Something I have struggled with since I was about nine-years-old is acid reflux disease, which causes me to experience significant bloating, cramps, and regurgitation. As a child, I was prescribed medications to subdue the acid and its potential to interfere with my day, but as I got older, I attempted to take more natural measures to absolve these issues. After trying a variety of methods, I’ve found that veganism has been the most beneficial for combating my acid reflux disease, and this is how I arrived at that conclusion:
First, I tried exercise. Acid reflux disease is significantly inflamed when one experiences stress. In high school, per the suggestion of my doctor at the time, I decided to incorporate a regular exercise routine into my life in order to reduce my stress. Because I was homeschooled, exercising was completely my responsibility, but as a highly motivated and ambitious person, I made daily trips to my local gym a part of my daily routine, and in fact, I became a gym rat. I lost about 15 pounds (I no longer weigh as little as I did then), and the acid reflux subsided to a degree, but occasionally, at the most inconvenient times (e.g. when I was hanging out with friends or at school), I would experience extreme bloating and intense abdominal pain. I still exercise regularly to this day, but this was when I realized that I also needed to bring my diet into question.
Then, I tried the gluten-free diet. When I started my freshman year of college, I was incredibly nervous about how my acid reflux disease would impact my life as a regular student (Remember, I was homeschooled before this), and unfortunately, I was right to be concerned. Moving across the country and adapting to the college environment proved to be a significant trigger for stress, which resulted in severe abdominal pain. At the time, one of my friends who suffered from ulceritive colitis recommended adopting a gluten-free diet, which she had been on for several years. Many of our symptoms were similar, so I figured that trying this diet wouldn’t hurt. I ended up remaining gluten-free until the day I graduated college, and while my acid reflux improved somewhat, the change was subtle.
In May of 2015, I adopted a vegetarian diet. This was when I realized that an intolerance to gluten was not the root cause of my problems. A few months before venturing into the vegetarian territory, I went on a high-protein diet to lose some weight before graduation, and I did lose weight, but while researching a this high-protein diet, I learned about some of the cons of eating meat, which included the ethical problems associated with meat consumption but, more significantly, the level of effort our bodies must exert to process meat. I started to wonder how my body would feel if I wasn’t consuming such products and quickly went from consuming a large amount of meat to no meat at all. Soon, my acid reflux symptoms took a dive, as well as many of my hormonal problems (which will be discussed in future blogs). I still experienced bloating but not to the degree I had before.
In August of 2017, I adopted the vegan diet. When I became a vegetarian, my initial goal was to eliminate meat for the first year and then to switch to a vegan diet, a low and reasonable transition to the new lifestyle. However, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, I had a hard time giving up cheese and put off becoming vegan for yet another year. This year, however, after discussing the benefits of the vegan diet with some of my vegan friends, gaining a deeper understanding of the cruelty that occurs in the dairy industry, and putting on a significant amount of weight, I realized it was time for a change, and within days, my digestion was the closest to normal it had been in years. I’ve even lost about 7 pounds, without trying to cut down on how much I eat or increasing the amount of time I spent exercising.
While I have mostly chosen to become a vegan for ethical reasons, my health was a significant secondary factor in choosing this choice. I can now eat meals without fearing that I will experience significant bloating or nausea. I also can eat foods I used to avoid, like salsa or bread, without worrying that my acid reflux will be triggered. While I have eliminated many foods from my diet, veganism has made eating food more of an enjoyable experience. Do you suffer from acid reflux? Have you tried the vegan diet? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.
The featured photo was taken by Brook Cagle. Find more of her work at unsplash.com.