.

It has. I’ve now gone ten days without coughing, and I’m no longer taking any antacids. Prior to this I haven’t been able to go four hours without a cough since my surgery, so I don’t believe this is a fluke.

When I watch shows like The Biggest Loser or movies like Forks Over Knives I’m amazed to see people get off their statins or diabetes medications by simply improving their diet and exercising more. I’m equally amazed that by eating for the most part only foods that are nutritious and real, I’ve been able to defeat a health problem that stumped three gastroenterologists, a world-class pancreas surgeon, and an ear-nose-and-throat doc.

Friends think I’m sacrificing something by living the way that I do, but they’re wrong. I don’t need butter and wine and pork to live a fulfilling life. I’ve never enjoyed food more, and I’ve never felt better. And now the only pill I take is a multivitamin.

How about them apples!

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