For the better part of the past decade, I’ve had a chronic, unceasing stomach ache — and I swear that’s not an exaggeration.
The classic heartburn symptoms started somewhere around 2010, escalating over the next few years to being able to keep very few things down without serious pain in my belly and throat. Eventually — and apologies in advance for the visual — I was consistently prone to involuntary regurgitation after any meal.
Of course, I was prescribed all of the popular H2 blockers (Zantac) and Proton Pump Inhibitors (Prilosec) on the market, told to elevate the head of my bed, stop eating spicy foods, don’t eat tomato sauce, lose weight and the rest of the by-the-book suggestions.
I tried them all, with only a modicum of success at times, but my symptoms as a whole were getting worse. Multiple endoscopies revealed I had developed Barrett’s esophagus and hiatal hernia in addition to my gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Doctors warned I was eventually headed down a road that ends with esophageal cancer.
Multiple opinions recommended a surgery called a Nissen fundoplication, a joy of a procedure in which the upper curve of the stomach (the fundus) is wrapped around the esophagus and sewn into place so that the lower portion of the esophagus passes through a small tunnel of stomach muscle. Fun stuff!
Obviously, I didn’t want to do that. The prospect of not being able to burp or vomit if absolutely needed — just a couple of lovely side effects of the surgery — didn’t quite appeal to me, and a close relative of mine had previously gotten this done and has regretted the decision.
So, given that I didn’t want the surgery and I didn’t want to be on PPIs forever — some reasons why here via Chrs Kresser — doctors were basically like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
This left with me with basically no options, so off to T h e I n t e r n e t I went.
After mountains of reading, two outside-the-box options (at the time; this was in the mid-2010s) kept coming up: switching to low-carb eating and intermittent fasting (also known as time-restricted eating).
I’ve implemented both, initially going with a more paleo-style diet and now more of a blend of that with some ketogenic principles (still tinkering there, and will go further in depth on diet in another post).
It’s the intermittent fasting, however, where I feel like I’ve hit a home run.
This overview from Dr. Rhonda Patrick on the Joe Rogan Experience is must-watch for all humans, in my opinion.
If you scrolled past that video without watching (and I guess I wouldn’t blame you, it’s 15 minutes long), here’s a brief overview of just some of the benefits from intermittent fasting, per ChrisKresser.com.
- Associated with decreases in body weight and body fat percentage
- Potential for improved cardiovascular disease risk profile
- Potential for LDL cholesterol reduction
- Decrease in certain measures of inflammation
- May improve brain health
- May Be Associated with Decreases in Neuroinflammation
Not to mention, you know, the whole reason I’m writing this post — it can dramatically help with GERD. In my case, at least.
My personal protocol is to hit a minimum of 16 hours fasting daily (typically 4 p.m. to 8 a.m.), with some 18- and 20-hour stints thrown in as needed. That fits more in a time-restricted feeding distinction, but I often will go 24-48 hours or more of fasting if I feel my body needs it.
The longest fast I’ve done to date (as of July 2020) is 77 hours, which certainly fits more of the intermittent fasting definition.
When I do this, I can legitimately feel my body — specifically, my stomach — healing itself from the inside out. Fasting seems to give my organs the space necessary to actually focus on allocating the resources I’ve given them rather than constantly trying to digest and keep up with all of the food I used to throw down my throat.
I cannot stress this enough: there will never be a period of my life moving forward when I’m not trying to be conscious of how much I’m eating and the window in which I’m doing so.
It has completely changed my life, my body, my energy levels and my GERD. I legitimately thought for a long time that esophageal cancer was a foregone conclusion, yet here I am with no symptoms, pain, regurgitation, bloating or anything of the sort as long as I stick to these principles. All drug, doctor and surgery-free.
As you might imagine, parenting when all of that is not the case — which I’ve occasionally fallen back into when I’ve succumbed to poor eating choices for periods of time over the past few years — is extraordinarily difficult on top of an already heavy undertaking. It’s all the incentive I need to get myself right, though.
And it should be all you need, too.
Some excellent resources to check out for more info:
Fasting Q&A with Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Zero Fasting Tracker CEO Mike Maser: https://www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/zero-fasting-qa
Notes from that podcast, courtesy of PodcastNotes.org: https://podcastnotes.org/2019/01/09/patrick/
The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting, from Onnit: https://www.onnit.com/academy/the-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting/
Intermittent Fasting: The Science Behind the Trend, from Chris Kresser: https://chriskresser.com/intermittent-fasting-the-science-behind-the-trend/
How to prepare for a fast, courtesy of Zero: https://medium.com/zero-fasting/what-should-you-eat-to-prepare-for-a-fast-f40ac92ff7ea
How to cure GERD without medication: https://chriskresser.com/how-to-cure-gerd-without-medication