By Jim Notto
It used to puzzle me why sometimes when I ate a particular food I would be fine, but at other times the same food would result in hours of misery as acid reflux flared up. It was these seemingly contradictory experiences that initially proved so frustrating to me as I tried to manage GERD and eliminate acid reflux from my life.
I like a good spaghetti dinner. My favorite recipe has been in my family for generations. Unfortunately, eating it would often result in acid reflux. It was easy for me to notice early on that if I ate too much spaghetti at one time I would suffer for it. I would be careful not to eat too much, but often I’d still have reflux. Since I was making note of what I was eating prior to getting any symptoms, I eventually noticed that I’d get acid reflux not only when I would overeat spaghetti, but also if I ate it when I was stressed or tense, when I cooked it with fatty or spicy meats, or if I used too much garlic.
That observation led me to the realization that spaghetti dinner alone would not cause me to have a flareup, but that a combination of triggers, either other foods, behaviors or states, was necessary to cause it.
This newfound insight led me to a life-changing revelation: I would tend to stack my triggers one on top of another.
I discovered that I will develop a flare-up of acid reflux any time enough triggers are stacked together. If I am tense and anxious and I eat spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread until I’m so full that I need to loosen my belt, I’m almost certainly headed for a flare-up. If, instead, I am relaxed and calm and I have a normal portion of spaghetti, I do not get any reflux afterward. Add in any amount of stress, or indulge in overeating, and all bets are off.
Immediately I tried out my new found revelation by eating trigger foods whenever I was not participating in trigger behaviors or trigger states. I was overjoyed to discover that I could eat anything I wanted to and not experience acid reflux as long as I did not stack the food triggers on top of behavior or state triggers!